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People & Life Ways
Riches, Ranching & Railroads

Southern Paiute Basketmaker Mary Ann Pepo

This photograph of Southern Paiute basketmaker Mary Ann Pepo was taken in 1940.  Pepo is holding a bundle of split willow on top of an open-weave winnowing tray that is not yet finished.  In the left lower corner of the picture are two other types of baskets: a pitch covered water bottle and a burden basket.

Native American women had been weaving baskets for thousands of years.  Important tools for native groups who survived by hunting and gathering, the baskets were used for storage and transport.  They were commonly constructed with a single-rod coiling technique, and very tightly woven with tiny stitches.  A time consuming part of the work entailed gathering and drying the materials used in the baskets.

By 1900, Washoe, Paiute, and Shoshone women had found that they could earn money from their basketmaking.  They had shifted from making baskets for gathering and preparing food to making baskets that they could sell for cash to buy food for their families.  The baskets in the museum exhibit pictured here represent both the decorative and functional aspects of Southern Paiute, Moapa Paiute, and Western Shoshone basketry.

Photo Credits:
1: Nevada Historical Society
2: Lost City Museum and Nevada State Museum & Historical Society