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“Cultural Burdens” basket by Carol Emarthle-Douglas | Image source: 

Artist Carol Emarthle-Douglas (Northern Arapaho/Seminole) discusses her award-winning piece. Plus, what’s next for the basket-maker and scholar.

Like the complex roles Indigenous women fill within their communities, the “Cultural Burdens” basket by Carol Emarthle-Douglas (Northern Arapaho/Seminole) is full of rich details paying tribute to tribal nurturers, protectors and culture carriers.

Carol Emarthle-Douglas (Northern Arapaho/Seminole) | Courtesy photo.
Carol Emarthle-Douglas (Northern Arapaho/Seminole) | Courtesy photo

“The burdens they carried were important to their people, whether they were carrying food, wood for fire and even children,” says the artist, who lives in Washington state. “It celebrates women and all that they have contributed to our culture, past and present.”

The basket has won several awards, including Best of Show at the 2015 Santa Fe Indian Market and Best of Classification at other markets, including the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market in Phoenix.

The piece, which features 22 miniature baskets of various designs held front and back by 11 silhouettes woven into the main basket, incorporates several basket-making techniques, including coiling, plaiting and twining. The larger part of the basket is coiled with waxed linen thread.

The miniatures represent the burden baskets of different tribes—Hupa, Apache, Cherokee, Klickitat, Ojibwe, Seminole, Haida, Yakama, Penobscot, Paiute and Hidatsa—and the basket-weaving methods they are known for using regional materials, including birch bark for Woodlands tribes and red and yellow cedar bark for the Southwest. A variety of basket styles are also depicted, such as the open-weave baskets from Alaska for clam gathering and the cradleboard basket for carrying infants.

Emarthle-Douglas notes that hers is only the second basket to win Best of Show at Santa Fe Indian Market since it created an official basketry category in 2010. Prior to that, baskets were included with textiles, such as rugs and clothing. Jeremy Frey (Passamaquoddy) took home the blue ribbon in 2011.


A basket as detailed as “Cultural Burdens” can take months to make, says Emarthle-Douglas, which is why fans of her work won’t see her at many markets. The artist, 57, stays plenty busy with commissions, research, conferences and workshops—both leading and attending—throughout the year, and will show again at the 2016 Santa Fe Indian Market at booth 525 SFT-P.

This year, Emarthle-Douglas can also be found in Santa Fe at the School for Advanced Research. She was awarded the Ronald and Susan Dubin Native Artist Fellowship and will be in residence there from June 15 to August 15. There will be a free public lecture, reception and open studio for Emarthle-Douglas Aug. 4. For more information, click here.

This article was written by Tasiyagnunpa Beth Livermont (Oglala Lakota) and has been republished with permission from Native Peoples Magazine

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MUSKRAT Magazine

MUSKRAT is an on-line Indigenous arts, culture magazine that honours the connection between humans and our traditional ecological knowledge by exhibiting original works and critical commentary. MUSKRAT embraces both rural and urban settings and uses media arts, the Internet, and wireless technology to investigate and disseminate traditional knowledges in ways that inspire their reclamation.

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