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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map:
The Kawaiisu Culture


On warm winter days the women sat beneath the willows at Nettle Springs, making their baskets and talking. Still visible today are scratches where the women may have sharpened their awls on the sandstone ledges. Excellent basket makers, the Kawaiisu twined and coiled a variety of implements and containers for harvesting, food preparation and storage. It is interesting to note that the Kawaiisu seem to have developed a unique variation of coiled baskets which is not found in the Great Basin or elsewhere in California. Occasionally the coils are wrapped around the foundation of the basket and not anchored to the previous row. The purpose of the deviation is unknown.

Numerous types of woven containers and implements were used, including seed beaters, winnowing trays, burden baskets, storage containers, cradles and water bottles. Workware was twined of unsplit willow for warps and split willow for wefts. Coiled baskets offered greater diversity in the materials used. The foundation was multiple shoots of deergrass coiled with split willow. Water bottles and other vessels used for liquids were stitched very tightly and sealed with pine pitch to make them watertight.

Cradle boards, which allowed women to carry babies with them when gathering, were woven of willow. One type was oval and the other Y-shaped so it could be stuck into the ground and rocked. Sand bar willow (Salix hindsiana) was never used for cradle boards because it was said that quail lost all of her children until she stopped using it to make their cradles; she has a black face because she wept so much.

Color was provided by the rootstock of the Joshua Tree (red-brown), yucca (orange), and bracken fern or devil's claw/unicorn plant (black). Bird quills and quail crests integrated into the patterns of coiled baskets provided additional ornamentation.

The Kawaiisu Culture
Language & Homeland
Contact with Others
Social Organization
Food Preparation
Tools and Implements
Clothing and Adornments
Stories and Myths
Rock Art

Natural History

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