Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Research Wednesday: Cherokee Basketry

Though it doesn't have a snappy alliterative title like Teaser Tuesdays, still I thought it might be a nice feature for this quiet blog each week to share a research source I'm finding particularly helpful or engrossing.

Today I'm highlighting a book I bought as sort of last minute research for my spring 2014 release, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn (more about that story to be revealed, by and by).

Weaving New Worlds, Southeastern Cherokee Women and Their Basketry  by Sarah Hill is a very large book, about 400 pages.

"How much is there to write about baskets?" my husband (who is part Cherokee) asked me recently. Here's what I had to say:

There's so much more to this book than a study of baskets. There's a long Prologue that details much about the Cherokee homeland before European contact, especially its flora, how the native people changed and shaped it, cultivated it, and gleaned from it for their daily lives. It's really an 18th century historical novelist's dream, if your interests run to frontier or Native American settings.

The rest of the book is broken into sections, or time periods, titled by the main material used for basketry in that period.

"For centuries, baskets have been part of Cherokee ceremony, work, and trade. They have been part of Cherokee life and legend. Made from materials gathered from local landscapes, they evoke the world in which their makers live and move and work. Over a period of more than 250 years, Cherokees developed four major basketry traditions, each based on a different material..." ~ from Weaving New Worlds, Introduction

Rivercane (pre-1838 removal)
photo by cherokeebasketweaver, Flickr Commons
White Oak (post-removal, 19th century)
Honeysuckle (turn of the 20th century)
Red Maple (Roosevelt administration to present day)

While all materials have been in continuous use... "changes in basketry [materials] can thus be seen as transformations of culture, landscapes, and consciousness." ~ from Weaving New Worlds, Introduction

I've just begun easing my way into Rivercane, the only section I really need to read for my historical research, but I doubt I can resist reading the whole of this book. It's one of those that spark story ideas left and right. If you have an interest in the Cherokee people, or perhaps like my husband that's your distant heritage, you'll appreciate Weaving New Worlds, by Sarah Hill.

photo by Jason Baird Jackson, Flickr Commons

Q 4 U: Can anyone think of a word for research that starts with W?


  1. Ohhhhh, this looks fascinating!!! I was actually leaning in to read the blog post and to see the baskets.

    1. I was thinking of you as I posted this. :)

      There are a couple of basket makers in THE PURSUIT OF TAMSEN LITTLEJOHN, and I'm working on the early stages of another series that will visit the Cherokee in the 1740s, and I'd like to include some scenes with basketry in that story as well.

  2. I suppose I could call this weekly post Writing-Research Wednesdays.

  3. That's spelled "Wresearch"

    1. Duh! I should know this. :)

    2. You and Brian think alike. He said it should be We-Search Wednesdays.

    3. He's BRILLIANT !!!


  4. I love this! While the Cherokee aren't in my heritage, I do live in the southern range in Georgia, right on the border with the Creek. This is wonderful research. Don't you just love it!

    1. I took a chance on this book, and I'm glad I did. I didn't really need a 400 page book on basketry (I'd learned as much as I needed to know elsewhere) but there's SO much more to it. Sometimes you turn up a research gem when you least expect it.