Alabama-Coushatta Craftwork Collections at the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center

Lisa Meisch, Archivist/Museum Curator


Spanish moss mat, moss spinner, and needle, Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center maintains two extensive collections of  Alabama-Coushatta craftwork. The Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts and the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Collection include rivercane baskets, long leaf pine needle baskets, beadwork items, pottery, wood carvings, and other craftwork. Basketry and beadwork make up the majority of the items, which were created by tribe members at the Alabama-Coushatta Reservation in Polk County, Texas. Items date primarily from the 1930s to the 1990s.

rivercane elbow basket, v-shaped, with cane handle.
Rivercane elbow basket, about 1960, Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.

Cane basketry is an important aspect of southeastern Native American societies, including the Alabama-Coushattas. It is one of their oldest artistic traditions. These baskets are plaited from strips of rivercane, a large bamboo-like grass native to the southeastern United States. Some are used for gathering or storing plant foods, sifting grain, or other utilitarian purposes. Sometimes geometric designs created with dyes from plant or animal sources are added as decorative enhancements.

rivercane gathering basket with open body and cane handle.
Rivercane gathering basket, about 1976, Alabama-Coushatta Indian Collection, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.
Rivercane wall pocket basket, about 1960, Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.

The Alabama-Coushattas are more closely identified with pine needle basketry. Needles of dried long leaf pine, common to East Texas, are coiled and sewn together with raffia (fiber from the leafstalks of the raffia palm). Finished baskets may then be decorated with pinecones, raffia flowers, or geometric patterns. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including animal effigies (whimsical decorative baskets in the shape of animals, birds, or insects).

rounded pine needle basket used for food storage.
Longleaf pine needle food storage basket, about 1976, Alabama-Coushatta Indian Collection, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.

The Sam Houston Center’s collections include decorative baskets as well as those for household or agricultural use. Many of the animal effigy baskets represent species common to East Texas. The armadillo and turtle baskets shown below also utilize pinecone sections to create portions of the bodies.

four animal baskets include a duck, armadillo, butterfly and turtle.
Animal effigy baskets (armadillo, duck, butterfly, and turtle), about 1970, 1998, Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.
tall, slender pine needle basket with pine cones affixed on two sides.
Longleaf pine needle vase with pinecone decorations, about 1975, Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.

Many tribe members are also skilled crafters of colorful beadwork. Beadwork items in the Center’s collections include jewelry, purses, and bolo ties, as well as other personal accessories. Shown here are a necklace, bolo tie, brooch, belt buckle, coin purse, and earrings.

Various beadwork items, about 1960, 1975, 1976, 1986, Frances Broemer Collection of Alabama-Coushatta Indian Artifacts and Alabama-Coushatta Indian Collection, Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center. TSLAC.

Selected items of Alabama-Coushatta craftwork are displayed in the Sam Houston Center’s museum as part of the permanent exhibits on the history of Southeast Texas, including a mat woven of Spanish moss, a moss spinner, and needle. The Center’s hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. No appointment is required to tour the museum. For more information, go to Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center | TSLAC (texas.gov) or call 936-336-8821.

Sources: 

Frances and Walter Broemer Archives, SHC.
Alabama-Coushatta Indian Collection, SHC.
Native American Basketry, 64parishes.org


The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center museum is open Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm and Saturdays 9:00am – 4:00pm.

Contact:

Call (936) 336-8821 for assistance.
Physical Address: 650 FM 1011, Liberty, TX 77575
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 310, Liberty, TX 77575
Telephone: (936) 336-8821
Email: SamHoustonCenter@tsl.texas.gov

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