Florence Robinson was a member of the Louisiana Coushatta Native American Tribe. Native American basket weaving is one of the oldest crafts in history. Baskets made of stiff plant fibers, cane, and split wood have been discovered that date as far back as 8,000 BCE. Originally created for utilitarian purposes such as storage, transport, and cooking, baskets took on different patterns, shapes, and techniques as determined by the customs of the tribes who made them.
The Louisiana Coushatta Native American Tribe, which was originally settled on an island in the Tennessee River in northeastern Alabama, was forcibly relocated in the sixteenth century. Today the tribe is located on a reservation near Elton, Louisiana. The Coushatta people are known for their techniques in basket weaving passed down for generations. Coushatta baskets were made from swamp cane until land cultivation made it no longer plentiful. The emergence of the coiled pine needle technique among the Coushatta is reported to have come from Mrs. Paul King Rand in the 1930s. Rand taught several Coushatta women the coiled pine needle technique when she realized that river cane, the traditional material, was dwindling and there was an abundance of pine needles.
Coushatta pine needle basketry is distinct in its use of raffia for binding, its form of stitching, its shapes and natural color, and the way the first coil is begun. Effigy baskets are also unique to this type of weaving and often take on forms such as frogs, crawfish, alligators, and turkeys.
Florence Robinson, Coushatta Pine Needle Effigy Basket and Lid, 1977. Pine needles and raffia, 5 x 11 x 5 inches. Purchased from the Coushatta Indian Culture Center. Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 1977.004.002a-b
Koasati is a living language spoken by members of the Coushatta Tribe, with approximately 370 native speakers in America today. The Koasati (Coushatta) Language Project seeks to study, preserve, and revive this language.