Norma Thompson is a Choctaw basketmaker who lives in the Conehatta community in Newton County (Conehatta is one of the communities that make up the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Reservation). She carries on the tradition of making baskets from swamp cane that has been an important part of Choctaw culture for hundreds of years. The cane used in the baskets is gathered from marshy areas nearby. It is then split into four or more strips which are used to weave the baskets. The cane is dyed different colors to create intricate designs on the sides of the baskets. Originally the strips were colored using natural dyes made from berries and tree barks. Today the basketmakers use commercial dyes, introducing a wide range of colors that were not seen in baskets made by earlier generations. The purpose of the baskets has also changed. In earlier times the baskets were used in the home for a variety of purposes. Today most of the baskets that Thompson and others make are sold to collectors and people who use them for decoration.
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