John K. Hillers
GIRLS WITH BASKETRY HATS
From the “Indians of the Colorado Valley” series. This photograph provides another good view of the major craft skill of the Paiute of the Great Basin—basketry. Unlike the other two images, however, these hats are not utilitarian ware. They are made to use as part of the decorative clothing of the people. The use of such hats was widespread in the “basketry culture” area including much of California as well as other parts of the far West. The work shown is fine twined basketry with decorative patterns worked into the weave. Different plants, such as the one called “Devil’s Claw,” were used to give a variety of colors.
Hillers made this stereograph, as he did many others, with an eye to selling them in the East. Native American photographs were popular but apparently sold better if the photographer composed them so as to conform to the stereotypic image Easterners had of the “Wild West.” Like many photographers, he oftentimes had his model(s), pose in something like these buckskin dresses. A photographer would be happy to supply the “typical” Native American clothing if the Native Americans he was photographing did not have it, as these Paiute probably did not since they frequently wore very little. Such stereographs were a good source of income for the traveling photographer and almost all of them carried a stereo camera regardless of what other equipment they had.