Published on January 27, 2013 by Amy
Dat So La Lee, whose birth name was “Dabuda”, meaning “Young Willow”, (English name Louisa Keyser), (ca. 1829 – December 6, 1925) was a renowned American basket weaver and one of the most famous Native American artists of the 20th century. A member of the Washoe people in northwestern Nevada, her basketry came to national prominence during the Arts and Crafts movement.
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Dat So La Lee met merchandisers Amy and Abe Cohn around 1895. She worked as one of the maids in the household. They recognized the quality of Dat So La Lee’s weaving and began to document every basket she produced from 1895 – 1925. This expanded to include about 120 baskets that are documented. Most if not all of these documented baskets where sold at Cohn’s Emporium earning Dat So La Lee a comfortable lifestyle. The supreme craftsmanship of these baskets certainly add to the value, but the Cohn’s early documentation certainly provide the catalyst to make Dat So La Lee baskets among the most sought after Native American basketry in the world.
Dat So La Lee primarily used willow in the construction of her basketry. She would usually start out with 3 rods of willow and then weave strands around that. Her predominate style was a flat base, expanding out into its maximum circumference and tapering back to a hole in the top around the same size as the base. This is the degikup style that she popularized with Washoe basketweavers.
Dat So La Lee is buried in the Stewart Cemetery on Snyder Avenue in Carson City, Nevada. Though very much surrounded by diverse cultures because of the recognition of her work, she would only have a Woodford shaman named Tom Walker treat her and prepare her for death. On December 2, 1925 they began a four day ritual to help her complete her days so that she could pass on to death. She died on December 6, 1925. Her simple marble grave marker reads “Dat So La Lee / Famous Washoe Basket Maker / Died 12. 6. 25.” A nearby Nevada state historic marker reads, “Myriads of stars shine over the graves of our ancestors.”