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Object Monday: Ceremonial basket by Burna Little

Burna Little basket (MMA 83.43.1)

Ts'aa' ceremonial basket, made by Burna Little (MMA 83.43.1)


This Ts’aa’ (ceremonial basket) was made by Burna Little of Navajo Mountain around 1983. The coiled basket is made of natural and dyed sumac wrapped around a three-rod sumac core. Its edge consists of a distinctive herringbone braid rim that begins and ends at the path extending outward from the basket’s center.

Although often referred to as Navajo wedding baskets, these baskets participate in ceremonies that occur throughout a person’s life. Baskets may be passed on through families over many generations. This basket features a traditional design, with a central sun-like formation surrounded by a circle of three red rows with 15 black triangles extending from the top and bottom of the red area, and a pathway leading out from the center. Diné people describe this design variously: as a map of life, the story of creation, and a depiction of the Navajo landscape and sacred mountains. An important feature of the design is the pathway leading out from the center, which is oriented toward the east when the basket is in ceremonial use.

Burna Little worked with UNM ethnoarchaeologist Susan Kent, on research studying the spatial organization of historic Navajo communities. Kent purchased two baskets from her in 1983; both are now in the Maxwell’s collections.

Name: T’saa' (Ceremonial Basket)
Artist: Burna Little
Dates: Ca. 1983
Culture: Diné (Navajo)
Collection: Ethnology
Object: 83.43.1
Post by: Erika Alvero

For more information: 

To learn more, listen to Navajo historian Wally Brown discuss the importance of Navajo baskets at

or check out, Navajo Ceremonial Baskets: Sacred Symbols, Sacred Space, by Georgiana Kennedy Simpson, 2003, (Summerton, TN: Native Voices Book Publishing Company).