Native American Heritage Month Spotlight Dat So La Lee
This month, in celebration of Native American Heritage Month, we will be highlighting some of the many remarkable contributors to Indian country. In no way is this list comprehensive or extensive. For the next 30 days we will present a brief biography a day.
Dat so- La-Lee, given name, Dabuda (1829–1925) is now thought of as one of the most famous basket weavers in the world.
Dabuda, a member of the Washoe tribe, made her living as a laundress until the age of 45 when she began weaving baskets full time.
Her exceptional talent for weaving was first recognized by Abe and Amy Cohn in 1895 when he bought four willow-covered bottles. Abe Cohn who acted as her sponsor, business manager and press agent. The Cohn’s documented each basket she produced and sold them to collectors. In return, the Cohn’s provided room and board for both Dabuda (now known as Dat so- La-Lee) and her husband, Charlie Keyser. It is now known that the Cohn’s did not compensate Dat So La Lee as much as they should have.
Dat So La Lee produced coiled baskets made of willow and used both bracken fern (black) and redbud (red) to form the design.
She is most famous for developing the Degikup basket style that consisted of a large spherical shaped basket with a flat base and a small opening. It is estimated that she produced nearly 300 baskets in her lifetime. She used her handprint which was copyrighted, to certify bills of sale.
Dat so- La-Lee Lee was the undisputed master of a craft that was at the same time dying in her culture. It is for this reason that Dat so- La-Lee is so important to modern Washoes, and other American Indian weavers; she is an inspiration to young women and girls who want to learn the ancient art of basket weaving. Her baskets can be found at the Smithsonian, the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, and the Nevada Historical Society in Reno.
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