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Cal Collectables



Dat So La Lee [Louisa Keyser]

Photo Credit NV Historical Society Reno

Dat So La Lee 
"American Indian Basketry No. 12"
"Washoe Basketry"
written by Marvin Cohodas Ph.D.
Published by John M. Gogol
Available Here!

demonstrating basket weaving, 1900


Author: Rachelle Larson

Datsolalee was a very talented basket weaver. In her lifetime she made over 250 baskets. Many of these baskets are in museums all over the country. The pattern of each basket had to be planned very carefully. For even if one strip was out of place the pattern would be ruined. But Datsolalee's baskets were done with perfection and outstanding workmanship. This was miraculous considering that she was almost blind.

Datsolalee's real name is Louisa Keyser. Her Washoe Indian tribe in Nevada gave her the name Datsolalee which means "The Queen Of Washoe Indian Basketmakers." They gave her this name because they were very proud of her work and accomplishments.

Fame and recognition were two things that Datsolalee achieved in her lifetime. She was recognized by her Indian tribe and those societies that were non-native as well. Her pieces were very well made and highly prized as collectors items.

But this success was not easily or swiftly achieved. Datsolalee lived in a time when her tribe was losing everything they valued. They were being forced from their land, they were losing their power, and they felt hopeless standing against the government. Yet even in hard times Datsolalee remained optimistic. She was very proud of her craft and she did all she could to use it to her benefit.

During these hard times, Datsolalee worked as a maid and created baskets in her spare time. She worked for Amy and Abraham Cohn. They were the owners of The Cohn Emporium; which was a men's clothing store. Amy was fascinated by Indian culture, especially basketry. Under Amy's direction, the Cohn's obtained a large collection of Washoe baskets; as well as works from other tribes. Then, they sold these works to interested buyers. When they discovered there was money to be made they brought up all the available pieces and commissioned weavers to make more basket to sell.

Louisa was one of these weavers. She was encouraged to devote as much time and effort as possible into basket weaving. The Cohns were so impressed with her work that they offered her full patronage in return for the ownership of her baskets. Louisa and her husband, Charlie Keyser, were supported for more that 25 years by the Cohns.

Traditional, was not a word that anyone would use to describe Louisa's baskets. She single-handily changed the art of Washoe basket weaving. She changed and refined the stitching technique to create a new shape of basket called, degikup. Degikup was a larger basket which curved in towards the top. She also expanded the design to cover most of the basket surface. Then, she introduced a dye called, Redbud. This was used along with a black dye for decoration. Louisa was also influential in establishing the direction for the new curio style and the three coil method as well.

Her baskets were continually evolving into many forms and designs. Some say that these changes were made mainly to increase sales. Others say that her work can be describe as, "art for art's sake." However, many weavers imitated her work and through her innovations she changed the art of Washoe basket weaving forever.


Davis, A.P. and Selvidge M. J. (1995). Focus on Women. Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials, Inc.

Porter, F.W. (1990). The Art Of Native American Basketry. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press.

Turnbaugh, S.P. and Turnbaugh, W.A. (1986). Indian Baskets. West Chester, PN: Schiffer Publishing.

Links To Sites With More Info On Dat So La Lee:

Dat So La Lee at a Glance 

Dat So La Lee at the Emporium Co. 

Recoveries of Washoe Indian Baskets

Dat So La Lee By: Carol Van Etten

The Art of Native American Basketmaking By Tanya Branson

Dat So La Lee and the Washoe Basket Weavers

Woven Worlds: Basketry from the 
Clark Field Collection
 is on display March 11-May 20, 2001 at The Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma

See Marvin Cohodas's Book:
for more info on these Weavers

Attributed to Dat So La Lee 
Nevada State Museum
Virtual Anthropology Gallery


E-mail us at
for a free info packet on Dat So La Lee


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Last edited on: 03/05/02