Atsugewi Gambling Tray

I-11-16 Astarawi band gambling tray.

The Astarawi Indians were part of the larger cultural group, the Achumawi (also known as Pit River Indians). The Achumawi group is located in northeastern California primarily on the Pit River drainage system. Traditionally they spoke the Palaihnihan branch of the Hokan Superfamily of languages and were comprised of eleven different subgroups of which the Astarawi is one.

The Pit River was so named by early settlers because of pit traps dug near the river’s banks by these Indians to trap deer. These pits, however, posed a hazard for unsuspecting settlers as well and consequently were responsible for the naming of the river. This soft twined tray was made by the Astarawi band from the Hot Springs Valley (in Modoc county) who were the only group of the Achumawi to produce full overlay on soft tule cordage (for a short discussion on this little known type see Bibby, 2006:20-22) as opposed to the hard hazel and willow rod warp used by the other Achumawi groups. Plain twining is the primary technique with wrapped twining used in part of the design. The warp is made from twisted tule cord (Scirpus) and the weft is nettle fiber cord (Urtica). The overlay is a half twist overlay using bear grass (Xerophyllum) for the white and split maidenhair fern stem (Adiantum) for the black.

A rare and beautiful example of an Astarawi gambling tray. 22 1/2 inches d. by 4 inches deep. Circa 1900. $6,500.00