The novel, The Butterfly Basket, was inspired by a real basket made by a young Nuwa (Kawaiisu) woman almost a hundred years ago. Her name was Rosie Marcus Hicks. Like many other California Indian women, Rosie was a skilled basket maker. She traveled out to the desert or up to the mountains to gather and prepare the plant materials just like Lena and Sara did in this novel. Then, sitting in some beautiful spot in a canyon very much like Coyote Canyon, she would have used these materials to weave a basket.
The butterfly basket is a coiled basket, which means that the willow and decorative plant materials (the weft) were coiled around strands of another plant (the warp). Rosie would have used deergrass for the warp as Lena did, because that is the material traditionally used by the Kawaiisu. For the weft, she used willow for its golden brown color; bracken fern or unicorn plant (also known as devil’s claw) for the dark butterflies; and Joshua tree root for the larger reddish butterflies. Between gathering the materials and weaving, it may have taken her six months to a year to complete the basket.
Some California Indian baskets, like the butterfly basket, are now in the hands of collectors. Many are in museums, while others are in the homes of the Native people whose family members wove them. Basket weaving is an important art form among California Indians, and beautiful baskets are still being created today.