The Ancestral load basket, on exhibit at the Moab Museum, has long interested and inspired community members. [Moab Museum]

The objects in a museum can be interpreted in many ways. Moabites have long cherished the Ancestral Pueblo load-bearing basket displayed in the Moab Museum. This basket means many things to different people: it is admired as a relic of great beauty, a masterful piece of craftsmanship, a tangible connection to the Ancestors, and as an artifact of archaeological intrigue. Every viewer’s identity informs how they interpret an object like the load basket, and viewing objects through new lenses allows us to gain new perspectives on the past and present. As we observe Native American Heritage Month, the Moab Museum invites visitors to explore the lens through which tribal communities connect with the Ancestral load basket today. 

According to the Hopi, descendants of the Ancestral Pueblo People of the Colorado Plateau, basketmaking is a form of tuhisma (meaning “skilled craftsmanship”) and navoti (meaning “knowledge”) to express the tribe’s identity and history. For the Hopi, and many Native Americans, Kyaftsi (a respectful relationship to the natural world) is necessary for sustainable stewardship of the local environment. One is mindful of only taking what is needed and in return, can be a part of ancestral connections to the cultural landscape. It is likely that the individual who constructed this basket was profoundly aware of his or her local environment, its growing conditions, where to collect basketry materials, and the best plants to harvest for pigment. One of the most unique aspects of this treasured object is a decorative geometric motif visible on the basket’s exterior that was created by weaving dyed fibers together or by applying a pigment after its completion.

For Native communities today, the Ancestral load basket is not just a beautiful object from the past or something to be studied academically—it is a connection to Ancestral communities and  Native traditions both past and present. The load basket was recently treated by a skilled objects conservator offsite, and when it was returned to the Moab Museum in April of 2022, Malcolm Lehi of the Ute Mountain Ute (White Mesa) performed a ceremonial blessing. During his remarks at the Museum, Malcolm Lehi shared with visitors how objects like the load basket remain a tangible link for Utah’s many Native communities today with the vast human history of the region.

Viewing stories, objects, and events through a variety of lenses allows for a richer understanding of our past and present. This Native American Heritage Month—and every month—the Moab Museum invites its community and visitors to explore essential perspectives from contemporary Native communities about the stories and meanings of Ancestral objects. 

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit