Tom Jones

Tom Jones’ favorite Ho-Chunk basket was a mystery due to its unusual shape, until an elder revealed its purpose. Tom began collecting Ho-Chunk baskets after writing a book about Ho-Chunk photography. He is now working on another book about Ho-Chunk basket weaving.


Location: In front of Howe’s Jewelers, 324 Main St. La Crosse, WI, 54601, across from Duluth Trading Company

I’m standing outside of Duluth Trading Company, the original building where Doerflinger’s was located. Oftentimes, Ho-Chunk women would sit in front of stores like Doerflingers. Y’know, during that time, they were able to spend their time making these baskets to help support the family. So they would make these baskets purely to sell to the tourists. And that’s how a lot of families actually survived.

So I started a book, The People of the Big Voice: Photographs of Charles van Schaik, and after I completed that book, I then decided that I wanted to do another book and I was interested in the fact that Ho-Chunk baskets weren’t being made that much anymore – we have about 14 basket makers currently – so I’m hoping that it’ll revive that tradition and also sort of have an encyclopedia of different styles of baskets. Basketmakers, you know, would use their imagination and make all kinds of different shapes. There’s so many different kind of styles, and I’ve gotten to the point now when I’m purchasing baskets is I’m only looking for those unusual ones. My favorite basket is one that my mother has, and what it was is it was two-tiered and on a stand and I didn’t know what it was for, it kinda looked like a sewing-type basket. It’s about maybe three feet wide and a foot deep, and I showed it to an elder, and she said that was actually a baby’s bassinet.

My name is Tom Jones. I’m a professor at the University of Wisconsin Madison and a member of the Ho-Chunk nation.