When black ash baskets were first made by the Ho-Chunk early in the nineteenth century, they were unadorned and made strictly for home use. By the 1890s, Ho-Chunk began selling their baskets to tourists and collectors. It was apparent that baskets could be decorative as well as useful, so the utilitarian grew to be more decorative. As demand grew, increasing numbers of Ho-Chunk women came to make baskets as a means to supplement their household incomes. Until the 1940s, and sometimes later, Ho-Chunk women, men, and children sat at roadside stands selling their baskets and beadwork to passersby. Today, only fourteen master basket makers remain. These makers continue the traditional practice, expressing their artistic talents through making exquisite baskets from black ash as their ancestors did a century ago.
A small group of the remaining master basket makers of the Ho-Chunk Nation responded to Kohler Foundation when asked to create a collection of baskets to exemplify the best of their craft. Five makers created their best baskets to join a really lovely group of antique Ho-Chunk baskets. This collection of 38 baskets was gifted to the Wisconsin Historical Society to preserve the tradition and beauty of Ho-Chunk basket making.