When Butch Jacobs steps into the woods in search of basket making materials, he does not have a specific type of forest or black ash tree in mind, but he knows it when he sees it. “It’s a unique skill set that cannot necessarily be taught. Some people just have it,” Jacobs said.
Jacobs, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, is one of few remaining basket-tree harvesters in Maine—a longstanding tradition that stretches back to before Europeans arrived on North American shores. Now, the custom faces a threat that may devastate the trees that harvesters like Jacobs seek.
Emerald ash borer, an insect native to Asia, has barreled through ash stands in at least 31 states and three Canadian provinces since it was first documented in Michigan and Ontario in 2002. Black ash, the species basket-tree harvesters target, is especially susceptible to the invasive insect that has already decimated millions of North American ash trees, and will soon arrive in Maine.
That spells trouble for Jacobs and many others, for whom ash trees are of critical cultural and economic significance. The black ash is a central element in several Native American and First Nation traditions, including some tribes’ creation stories.
Read the full story by Erin Miller at phys.org.
Gabriel Frey separates each layer of ash as if he is peeling an onion. He removes one thin layer after another until he reduces what had been a formidable stick of wood into a small bundle of flexible ribbons. He then narrows each with a hand-held, handmade splitting tool, and weaves the strips seamlessly into one of his ash baskets.
Frey, a Passamaquoddy who works in the basement studio of his Orono home, is busy preparing baskets for seasonal markets in Maine and elsewhere, including several for the Smithsonian Institution, which commissioned him to make baskets for its New York gift shop. He is among a large group of American Indian artists from Maine whose reputations are growing nationally, enhanced by their successes at juried American Indian art markets across the country. For six years, Wabanaki artists from Maine have won top honors at the Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico, the largest indigenous art fair in the world. Frey was among three Wabanaki artists to win ribbons at the most recent market in August, snagging a first-place award and an honorable mention.
After a year’s hiatus, Abenaki and Indigenous Peoples Day is returning to White River Junction. The celebration, hosted by the Hartford Historical Society, aims to honor Vermont’s earliest known residents who lived in the area well before Vermont, or the United States for that matter, was ever thought of. It will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction. Admission is free.
Among the attendees will be Jeanne Brink, whom Martha Knapp, director of the Hartford Historical Society Museum, described as “a respected elder,” of the Abenaki tribe. Brink also teaches the Abenaki language. “The language is really getting big now that the Abenaki are starting to come out and get recognized,” Knapp said. Brink also teaches basket-making, and three of her students, Emily, Megan and Valerie Boles, will be there with her to demonstrate their skills.
Read the full story by Liz Sauchelli in the Valley News.
Folks in Bar Harbor got to experience a little taste of history. The annual Native American Festival and Basketmakers market brought music, dance, and a lesson in culture to Downeast Maine.
“You know Maine a lot of times doesn’t really know much about indigenous population so it’s a wonderful gathering of artisans and drummers and sharing.”
Each handcrafted item represents the beauty and culture of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot people. For many visitors it’s a chance to meet artists and learn about contemporary Wabanaki art from the Maritimes.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see each other and share our music with them. We are a strong part of Maine history and we would like to bring that back.”
See the full article by Alyssa Thurlow on WABI 5.
The Vermont Folklife Center announces the continuation of the Vermont Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program for its 24th year. Initiated to support Vermont’s living cultural heritage, the program provides stipends of up to $2,000 as honoraria and to cover such expenses as materials and travel. Under the auspices of the program, traditional arts such as blacksmithing, Abenaki basket making, Franco American singing, and Bhutanese Nepali folk dancing have received support.
A traditional arts apprenticeship brings teachers and learners together who share a common commitment to keeping these art forms alive. It pairs a community-acknowledged master artist who has achieved a high level of expertise in his or her art form with a less-experienced apprentice. The master and apprentice jointly plan when, where, and what they expect to accomplish over the course of the apprenticeship. Apprenticeship schedules reflect the time constraints of both master and apprentice and range from short-term, intensive sessions to meetings spread over the course of a year.
Read the full announcement here.
The Abbe Museum’s education team will be hosting a specialized dialogue program surrounding the use of the American flag motif in Wabanaki art. Participants will be prompted with questions to guide the conversation and have opportunities to share insights.
The cost of participating is $9 and includes admission for the rest of the day at our two locations!
There are a limited number of spaces for this one of a kind program. Please register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-801-4081.
Original post in the Bangor Daily News.