Wabanaki Basketmakers: Harvesting Sweetgrass Can Be Sustainable

wabanaki maine sweetgrass

Before Europeans settled on the East Coast, the Wabanaki tribes had open access to all of Maine’s natural resources, from eels to ash, and sweetgrass to salmon.

Currently jurisdictional battles over important natural resources still simmer, but the Wabanaki nation, and a handful of other federally recognized nations around the country, are working toward harvest rights in some of the nation’s most protected areas. A pilot project underway downeast could serve as a national model.

There are few places more challenging than a Maine marsh in the depths of July, which features humid, clinging air with the odor of rotten egg, plenty of places to disappear into the brackish muck and, of course, lots of mosquitos. But something very important has enticed generations of Wabanaki to places like this each summer.

“See this right here? This is solid, this is all sweetgrass right here. All of this…Behind you there’s another batch, but over there? See…that’s mixed in,” says Gal Frey.

Read and listen to this story at Maine Public.

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On 7/24/18, Lynne Keating Murphy: the Sadoques Family in Keene, NH

lynn keating murphy keene cheshire county historical

Facebook Event listing here.

The Historical Society of Cheshire County will offer the first lecture of its 2018 Wyman Tavern Lecture Series Tuesday, July 24, at 7 p.m.

Lynn Keating Murphy, Abenaki Indian, master educator, and descendant of the Sadoques of Keene, will discuss the history of her family in the Connecticut River Valley and Quebec and their basket-making traditions. The history of the Sadoques family intersects with this area, and provides insights into the complex story of the Abenaki people in the region. The talk will be held at the historical society’s headquarters, 246 Main St. in Keene, and admission is free.

The theme of this year’s Wyman Tavern Lecture Series is “Indigenous people, history and culture into the 21st century.” The Wyman Tavern Lecture Series will continue Aug. 29 when Keith and Kathy Stavely do a book signing for their early American cooking book — “United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook” — and Linda Stavely prepares samples of early American recipes including a Native-American-inspired dish.

On Oct. 7, The Colonial Theatre will host a showing of “A Good Day to Die” — a 2010 documentary that chronicles the American Indian Movement that fought for the civil rights of American Indians.

The series concludes Nov. 3 with a “Basket Day” at the historical society. Members of the public are invited to bring their baskets, and basket experts will be available at the full-day event to identify and record the age, origin, physical characteristics, and known history of each basket. Basket Day will end with a talk by basket expert Lynn Clark on the history of Native American baskets in the Monadnock Region and New Hampshire, and by Lynn Murphy on her family’s Abenaki Indian basket history.

More information: visit hsccnh.org or call 352-1895.

See the original listing in the Keene Sentinel.

The Art of the Wabanaki: Indian Market at the Abbe Museum

ransom_basket_cover abbe museum

The inaugural Abbe Museum Indian Market takes place in Bar Harbor May 18-20. The market will support Wabanaki artists and the local community. We’ll discuss the art of the Wabanaki, its effect on the local economy and learn about events taking place to celebrate the inaugural event.

Hear the podcast (47:12) on Maine Public Radio here.

Jeanne Brink to be Honored at Middlebury College

jeanne brink abenaki basketmaker

From the Feb. 22, 2018 article in VTDigger.org.

Middlebury… will honor four other distinguished men and women with honorary degrees this year:

Jeanne A. Brink is an Abenaki artist and activist. She conducts workshops and programs on Western Abenaki storytelling, history, language, culture, basket making, oral tradition, dance, games, and current issues throughout Vermont and New England. Tracing her Abenaki heritage back to the early 1700s, she continues the tradition of Western Abenaki ash splint and sweetgrass fancy basketry as a master basket maker. Brink has served on the Vermont Commission for Native American Affairs, the Lake Champlain Basin Program Cultural Heritage and Recreation Advisory Committee, and many other local organizations. She is the author of several books about Abenaki art and language.

The Middlebury College Commencement ceremony will take place on the main quadrangle at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 27. More than 5,000 family members and friends are expected to attend.

Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Scientists and Tribes Partner for the Black Ash Nation

emerald ash borer TEK

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 , 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.

Bar Harbor to Host Northeast’s Biggest Native American Marketplace

Gabriel Frey Abbe Museum Market

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.

Next spring, Frey will show his work closer to home, as the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor hosts a three-day juried American Indian art market May 18-20 in downtown Bar Harbor, creating more exposure for Indian art and artists from Maine and the Northeast. Maine is home to many small American Indian festivals and fairs – the Maine Indian Basketmakers Holiday Market held last weekend at the Hudson Museum at the University of Maine is a good example – but a large-scale juried art show that encompasses a range of arts and attracts artists and audiences from across North America is unusual if not unprecedented in the Northeast, said Abbe Museum President and Chief Executive Officer Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko. Nearly all the major American Indian art fairs are in the Southwest or Northern Plains.

Hartford Historical Society to Honor Abenaki Tribe

historic french depiction abenaki couple

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.