1 The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) was founded in 1993, to save the highly endangered ash and sweetgrass basketry weaving traditions of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Tribes. I try to attend gatherings of the Native Americans, and I greatly admire their work.
2 At the time of founding, there were fewer than a dozen basket makers younger than the age of 50 statewide, who were still practicing and learning this ancient and once prolific, art form.
3 Through 20 years of educational programs and marketing efforts, the MIBA has lowered the average age of basket makers from 63 to 40 and increased numbers from 55 founding members to 200-plus basket makers today. Many of these basket makers gathered last Saturday on the campus of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island, where I have a home.
4 The educational programs include Traditional Arts Apprenticeships and Tribal Community Basketry Workshops.
5 Today, MIBA counts several nationally award-winning basket makers among the group.
6 MIBA artists have won the top awards in the large, national juried Indian art markets; while competing with hundreds of other Native American Artists for prizes.
7 MIBA’s marketing efforts help provide sustainable income for tribal families, many of whom live in rural disadvantaged areas of Maine.
8 Tribal basket makers earning income through the sales of baskets is historic, dating back 200 years at the Maine coast.
9 Many of these baskets are made from brown ash, birch, or cedar. The logs are pounded with the blunt side of an ax to release the growth rings into long splints that can be further processed into basketry materials.
10 These are some tools of the trade.
11 Vera Longtoe Sheehan specializes in twined bags and baskets.
12 Twined baskets, bags, and containers predate the ash splint baskets. It is the oldest method of basketmaking known in the North Eastern United States.
13 Gabriel Frey is a twelfth generation Passamaquoddy basket maker.
14 Gabriel specializes in sturdy pack baskets, market and utility baskets, and is one of the few basket makers making full size baby cradles.
15 Gabriel carries on the tradition, high quality and style of his grandfather who taught him, while incorporating his own individual aesthetic, forms, and decorative weaves.
16 This is Gerald ‘Butch’ Jacobs, a member of the renowned Passamaquoddy Neptune family from Pleasant Point. He always knew he would keep his heritage alive by contributing to a great basketmaking tradition.
17 As a young boy, Gerald watched his uncles pound ash and weave large fish scale baskets for the sardine factory in Eastport, Maine.
18 This extraordinary lidded basket was made by Sylvia Gabriel.
19 Mary Newenham creates small, fanciful ash baskets that bridge the gap between function and traditional Micmac design. She has worked with the famed Sanipass family of weavers for more than two decades, and has taught several of her grandchildren.
20 This is Mary Sanipass, a Micmac elder who continues to weave forms that have been made in her and her late husband Donald’s families for generations, such as the potato basket and other gathering style and hunting baskets. Mary is the head of four generations, a family of expert basket makers.
21 Linda Dana is a Passamaquoddy basketmaker.
22 A closeup of some of her fine work
23 Sarah Sockbeson produces extremely artistic baskets that feature a distinctive color palette, detailed curlwork, and hand-painted cover medallions on birch bark.
24 Barry Dana is a Penobscot teacher and artist who creates fantastic birchbark baskets.
25 Barry, a former Penobscot Nation Chief from 2000 to 2004, was raised on the Penobscot Reservation learning traditional skills and values from tribal elders.
26 The Drums of the Flicker is the business of Robert Muise.
27 Robert has been making these high quality drums since 2009.
28 Richard Silliboy is a Micmac basketmaker who has been harvesting ash and weaving potato baskets, pack baskets, and other traditional styles for decades. He learned the craft from his mother.
29 There were also feather earrings for sale.
30 And lovely beaded jewelry
31 And colorful dreamcatchers
32 Attractive braids
33 And handsomely carved walking sticks
34 There was even frybread mix for sale! Frybread is a yummy flat dough fried in oil that is eaten alone or with various toppings, such as honey or jam.
35 Here I am with some of the elders and other important members of the community. Standing next to me are my houseguests for the weekend, Carlos and Patricia Ardila from Bogota, Colombia. Patricia is very active in Colombia preserving that country's artistic and cultural traditions.
36 The next day, Gabriel Frey stopped by Skylands to deliver the basket that I bought from him. It was made on the mold created by his late grandfather. I loved the leather straps, and the commodious useful basket.
37 It was actually a gift for Cheryl DuLong, an employee at my home in Maine. I wanted it also, but I knew Cheryl would cherish it and use it.
38 Cheryl was thrilled with Gabriel's fabulous pack basket.
39 Cheryl sent me a couple of pictures of how she put this basket to work. An avid knitter, Cheryl is using it to hold all of her sock yarn.
40 A closer look to see the fine craftsmanship and the fancy basket weaves employed by Gabriel.