Maine Indian basket makers to offer a treat

Posted Dec. 10, 2008, at 6:53 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:10 a.m.

ORONO, Maine — What better time than the holidays to hold the popular Maine Indian Basketmakers Sale and Demonstration, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at the Student Recreation and Fitness Center, University of Maine.

The event offers the public an opportunity to acquire Native American art forms from members of Maine’s four tribes, and the opportunity to learn about Maine Indian history and culture through demonstrations of basket making, carving and birch-bark working techniques, traditional music and storytelling.

More than 40 Maine Indian artists will display and sell handcrafted fancy baskets and utility baskets, woven as they have been for centuries.

The recent closing of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance gallery and shop in Old Town makes the annual basket makers’ sale one of only three opportunities a year to see and buy authentic traditional baskets and Wabanaki art.

The December sale event has been coordinated and hosted by UM’s Hudson Museum for 15 years.

The sale and demonstrations are free and open to the public — representing one of the largest Native American gatherings in Maine.

It typically attracts hundreds of people from throughout New England, in addition to basket collectors from across the country, according to Gretchen Faulkner, director of the Hudson Museum.

“This annual holiday event features Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot basket-makers, who sell their hand-made, one-of-a-kind ash splint and sweet grass basketry here on the UMaine campus,” Faulkner said.

Work baskets, such as creels, pack and potato baskets, and fancy baskets ranging from strawberry- and blueberry-shaped baskets to curly bowls can be found along with porcupine quill jewelry, wood carvings and birch bark work.

Traditional foods served up by the Penobscot Nation Boys and Girls Club, music, traditional drumming and dancing, and demonstrations of brown ash pounding, basket making, carving and birchbark work all will be part of the day’s events.

More information may be obtained by calling 581-1904.

The schedule:

• 9 a.m., event opening.

• 9:30 a.m., welcome with Penobscot Chief Kirk Francis, traditional greeting songs with Watie Akins, Penobscot Nation.

• 10-11:30 a.m., book signing with Kathleen Mundell, author of “North by Northeast: Wabanaki, Akwesasne Mohawk, and Tuscarora Traditional Arts.”

• 10 a.m., brown ash pounding and work basket demonstration with Micmac Eldon Hanning.

• 10:30 a.m., a birch bark container demonstration and talk on maple sugaring with former Penobscot Chief Barry Dana.

• 11 a.m.-1 p.m., traditional foods, hull corn soup, fry bread and blueberry desserts. Food sales benefit the Penobscot Nation Boys and Girls Club.

• Noon, traditional Penobscot songs with Penobscot Kelly Demmons.

• 1 p.m., storytelling with John Bear Mitchell of the Penobscot Nation.

• 1:30 p.m., carving demonstration with Eric Sappier and Joe “Hugga” Dana, Penobscots.

• 2 p.m., fancy basket demonstration with Stuart Tomah, a Passamaquoddy.

• 2:30-4 p.m., Burnurwurbskek Singers drumming, singing and dancing.

• 4 p.m., drawing for the Hudson Museum Friends Maine Indian Basket Raffle. This year’s basket is a traditional decorated birch bark container crafted by Barry Dana. Raffle tickets are $5 each the day of the event.

For information about the Hudson Museum, visit www.umaine.edu/hudsonmuseum.

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