The Language of Native American Baskets The Weaver's View The Weaver's View
Introduction The Weavers' View Techniques, Tools & Workplaces The Weavers' Aesthetic Burden Baskets A Set of Values Basketmaking Associations
Lisa Telford
Pat Courtney Gold
Julia Parker & Sherrie Smith-Ferri
Terrol Johnson
Theresa Hoffman
  “Yes, we have always been contemporary. There will be more basket-makers after us, and they will be contemporary, too.”
—Theresa Hoffman, Penobscot
  Theresa Hoffman

In spring 2003, the Museum invited Theresa Hoffman and four other Native basket-makers and one Native basketry scholar to a two-day seminar to review this exhibition in its early stages. All of them expressed their strong wish to present basketry as a living art, with strong links to cultural history. To help illustrate this continuity, Theresa chose these four baskets from the Museum’s collections and paired them with baskets from her own and other Maine basket-makers’ contemporary works.

Theresa Hoffman, a Penobscot fancy basket-maker, apprenticed with the late basket-maker Madeline Shay. A strong advocate for the preservation of Wabanaki basketmaking—she still uses molds and blocks handed down from her great-grandmother—Theresa is the executive director and a founding member of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance. Speaking about her determination to perpetuate ash and sweetgrass basketry in Maine, she says, “I first became aware that after hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, our knowledge of basketmaking was slipping away. I was one of only a dozen Maine Natives under the age of 50 who were practicing the tradition. When Madeline, the last fluent speaker of the Penobscot language, died, I became determined not to watch traditional basketmaking die as well.”


The Weaver’s View

A tradition dating back thousands of years—from Creation to pack baskets, woven with curved bellies to fit in the sides of our birchbark canoes, to fancy Victorian art pieces, to potato baskets for the harvest in Aroostook County—Maine Indian baskets have embodied a way of life and identified us as Woodland people. Baskets are a part of our stories of the Wabanaki culture hero Glooskap, Man from Nothing, who helped make human life possible. The story told by Mary Sepsis (Passamaquoddy), which was translated and published in 1884, says, “Glooskap came first of all into this country…into the land of the Wabanaki, next to sunrise. There were no Indians here then…. And in this way, he made man: He took his bow and arrows and shot at trees, the basket-trees, the Ash. Then Indians came out of the bark of the Ash-trees.”

I remember a colleague purchasing a brown-ash model biplane at one of our gatherings, made by 80-year-old Lola Sockabasin, a Passamaquoddy basket-maker, and asking me, “Is that contemporary?”

I said, “Yes, we have always been contemporary. There will be more basket-makers after us, and they will be contemporary, too.”
 
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