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Meet the Masters: Akwesasne Basketmakers

Mary Adams explains how she created the fancy basket she calls "the Pope basket."
Watch (QuickTime video 3:26)

Governor Cuomo presents the NYS Governor's Arts Award to the Akwesasne Basketmakers in 1988. Watch (QuickTime video 4:15)

Mae Bigtree recalls how Mohawk baskets were sold when she was a child. Listen: (Real 0:58)

How Mae is inspired to create new designs or try new techniques. Listen: (Real 0:25)

Mary Adams hopes others carry on basket making at Akwesasne after she is gone.
Listen: (Real 1:15)

The basketmakers of Akwesasne were the subject of this January 24, 2000 profile jointly produced for radio by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York and North Country Public Radio. Listen (Real 5:28)

In a recent survey, 105 Mohawks, mostly women, identified themselves as active makers of fine ash splint and sweetgrass baskets. Prized through the generations as much for their fragrance as for usefulness and fine quality, most of their baskets have been conventional in form and decoration, made primarily to satisfy the demands of the souvenir trade. A few of the women at Akwesasne are recognized within the community as "the best," and have been instrumental in teaching the art to dozens of the younger generations. In recent years—proclaimed as "artists" by writers and galleries elsewhere—these women have been experimenting with innovative designs and new techniques. A number of the basket makers now regularly travel—to colleges, museums, or international powwows—to demonstrate and show their work. Today, examples of their work are owned by major museums, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Vatican.

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