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Maine Indian Baskets

Pack Basket by Gabriel Frey
Pack Basket by Gabriel Frey

Last Saturday Alice and I traveled to Orono (about 1 hour 15 minutes from Searsport Shores) to the Maine Indian Basketmakers Holiday Market held at The Hudson Museum on the University of Maine Campus in Orono.  For one reason or another, neither of us had ever made it to the Market but wow…we were missing something grand!  First of all, the atmosphere is like joining a family picnic and we were treated like welcome guests.  Everyone is smiling, hugging and exchanging stories…there’s music in the background and the only thing missing is the smell of a fireplace and some good food cooking in the background (dear organizers, nice addition don’t you think?)…but I digress…

Gabriel Frey Pack Basket
Gabriel Frey, Twelfth Generation Passamaquoddy Basketmaker

The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) is made up of artisans of the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Indians. The four tribes are collectively known as the Wabanaki. Each year MIBA holds several festivals where you can meet the basket makers, watch demonstrations, listen to traditional music and buy original work directly from the artist.

Maine Indain Basket made by Molly Neptune Parker
Maine Indian Basket made by Master Basketmaker Molly Neptune Parker

Basketmaking has been an integral part Maine Indian culture for many generations. There are approximately 8,000 Wabanaki left in Maine. Their ancestors have resided in this state for approximately 12,000 years. It was great to hear that there’s an active apprentice program in place to guarantee the traditional basketmaking is not lost…and why we saw so many young basketmakers displaying work alongside their elders. Molly Neptune Parker of the Passamaquoddy tribe held center stage and was clearly cherished.  Her baskets are museum quality and set the standard for others to strive towards yet she was among the most generous and smiling of all the artisans.

Birch Bark Basket
Birch Bark Basket made by former Penobscot Chief Barry Dana

There were baskets of all shapes, sizes and colors, Birchbark baskets skillfully etched with intricate designs made by former Penobscot Chief  Barry Dana. There were sturdy pack baskets trimmed with leather by twelfth generation basket maker Gabriel Frey and the sweet, colorful baskets by Passamaquoddy Dolly Barnes were some of our favorites.

Don’t despair that you may never make it to Orono in December…MIBA Participates in several other festivals throughout the summer where you can meet the artists and purchase fabulous baskets.

In July visit the Annual NATIVE AMERICAN FESTIVAL and Basketmakers Market
College of the Atlantic Campus
Bar Harbor, ME

Basket by Dolly Barnes
Passamaquoddy Basket Maker Dolly Barnes

In August They hold a Market at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village and you can also find them in September at Common Ground Fair in Unity Maine.

For more information be sure to visit their website MaineIndianBaskets.org You’ll also find some great information on the Penobscot Nation Museum located on Indian Island…also a daytrip from the Shores.

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