Akwesasne Mohawk Territory
(Franklin County, NY)
Mohawk Ash Splint & Sweetgrass Basket Makers
This profile is possible thanks to an underwriting gift from the Nihanawate Chapter DAR.
In a survey around the time of this award in 1994, 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 decades— 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 regularly travel—to colleges, museums, or international powwows—to demonstrate and show their work. Today, examples of their work are featured in the collections of major museums, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Vatican.
Click here to listen to the TAUNY/NCPR “Meet the Masters” story about the Akwesasne Basket Makers.
In the video clip below, Mary Adams of the Akwesasne Basket Makers explains how she created the fancy basket she calls “the Pope basket.”
In the video clip below, Governor Cuomo presents the NYS Governor’s Arts Award to the Akwesasne Basketmakers in 1988.
Click and listen to the audio clips below to learn more about the Akwesasne Basket Makers:
Mae Bigtree recalls how Mohawk baskets were sold when she was a child.
How Mae is inspired to create new designs or try new techniques.
Mary Adams hopes others can carry on basket-making at Akwesasne after she is gone.