Akwesasne Mohawk Baskets
Akwesasne Mohawk Baskets by renowned basket maker, MAE BIGTREE
Akwesasne (Mohawk) is known for its intricate and innovative techniques of black ash splint and sweet grass baskets. Local basket makers and community members at large have a deep respect for the natural materials of basketry. Ash logs and sweetgrass are harvested by men and women who turn them into basketmaking materials in processes that involve an understanding of the environment and reverence for cultural practices. Basketry is used in traditional ways, and has also been part of their economy for generations.
The making of a basket is a complicated process, involving a number of people. First the black ash tree must be selected and cut down. The bark is then stripped from the tree. Pounding the length of the log with the back of an ax head causes thick splints to separate at the annual rings. These splints are made thinner initially by splitting the top of the splint with a knife and then pulling it apart. The thin splints must then be smoothed and cut to size for weaving. If a basket is to be colorful, splints must at this point be dyed.
When sweetgrass is used, this too must be gathered, cleaned, and sometimes braided for extra texture. If a basket is to have a handle, either hickory handle is carved or one is braided from sweetgrass. Once these materials are gathered and prepared, the basket is ready to be woven. Various weaves are employed. The tightness and evenness of the weave contribute to a well-made basket.
Located in northern New York, along the Canadian border, the Akwesasne Mohawk people live in an ecologically rich environment. The people are closely tied to their homelands and the resources they’ve used for centuries.
Information Credit: http://akwesasneculturalcenter.org/