The Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians people are excellent basket makers, using the wood of the Brown Ash Tree to fashion many different styles of baskets. This long practiced craft provides supplemental income to some of the member's families and a continuity of the cultural heritage.
Birchbark basketry has been made for centuries by Maliseet people of Maine and New Brunswick Canada. Each piece of bark is selected carefully and with respect to the Birch Tree. Designs in baskets and dolls represent various animal and plant life found in the woods. Etchings are done using a needle or an awl and can be accented with sweetgrass, spruceroot and brown ash each basket normally takes 20-30 hours from gathering materials forming the basket and slowly etching the artwork on to the bark. Birchbark baskets are completely functional pieces and done in traditional Maliseet form.
As an artist, I have produced several significant works including traditional Maliseet birchbark baskets that are currently on display and for sale at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. I, as a Maliseet, began making my birchbark creations at the age of 32, and knew then that I wanted to pursue a career in traditional art. I am self taught and I have developed my own unique style. I draw my inspiration from nature and other wild things. I specialize in Northeastern tribes and wildlife. It is a beautiful and unique culture that has remained with only a few artisans left in our community. My goal is to raise awareness of my heritage and teach people about Maliseet tradition and culture.
All Baskets made by: Fred Tomah, Maliseet
See His Creations at www.tomahbaskets.com *
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