Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

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Celebrating a Proud Heritage

July 8, 2017                                                                                            Most Recent Posts:
College of the Atlantic                                                                           Lost Loons – Somes Pond
Bar Harbor, Maine                                                                                A Picnic and Great Head Point, TWICE



Every year in early July the College of the Atlantic hosts the Wabanaki Native Peoples and their Festival. You can see the tents for the festival in the distant background behind some tables ringing the field and this fabulous metal sculpture of a moose.




The moose is a sculpture of the college campus and fantastic at every angle.  All artwork on the campus is/was done by students including the moose by Wendy Klemperer.  As we discovered in 2013 when we were at the college, the students here are incredibly artistic and creative.




IMG_5949This is the 19th annual festival celebrating the artistry of the local Native Americans, the Wabanaki.  The festival is produced by the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor and the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance.  It’s a gathering of generations of Wabanaki to share their traditions, history and culture with visitors.  We feel very lucky to have been able to attend twice now.

The spotlight is on the artists selling hand-woven baskets made from ash and sweetgrass, birch bark and other traditional materials.  The baskets are simply incredible works of art.  They each look like they should be in a museum.

Jewelry, musical instruments and other crafts are also featured and the cultural demonstrations happening throughout the day include traditional dancing, drumming, flute playing, basketmaking and ash pounding.

The festival’s market of basketmakers represent all four tribal nations in Maine, the Maliseet, Micmac, Passamaquoddy and Penobscot, collectively known as the Wabanaki.





Beautiful polished mussel shell jewelry.  Just incredible artistry.



I was lucky enough to be standing at the table of this Wabanaki artist when the woman on the left decided to buy herself this simply stunning carving of a turtle for her 70th birthday.  She pulled out 3 $100 bills for the $250 piece.



It is carved from Antler and the back side is every bit as detailed as the front. 



Chief Barry Dana and his wife were selling his beautiful birch bark baskets and pure maple syrup made the traditional way.  The only purchase, other than lunch, that we made all day was a pint of his syrup.  In an RV we don’t have room for anything except consumables regardless of how fantstic they are.







This is the back side of the basket shown in  both pictures above with a bit of sunlight bleaching out the left side. I find the eyes penetrating.


The music centers around this Drum group who play and sing for the dancers.



Traditional attire for Wabanaki women is long skirts, colorful blouses and shawls.



For lunch I have  a bean Indian Taco which is served on fry bread and always delicious.



There are several demonstrations of the arts including this one by Gabriel Frye, Micmac, who demonstrates ash pounding.

He harvests all the trees for his baskets, pounds  and strips the black ash.  It is an amazing demonstration requiring strength and skill just to obtain the materials before even starting to work on the basket.




Splitting the ash splint even thinner.





Chief Barry Dana demonstrated the traditional method of making fire with a bow drill.  No flint, no matches.  A hand carved bow drill.  This is the guy you want with you if you get lost on the mountain or in the woods on a cold night.








Geo Neptune has won numerous awards for his basket artistry.  He shows how to create the small flowers and tiny hummingbirds that adorn many of his baskets.  He is known for his “fruits”





Geo is transgender.  Throughout history these people have been known and respected among tribes as  “two spirits”.   As I’ve said before, I think we had and have a lot to learn from the Native world view.





I watched in amazement as these two tiny creations were made in minutes by the skilled hands of this artist.



On another table I see other fruits and “corn”.


The artists are also selling more utilitarian baskets which show beautiful craftsmanship.  I tried all afternoon to figure out how and where I could use one in Winnona but sadly there just isn’t any place for it to be.


I couldn’t bring myself to purchase such craftsmanship and use it as a trash basket.





IMG_6079Later in the afternoon we walk around the beautiful campus of College of the Atlantic  including their not to be missed COA Natural History Museum.   COA  is a unique college with 350 students and 35 professors which deserves a separate post and that will be next.

But speaking of the Natural History Museum, parked right in front of it was this Ice Cream Truck which was offering free ice cream for a donation to the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance.  Totally anonymous.  You ask for the ice cream bar of your choice and put your donation in the box on the side of the truck.  AND you get a badge.  Mine is pretty warn by now.  Sort of like the I voted badges but the first time I’ve ever been honored for buying ice cream!!



Even though this post ends only part way through our day, I want to jump to the day’s end and the license plates we saw in the parking lot.. And the bumper sticker too.





And finally, these are the 21st century faces of the Wabanaki, a proud people carrying on their tribal traditions despite the odds.









  1. The baskets are exquisite! Too pretty to use though.

  2. Everything you showed us was amazing. I especially loved the Sea Turtle craving!!!

  3. Awesome artistry and workmanship. I also dig that bumper sticker!!

  4. Such perfection in those baskets - beautiful and impressive. Nice to see all the native faces. So glad they are continuing their traditions.

  5. Love the little turtle so beautiful as is all the baskets. Such creative and artistic people are the Native Americans

  6. Loved the people shots especially. Wonderful.

  7. The metal sculpture is of an elk rather than a moose.

    1. Interesting since there have been no wild Elk in Maine since 1877. Personally I can't tell an Elk antler from a Moose. Imported antlers seems strange.

  8. Those baskets are truly amazing works of art. Imagine trying to learn how to make them. I'd need a couple of lifetimes just to be able to make a small one! ;c)

  9. Amazing day all the way around - the tribal people still banding together in a whole new world, creating incredibly beautiful art. It does seem that most of these baskets are museum quality. Very nicely photographed & presented!

  10. Wow, what a fun and interesting day. It's nice to see you in long pants and long sleeved shirts. It's miserable hot here in Tampa.

  11. Pretty awesome. Would have enjoyed that. Especially liked the turtle carving and the fire starting although in Texas we rarely need to know how to get things hot!!!

  12. What a wonderful festival! The baskets are just gorgeous -- and I would have enjoyed seeing the skills demonstrations. Wish we had someone to do those kinds of demonstrations for our interpretive programs here! Even though our trailer is small, we have lots of wall space and even shelves -- so I can indulge here and there and buy special things we find along the way. I can't resist. :-)) Love the creative way you ended this post.

  13. The Native Americans are such beautiful, proud people. Love their culture and craft. Great score on the free ice cream! Indian tacos are yummy too.

  14. What amazing artistry!! I would have so enjoyed watching these craftsman. What beautiful art works. Love the intricate designs in the baskets. Sure was a great day. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Wonderful when we can watch how the artists create their beauty, and to share a day of cultural recognition of their works. Love that moose!!! Although he wouldn't fit, I'd have to make room for one of the stunning light weight baskets. Absolutely wonderful!!! Yes, we still have a lot to learn about tolerance, family values, and conservation from our native peoples. Perfect bumper sticker :-)

  16. That moose is amazing! The work that goes into those baskets! Especially stripping the ash before you make it. I am too impatient to have to make the materials before I can even start on the basket. This is why I have no desire to spin wool and then dye it. I admire that they are teaching the young people the traditions and keeping them alive. That one basket that is adorned with what looks like purple acorns, is beautiful. xxxooo

  17. Such a fabulous festival. The basketry is amazing. I'd have had a difficult time not buying one yet know what you mean about space. LOVE fry bread/tacos. What could be better than supporting a worthy cause and getting ice cream too.

  18. Thanks for sharing! This festival goes on the list of things to do. The baskets were amazing. You have such great self-control in not buying one.

  19. Lovely tribute to the Wabanaki


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