Akwesasne basket weaver keeps tradition alive
AKWESASNE (WWNY) - It’s a craft woven in tradition.
“Akwesasne is known for basket weavers,” Chill Baskets owner Carrie Hill said. “We have many of the greats come from here. And it’s just cool to be able to continue that.”
Hill has been weaving traditional black ash and sweetgrass baskets for 16 years. It’s a craft that’s been in her family for generations.
“I started with my aunt,” she said. “I would ask her questions, she would show me different techniques of how to put the pieces together and how to weave them and it just came very naturally and felt like something I was supposed to do.”
Together, her family picks sweetgrass blade by blade. Hill then separates ash wood using her family’s tools.
“Here the splint is pulled through and you end up with even strips you can weave with,” Hill said. “It’s a labor of love for sure.”
Her work has been featured at U.S. Embassies and congressional libraries. And it’s not limited to baskets.
“I really enjoy making things that aren’t necessarily basket related,” she said. “I’ve done jewelry, I’ve done clutches, I’ve done masks that have gone all over.”
Now she teaches the craft, particularly to younger members of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.
“I partner with the Akwesasne Boys and Girls Club,” Hill said. “They’re going to get cultural practice, they’re going to learn baskets, beadwork, there’s potters. So, I’m excited for the opportunity.
As recent years revealed mistreatment by reformation schools toward indigenous children, Hill says it’s important to revitalize native culture.
“It’s just really nice to see the youth being proud of who they are,” she said. “We can be proud now. We shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are.”
The strength of the Mohawk spirit is represented also in the strength of the baskets composed of soft grasses binding a sturdy wood.
“I like that aspect.” Hill said. “The surprise strength. It’s fantastic. I’m proud to be a part of a positive light of Akwesasne. That’s what I’m proud of.”
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