Invasive species threatens Akwesasne tradition

Emerald ash borer & Akwesasne weavers
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 6:01 AM EDT
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AKWESASNE (WWNY) - The emerald ash borer has been destroying ash trees the past several years and it’s now affecting indigenous artisans.

In Akwesasne, traditional black ash baskets are woven with splints of wood from the ash tree.

But with no natural predator, the ash borer has been wreaking havoc on the trees, making the wood either completely unusable, or very difficult to use.

“I’m a grown woman and that beautiful little beetle is my boogeyman,” basket weaver Carrie Hill said. “It’s highly unfortunate because black ash is the only tree I’m aware of that you can peel apart several times to get the material.”

To make matters worse, ash trees grow slowly. Even if weavers planted some today, they likely wouldn’t be able to use them in their lifetimes.