Ash borer and baskets

BAR HARBOR — A new exhibit at the Abbe Museum, set to open Monday, Oct. 29, details the latest dangers threatening a Native American tradition.

In recent decades, a new threat has endangered the basketmaking tradition in Maine: the emerald ash borer, an invasive beetle which kills ash trees. In May, the presence of the emerald ash borer beetle in Maine was officially confirmed by the state’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry.

Ash and sweetgrass baskets are one of the best-known Wabanaki art forms, and many people make or supplement their income through basket production. “The Basket Tree” exhibit, opening Monday, Oct. 29, explores the ability of the Wabanaki to protect this important cultural resource on and off reservation lands, so that livelihoods of Maine’s Indian basketmakers can continue and flourish for generations to come.

The exhibit is co-curated by Darren Ranco (Penobscot) and Jennifer Neptune (Penobscot).

“Baskets hold our communities together by connecting young to old, and weavers to apprentices, ash pounders, block and gauge makers, sweetgrass gatherers and braiders, and other weavers and friends in our own tribes and beyond,” Neptune said. “More than a means of survival, baskets continue to be an inseparable part of the culture and traditions of the Wabanaki.”

The exhibit will be on display at the Abbe’s downtown location through March 2019, and then will have a two-year run in the Abbe Museum at Sieur de Monts, in Acadia National Park.

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