On Oct. 16 in the Hudson Museum’s Maine Indian Gallery, Frances Soctomah shared with peers and faculty her work in the art of basket making. Her showcase is one of many taking place this month at the Hudson Museum. The talk and demonstration were free and open to the public.
Located on the second floor of the Collins Center for the Arts, the Hudson Museum is an artistic staple of the University of Maine that brings residents and guests from all over to the Orono area. The Maine Indian Gallery, located on the right side of the museum floor, showcases baskets and craftwork that have been created by Penobscot and Maliseet tribes. Basketmakers have passed down these traditions through family members over generations.
“It is so cool to have a place to go to on campus that is filled with so much history about the land we are on and the indigenous people who have made their home here,” third-year physics student Dana Tumal said. “I have always been so interested in the culture and traditions of the Penobscot nation, and I will always appreciate the Hudson Museum for its interesting artifacts and pieces of history.”
Basketmaking involves making typically wicker or other products by weaving certain materials together, often in a pattern. Indigenous people often use natural resources to make things that make their lives more efficient, such as baskets. Brown ash trees are the primary components used in weaving the baskets showcased around the museum.
Tribe members also used these trees to create bowls, decorations, paintings and other necessities. Some of the baskets that were gathered by the University were once used for potato collecting, packing, fishing, sewing, trash collecting, as keepsakes and stationary. Also included at the Hudson Museum are many displays showcasing American Indian clothing and dress, transportation, housing, kitchenware and other authentic creations.
“Going to events like these are a great way to explore the Hudson museum and to learn more about the land that UMaine was built on,” fourth-year English student Hannah Dyer said. “The Penobscot tribes have been here long before us, and we should always remember and celebrate that.”
The Wabanaki Artist Showcases began on Oct. 2 and will run weekly until Nov. 20. The guest speakers are all artists and basketmakers. They will share the history behind the art that they have come to love.
“This space helps to create a feeling of welcoming and acceptance on campus, and it is a really special place,” Tumal said. “I love going here to look at the clothing on display and to see all of the baskets and pottery that are handmade.”
The next Wabanaki Artist Showcase event will be held on Nov. 6 and will feature a conversation and demonstration by birchbark artist Butch Phillips.
“Because I am from Maine, I think that it is really important to honor the tribes that have been on this land for generations,” Dyer said. “They have passed down and shared traditions with us that have contributed to the university and to the local Orono community in so many ways.”