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Pam Cunningham

Pam Cunningham

I am Penobscot, of the Turtle clan. I could say 'born and raised' on the island… but I was born at Eastern Maine Medical Center, Bangor, Main, then brought home and raised on Oak Hill, Indian Island, Main, USA. The same hill my mom was born on. It was this place that I was given my Penobscot name ~outdusis~ little pathway. Looking for a short cut to my friend's home, I spent all morning walking back and forth from my home to my friend's making ~ a little pathway.

I love every aspect, every step of my basket making. I relish the fact that, in most ways, I am following in the footsteps of my ancestors. Many of the oldest and simplest traditions continue, from splitting and gauging fiber from the ash tree, to hand weaving each basket, to picking sweetgrass and then braiding it, for weaving into my baskets. Traditional and contemporary baskets, berry baskets, collector baskets, and time-honored originals like the sweetgrass flats, even my own new creations like the Honor basket, Sweet heart, Mother Earth Egg, Prayers for Humanity acorn basket.

I spend my time making baskets within walking distance of the river that surrounds my birth/home land, Indian Island, Main, USA. There is a strong connection between the Penobscot River and my people, Wabanaki, who use the brown ash and sweetgrass that grow along the riverbanks and down to the coast, in honor of this relationship.

The brown ash used to make my fancy baskets are hand selected and harvested for stripping the bark and pounding the trunk until the growth rings can be pulled off in long splints. I split, scrape and gauge these splints into weavers, standards, and points used to make my baskets. I've handpicked the sweetgrass, blade by blade along the coast of Maine. A job that involves a great deal of nature at its most natural…spiders, mud, clam flats, ticks cutting grass, horse-flies, and what some say - biting grasshoppers! Then soaking the harvested, cleaned and dried grass to be able to finely braid three strands together, locking in other strands to achieve the continuous braid. These baskets symbolize my honor and desire to keep my native traditions and culture alive.