Grantee: Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA)
Location: Old Towne, Maine
Award: Mobilizing the Community Through the Arts
Discipline: “Basketry Workshops in the Wabanaki Tribes in Maine
The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance (MIBA) is the premier basketmaking organization on the east coast, functioning as a collective and fostering the preservation of traditional basketmaking practices. In 1993 tribal baskemakers from the four federally recognized tribes in Maine (Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot) realized there were fewer than a dozen weavers younger than the age of 50 statewide amongst a tribal population of 6,000 and decided to create a pathway to teach this traditional art form.
Today, due to MIBA programs, the average age of the 125 MIBA basket makers is 40. Headed by Executive Director, Theresa Secord, a renowned basketmaker, successful MIBA programs include a 10 year long traditional arts apprenticeship program where 142 apprenticeships have been awarded to 65 basketmakers and a series of Tribal community basketmaking workshops rotated through each of the reservation communities. In 2010, MIBA member Jeremy Frey was awarded overall “Best In Show” at the Santa Fe Indian Market.
Funding for the Basketry Workshops in the Wabanaki Tribes of Maine supported a cultural preservation project anchored by workshops on five Wabanaki reservations, led by master weavers who worked with youth in the creation of baskets – from the gathering of materials to the weaving of baskets. The workshops were attended by 125 participants and 52 artists were paid directly through the project. Tribal community members learned to make their first baskets and were exposed to their unique cultural art and language. Youth mentors were hired and acquired teaching and leadership skills, providing necessary leadership in all aspects of community life. MIBA has witnessed the correlation between culture leaders and other sectors over the past two decades, including politics, business, and education. The workshops fostered intergenerational activity and at times, four generations of practitioners were present in the workshops. As evidenced in the successes of the project, the work served to cultivate the preservation of traditional heritage survival practices rooted in the land.