NEW GLOUCESTER — The Shakers and Maine Indians have crossed paths throughout the state over the centuries since the late 1700s.

Today, parallel journeys to preserve each group’s cultural identity continue and will be celebrated Saturday, Aug. 29, when Maine Native American basket makers and artists hold a summer market and demonstration at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village on Route 26.

Concurrently, the Shaker folk art exhibit “The Human and The Eternal: Shaker Art in Its Many Forms” will be on display at the Shaker Museum.

There is historical evidence of Native American settlements near the Shaker villages at New Gloucester and Alfred, according to museum curator Michael Graham.

“This is the coming together of the two long Maine traditions and is a very neat package,” added Leonard Brooks, director of the Shaker Museum.

Because both the Shakers and Maine tribes are working to preserve their traditional art forms and creativity, “it was automatic we turn to the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance,” said Graham.

“It was understood that Shakers learned basket techniques from native basket makers. In typical Shaker fashion, they made additional changes of their own to create something uniquely Shaker,” said Graham.

According to him, the Shakers in Maine in the 1790s developed an economic base for their villages by selling such products as seeds, herbal products, spinning wheels, woodenware, shingles, brooms and other items.

Through the 1960s, the Shakers reached their customers along extensive sales routes traveled by a small team of brethren for as long as six weeks at a time. These routes reached several destinations heavily populated by Maine Indians in Old Town, Eastport and Houlton, and near the Canadian border.

As early as 1820, some Maine Indians sold their ash-splint baskets and birch bark vessels and beadwork to the public. The Maine Shakers in the mid-1800s acquired and used significant numbers of Maine Indian baskets in combination with their Shaker-made baskets. Many of these early Maine Indian baskets were used for laundry, general storage and farming.
The two groups journeyed on parallel paths, selling their goods at resort areas during the summer months — namely Kennebunkport, Bar Harbor, Poland Spring and Old Orchard Beach, where tribal members established summer camps.
Many of those attending the Aug. 29 event are descendents of some of the people the Shakers interacted with at Bar Harbor, said Graham.

The basket collection at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village is half-Shaker, half-Native American, all from the 1800s to the early 1900s. Featured artists are among the finest and most renowned Native American artists representing the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet tribes. They are Molly Neptune Parker, Butch Jacobs, Fred Tomah, Kim Bryant, Michael Silliboy, Paula Thorne and Barry Dana. Also participating are Tim Shay, Pam Cunningham, Gal Frey and Stuart Tomah, Jeremy Frey and Ganessa Bryant and Matt and Nakia Dana.

Go and do
WHAT: Maine Native American Summer Market and Demonstration
FEATURING: handwoven ash splint and sweet grass basketry, traditional etched birch bark vessels, stone sculpture and woodcarving from Native American artists representing the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac and Maliseet tribes in Maine
AND: “The Human & Eternal: Shaker Art in its Many Forms” exhibit displaying the artistic creativity and traditions of the Shakers from the late 1700s to present day
WHERE: Sabbathday Lake Shaker Museum, Route 26, New Gloucester
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29
ADMISSION: free
MORE INFO: 926-4597; www.shaker.lib.me.us


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