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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Akwesasne Museum Hosts Children's Basket Making Class
by Kaniethonkie - Indian Time

Her baskets have been shown in three continents in world-class museums, one of her baskets was presented to Pope Benedict at the Vatican, and now ten lucky students had the opportunity to learn from master basketmaker Sheila Ransom. Children from 9 years old to 14 years old met two times a week for a two-hour class at the Akwesasne Museum. Ms. Ransom’s specialty is making fancy baskets, but for this class she taught the skills she had learned from another master basketmaker, Henry Arquette, to make a small pack basket.

Ms. Ransom is still recovering from several brain surgeries that she endured this past November and it took until March of 2013 to be strong enough to start making baskets again. While it took more than a few moments to remember the techniques and skills of basket making, every time she worked on her baskets more and more of it came back. Ms. Ransom started making baskets when her Godmother, Mae Bigtree taught a basket making class at the Akwesasne Museum. Afterwards she would go home with her Godmother, and they often worked on their baskets until past midnight.

Ms. Ransom finds basket making very therapeutic and attributes much of her recovery to practicing a craft she loves very much. If you’ve seen her baskets or are fortunate enough to own one, you would be familiar with the skill, workmanship and passion that she weaves into each basket she creates. Ms. Ransom said, “To me, making baskets is so relaxing and I just feel good after working with baskets, and teaching children how to make baskets is just as therapeutic. They were so good to work with, they really wanted to learn.” The basket making students are; Tiffany Brann, Jaryn Chubb, Levi Herne, Logan Herne, Lexis Jacobs, Roman Jacobs, Kayla Jacobs, Keirsha Swamp Jacobs, Kiara Swamp Jacobs, Savannah Swamp, Jillian Johnson and Mia Mitchell.

Just as Mae Bigtree passed down her skills and techniques to her Goddaughter, Ms. Ransom is doing the same with her granddaughter, Mia Mitchell. Mia joined her Grandmother during this class and was often seen helping other students with their baskets. It was here at this class that Ms. Ransom noticed just how much Mia had been watching and learning from her grandmother. As we talked about the class and how well Ms. Ransom is recovering, Mia was sitting close by finishing her own basket.

The New York State Council on the Arts funded this basket making class. The Akwesasne Museum will be offering other basket making classes by Sheila Ransom and Henry Arquette. Look for announcements in future issues of Indian Time. Who knows where the next master basketmaker is? Maybe it’s you.

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