Native American


Artist: Leslie Nicholas

Culture/People: Maliseet

Place: Kenduskeag, Maine (near Orono)

Media: Oak splint

Dims: 25 x 18 x 18 in. (63.5 x 45.7 cm).

Date: c. 1985

Description: This Northeastern Pack Basket reflects both function and play. These types of packs have been made with black ash by many Northeastern tribes for centuries for hunting, fishing, and harvesting, but this piece is made from Oak splint.

The design of this basket, with the wide-mouth opening; supportive, weight-bearing straps; and form that molds to the wearer’s back have become widely appropriated—so much so that they are now widely marketed as Adirondack Pack Baskets by non-Native companies small and large, yet the original power of these Indigenous baskets remains strong as Native basket-makers continue to maintain production and use.

This full-size basket, created by Leslie Nicholas (Wabanaki Confederacy, Maliseet attrib.) is an impressive example of a typical Pack Basket, with the wonderful addition of a smaller exterior pouch for even more storage and made of oak, rather than ash splints.

If you look at NA0088 you will see how far the form has been adapted over the years. This piece contrasts in form and function—providing an opportunity for us to ponder how it was put to use.

RTC No: NA0016
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011

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