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 Pinto Guira making guiramaking a mandalaplaying mandolin

Voices Fall-Winter, 2002:
Click on the cover for the Table of Contents. Read an excerpt of “Music and Art to Remember: The 2002 American Folklore Society Conference” with photographs by Martha Cooper here.
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Volume 28

Music and Art to Remember: The 2002 American Folklore Society Conference
Photographs by Martha Cooper

Native American Marketplace

The Native American Marketplace at the 2002 AFS conference in Rochester provided an opportunity for attendees to meet Native artists from upstate New York, learn more about their work, and purchase high-quality traditional arts made today. Ash splint basketry, beadwork, silver ornaments, and lacrosse stick making were among the historically important Haudenosaunee traditions represented. Most of the participating artists were Haudenosaunee from the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora nations. Following customary Haudenosaunee practice as prescribed by the Grand Council of Chiefs, no sacred objects or spiritually significant art forms were displayed or sold. Photo of Dan Hill
Dan Hill, Cayuga flute maker and player and silversmith, Tuscarora Reservation.
The Native peoples of upstate New York and southern Ontario and Quebec call themselves the Haudenosaunee, or People of the Longhouse. Their clan systems, political and spiritual structures, oratory, musical forms and repertoires, and material culture productions continue in active practice. Haudenosaunee cosmology, rhetoric, oral history, and expressive culture are extraordinarily poetic and symbolic, and cultural literacy in their metaphors and stories exists among the Haudenosaunee to a high degree.

Photo of Henry Arquette, Mohawk basketmaker, Akwesasne Reservation, with his wife The process of weaving utilitarian and fancy baskets from gathered and prepared black ash splints and sweetgrass remains one of the more widespread and complex technologies used by Haudenosaunee and Algonkian Indian groups in areas of New York State, New England, and southeastern Canada.

Although basketmaking continues today in other Haudenosaunee communities and also among the Wabanaki people of northern New England and maritime Canada, the most extensive practice of Native basketmaking takes place on Akwesasne, the Mohawk homeland that spans the St. Lawrence River in New York, Ontario, and Quebec. The Akwesasne Cultural Center Library and Museum estimates that more than a hundred Mohawks have a knowledge of basketmaking, and many actively produce baskets for sale and family use.
Henry Arquette, Mohawk basketmaker, Akwesasne Reservation, with his wife.
Men and women participate in all stages of the process, which includes identification and harvesting of ash trees, preparation of splints, gathering of sweetgrass, carving of basket molds and handles, and the weaving of baskets.Akwesasne Mohawk baskets are made in many forms, from large pack baskets strong enough for hunters to use in transporting game, to delicate one-inch baskets woven from sweetgrass to hold thimbles. More than an artistic exercise, the traditions of basketmaking provide income, knit families and generations together, and express a profound sense of Mohawk identity. Bride and groom exchange baskets at traditional Mohawk Longhouse wedding ceremonies, and Mohawk people often honor dignitaries by presenting a basket. In recognition of their excellence, the basketmakers of Akwesasne have received the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and the Traditional Arts in Upstate New York North Country Heritage Award.
 Photo of Dan Hill, silversmith and flute maker and player;  Katie Thompson, basketmaker;  and Robin Lazore, Mohawk basketmaker, Akwesasne Reservation
Dan Hill, silversmith and flute maker and player; Katie Thompson, basketmaker; and Robin Lazore, Mohawk basketmaker, Akwesasne Reservation

Beads and beadwork played an important role in Haudenosaunee life for many generations before European settlement. During the mid-nineteenth century, Hau-denosaunee artists developed new types of beadwork items made to appeal to tourists visiting Niagara Falls. Called whimsies, the beaded pincushions, picture frames, table coverings, wall hangings, and clothing accessories gained tremendous popularity as souvenir items. Beadwork production soared and became a vital source of income for Haudenosaunee families during the mid to late 1900s. Like their ancestors, Haudenosaunee artists continue to make beadwork items for their own use and for sale. The multifaceted nature of Haudenosaunee beadwork and its continuing popularity and resonance suggest the need for a sophisticated understanding of complex and changing interactions between cultures and also within cultural groups. The role of marketing, for instance, sometimes thought to adulterate a tradition, has served to inspire Haudenosaunee women to create items encoding their beliefs and sense of identity while at the same time feeding their families

Other Native American artists at the conference
  • Henry Arquette, Mohawk basketmaker, Akwesasne Reservation
  • Sue Ellen Herne, Mohawk painter and curator at the Akwesasne Mohawk Museum and Library, who brought many Mohawk baskets and other artworks from Akwesasne to sell and who organized the basketmaking forum
  • Kevin White, Mohawk, representing the Iroquois White Corn and Pinewoods Community Farming Project based on the Cattaraugus Seneca Reservation
  • Tonia Loran-Galban, Mohawk basketmaker, Rochester
  • Michael Galban, Washo-Paiute artist in quillwork, woodwork, fiber, basketry, and educator at Ganondagan State Historic Site, Rochester
  • Ronnie Reitter, Seneca cornhusk doll maker, Rochester
  • Rosemary Hill, Dorothy Printup Winden, Dorene Rickard, Ann Printup, Sarina Printup, and Anita Ferguson, all Tuscarora beadworkers from the Tuscarora Reservation.
Photo of Ronnie Reitter, Seneca cornhusk doll maker, Rochester.
Ronnie Reitter, Seneca cornhusk doll maker, Rochester
—Lynne Williamson
Lynne Williamson is director of the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts program at the Institute for Community Research in Hartford.

Music from the Empire State

Noontime concerts each day of the conference featured traditional musicians from New York State. Musicians also performed at receptions and special events. The AFS Music and Song Section, the Dance and Movement Analysis Section, and the Country Dancers of Rochester hosted a square dance at the Coventry United Methodist Church. The callers represented regional traditions: Dudley Lauffman from New Hampshire, Randy Wilson of Kentucky, and from upstate New York, Jim Kimball, Dick Bolt, Richard Castner, and Ken Lowe. They were accompanied by Kelly’s Old Timers, a multigenerational family band from the Genesee Valley.
 Photo of Jackie Hobbs
Jackie Hobbs was born into the fiddling tradition of the Tug Hill region of upstate New York. Her grandmother, Alice Clemens—three times New York State Lady’s Fiddling Champion—gave Hobbs a fiddle when she was five, and throughout her childhood, Hobbs traveled with her grandmother to fiddle events across the Northeast and eastern Canada. Hobbs plays several styles of fiddle music, but her main influence has always been her grandmother, who mixed New England and Canadian styles. She was accompanied by pianist Jesse Gotham.
Other musicians at the conference
  • Finnish-American button accordianist Richard Koski with Carl Rahkonen on fiddle and mandolin
  • Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann musicians Ted McGraw on button accordion and concertina with Cathy McGrath on flute, whistle, and guitar, Pat Carey on flute, guitar, and vocals, John Walker on fiddle, and Brian Coughlin on flute
  • the Campbell Brothers, presenting African-American gospel music with electric steel guitar and vocals
  • a rhythm-and-blues band, the Rod Nickson Project
  • Karamfil ("Carnation"), presenting traditional village songs and dance music from Macedonia and Bulgaria on kaval, an end-blown wooden flute; tambura, lutelike instruments; gadulka, a rebec-like bowed instrument; gaida, bagpipe; tupan and dumbek, drums; plus clarinet, trumpet, and guitar.
Photo of The Trinidad and Tobago Steelband
The Trinidad and Tobago Steelband is led by Alfred St. John, a native of Trinidad who came to the United States in 1964 and worked as an electronics designer at Eastman Kodak for nearly twenty years. When he first moved to Rochester, there were few other Caribbean musicians, so he began teaching. His band has grown over the years and now performs several times a week in the summer throughout western New York. He has also mentored local musicians on the steel drum and has several recordings to his credit, including the newly released Caribbean Romance II.

Photo of Sterl Van Arsdale
Sterl Van Arsdale is a traditional hammered dulcimer player and fiddler living in Frewsburg, New York. His grandfather, Jesse Martin, taught his older brothers to play the hammered dulcimer. Van Arsdale started playing fiddle around age fourteen and was inspired to pick up the hammered dulcimer by watching his brothers. He has performed at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, and today, continuing a family musical tradition, he plays for concerts, square dances, and round dances in western New York.

Photo of Trio Los Arpegios
Marcos Santiago performs jibaro music with Jesus Gracia and Ruben Orona, who make up the Trio Los Arpegios. In the central mountains of Puerto Rico, traveling folk musicians playing jibaro bring aquinaldo, "the gift of music," from early December until the feast of the Three Kings on January 6. Santiago learned the basics of the style while a young teen and continued to play guitar for traditional holiday celebrations after moving to Rochester in 1963. He eventually took up the cuatro, a ten-stringed guitar that is the lead instrument in jibaro. He is well versed in many styles of traditional Puerto Rican guitar and dance music and also performs on the requinto and tres.


In my community there is a relationship between all the objects that we create and the words that surround us. The words are here to teach and guide us through life; the objects are here to serve the memory and meaning of the word. The practice of looking at things to remember is our way . . . What we create, tourist item or not, serves as a reminder of our spiritual, economic, and cultural survival.
Jolene Rickard, Tuscarora artist and art historian

The full article, that is excerpted here, appeared in Voices Vol. 28, Fall-Winter 2002. Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.

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