Each year shops, restaurants and other local businesses in Bar Harbor depend on tourism.
This concept is nothing new.
“For hundreds of years our people have come to bar harbor to set up and sell to the tourists so it’s continuing that tradition,” explains Jennifer Neptune, Director of Maine Indian Basket Makers Alliance.
The annual Native American and Basketmaking Festival is more than just preserving culture.
“All of them count on this market as part of their economy, as part of their livelihood,” says Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko, President and CEO of the Abbe Museum. “So while it’s fun and exciting to be here and see the art and see the demonstrations and see the dancing its equally important to engage and purchase and take home something for yourself and others because it matters.”
Maine’s Native Americans hand-made products captivate locals and visitors.
“It’s a real unique opportunity to buy directly from the artist and get some really amazing work,” Neptune says.
Especially when the handiwork has a contemporary twist.
“There are some really amazing artists that are really pushing these art forms to the next level.”
Several artists at the festival received national honors – two have even been awarded prestigious fellows from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Interest in the trade, as well as sales, both help to keep Maine’s Native American culture alive.
“We’ve been practicing it here in this land for thousands and thousands of years and its important to us,” Neputne shares. It helps us keep our values and our relationship with the land and the earth and the plants and trees we use to create the art and so it’s a way of maintaining the strength of the culture and passing it on to the next generation.”
The Abbe Museum, Maine Indian Basket Maker’s Alliance and College of the Atlantic put this festival on each year. It’s the state’s largest Native American gathering. Artists say it’s not only a prime time for sales, but also a highly anticipated reunion with the Native American community.