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Akwesasne basket maker earns National Heritage Fellowship

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CANTON - Last week the National Endowment for the Arts announced the latest recipients of the NEA National Heritage Fellowships, the nation’s highest honors in the folk and traditional arts.

For the first time ever, a north country artist is being honored.

Henry Jake Arquette, a Mohawk basketmaker from Hogansburg and recipient of TAUNY’s North Country Heritage Award, is among the recipients.

“The 2014 NEA National Heritage Fellows are recognized for their artistic excellence and efforts to conserve America’s culture for future generations….These artists, musicians, culture bearers, and advocates have dedicated their lives to their art—mastering the artistic skills needed and preserving the cultural traditions while also using their own creativity to push the boundaries of their respective art forms,” according to the NEA press release.

Arquette’s North Country Heritage Award describes him as “one of a very few Mohawks who continue to make utilitarian baskets of hand-pounded black ash splints and is considered by many at Akwesasne to be the best.

An ironworker who spent much of his adult life working in construction of bridges and skyscrapers in eastern cities, Henry learned to make baskets from his father, who encouraged him to keep the tradition alive.

Once he retired, he took up making baskets as a hobby and soon was in demand as a teacher of others at the reservation. Dozens have taken his classes over the years. His baskets are known for their strength and durability.”

The 2014 NEA National Heritage Fellows will be honored at an awards ceremony on and concert in Washington, D.C., in September. Both events will be open to the public and the concert will be streamed live at arts.gov. To learn more about the National Heritage Fellowships and Arquette’s nomination, visit http://arts.gov/news/2014/nea-announces-lifetime-honors-recipients.

In recognition of this great honor, TAUNY will put together a display of baskets made by Mr. Arquett later in July. Check the TAUNY website—www.TAUNY.org—for details.

TAUNY is dedicated to showcasing the folk culture and living traditions of the north country.

To learn more about TAUNY’s North Country Heritage awards, visit http://tauny.org/sections/19/legends-of-our-time.

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