I am an Abenaki basketmaker. It is important to me that the basketry skills and culture of my ancestors live on. It is a part of our culture, heritage and life to make baskets. For this reason I see myself as a basketmaker and not an artist. I do not make only traditional ash and sweet grass baskets, because this is only one small part of the history of Northeastern basketry. Going back in time Northeastern baskets included one-piece containers of birch, pine, tulip poplar and elm, as well as twined, coiled and plated baskets of cedar, ash, willow, red osier, basswood and various grasses. I want to keep alive the techniques and materials that were used in the past. I want to keep alive the gifts of technology we received from our ancestors.
My work is a blend of traditional materials and techniques with modern adaptations. For instance I frequently make baskets woven from ash and cedar in a traditional way but on occasion I may make the same basket out of used pizza boxes or other recyclable material. Not only do I change the materials I use, often I substitute the old tools with modern adaptations. After I broke my only wooden gage I was forced to find a way to cut my materials into strips. After trying several things I decided the best alternative was to use a pasta cutter. By adapting tools and materials the basketry techniques will live on and then so will our heritage."
Statement from Judy Dow about Vermont Eugenics Survey:
The Vermont Eugenics Survey usually started with the children. Lists were created, that showed those children who were delinquent from school, those who received aid from the Vermont Children's Aid Society, those that missed Burlington's 8:50 PM curfew, and so on. Elin Anderson, the assistant director of the Eugenics Survey, went about collecting data for a book called We Americans: A Study of Cleavage in an American City. This city was Burlington, Vermont. "Break up the families and you will be able to stop these unwanted behaviors," eugenicists explained to the public. Ms. Anderson describes the differences in her book as follows:
All of Burlington, however, is not as lovely as this central area [205 South Prospect St., Henry Perkins home.] There is the north end, [40 Convent Square, my father's home] thickly settled, where there are few elm-arch avenues: where many houses are close together and some are dark, unpainted boxes; where lawns are narrow strips of grass and the children play in the streets for lack of any more suitable playground.
These two backyards show the obvious differences, and they also show the difference in work ethics. But they do not show the loving families that cared for their children to the best of their ability.
This road backs up to the Intervale in Burlington, a huge, open natural area, a place where the people on the Square hunted and fished, burned the land each year and harvested various nuts and berries. The backyards of these people became places to tan hides, do the laundry, split and stack firewood. The street provided a place to play, because nobody here owned a car. Life was good for the people here. They worked hard to survive. Little did they know that the land they lived on blocked the scenic view for the people on the hill; thus, they became a target of the Vermont Eugenics Survey. Most of the people recorded in the survey lived along the Intervale and Lake Champlain in Burlington. Burlington's wealthy wanted more from this beautiful location than a home for the city's poor; they wanted their scenic view. Time and time again, they went back to the same addresses, institutionalizing families and breaking them up.