April 24, 2012

The family (Ash) tree.....

 Our son , Zach and his fiancee, Mia,  will be married May 19th.  This past Saturday, my sisters and sister-in-laws hosted a bridal shower for her at our home. It was so much fun!

She received so many wonderful gifts, but one of them really touched her. Mia's Great-Grandmother, Frances Keahna,  is a well known basket weaver, using wood from the ash tree; (many of her baskets, pictured below, are in the Smithsonian Institute.)

  Mia was so surprised and overwhelmed when she received one as a gift from her family, as you can see from this photo!

This is such a precious photo of Mia when she was a little girl, with her Great-Grandma, Frances!!

Here is part of her obituary:
Acclaimed basket maker Frances Keahna dies at age 92.
Frances Keahna, whose hand-woven Indian baskets drew international acclaim and are on display at the Smithsonian Institution, died Sunday at a nursing home in Naytahwaush, Minn. She was 92.
Keahna learned basket weaving from her mother on the White Earth Reservation in northwest Minnesota during the 1920s, but she didn't take up her art professionally until she was widowed in 1965.
Since then, her baskets have earned an international reputation for their delicate and graceful artistry, and they are featured in museums in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Ireland. She also had given them to such figures as Nikita Khrushchev, former premier of the Soviet Union. ~ Associated Press, February, 1998
I found the above photo of her with some friends - she is pictured on the far right.
This is an interesting excerpt from a story about Macy Fordell, a basket weaver from Alaska, who was taught by Frances:
When Fordell and her family lived in northern Minnesota in the 1980s, she was introduced to many Native American crafts.
Fordell was introduced to one of the oldest people then alive who knew the art, Frances Keahna, who was then 83 years old and whose baskets are on display in the Smithsonian Institution.
Keahna, a member of the White Earth band, said she would only teach Fordell if she would learn all the steps, because many people, including her own people, found it too hard and would quit.
From June to September 1988, Fordell worked with Keahna, even going out to the swamp to learn how to pick trees to use. Keahna took her time teaching Fordell the weaving part. Fordell was first immersed in the art of reading the trees for the size of growth rings, hauling the logs out of the swamp, and pounding on the wood to separate the strips.
  (~Note to self -never again complain about driving to Hobby Lobby for supplies!!)
Finally, after Fordell had gone through the pounding process through the third tree, she learned how to separate the strips to get to the satiny wood and Keahna started teaching her the basket weaving part. “It’s the ultimate material,” Fordell said of the ash. ~Onalaka-Holmen Courier Life newspaper

And, this excerpt from a blog post about George Ross, nephew of Frances by Steve Chicoine:
At the time of his mother’s passing, George’s mother’s sister Frances had  just lost a boy George’s age. She nursed George to sustain him. Auntie Frances was the noted Ojibwe basket weaver Frances Keahna, whose work is much valued by collectors. Some of her finest work resides in the Smithsonian collection. She learned to weave her black ash baskets from George’s grandmother.
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev made a famous two-week tour of the United States in 1959. George’s Auntie Frances was sufficiently well known for her baskets that Khrushchev sent someone to White Earth to ask for one. Khrushchev was in Iowa at the time. Frances said sure. But when a man appeared at her doorstep for the basket, she was dismayed to not see Khrushchev. She refused to hand over the basket since he did not have the decency to come thank her himself for the gift. “She was a stubborn Ojibwe woman,” George recalls with a chuckle.
But, my favorite is this video of Frances talking about her basketweaving: 

I love this photo of Mia listening to her Grandma Mercilyn, talk about her Mother, Frances.

Besides making baskets, Frances also created gorgeous, detailed beaded jewelry.

 I was lucky enough to receive one of her necklaces, (pictured below), as a Mother's Day gift from Mia and Zach a few years ago. What a treasure!
Frances Keahna.....an amazing, talented woman, who I would have loved to meet!!!

1 comment:

Lori from Notforgotten Farm said...

what an amazing tribute to a wonderful folk artist...and how special to have her in your family tree!! the picture of your daughter receiving the basket is priceless...thanks for sharing about this remarkable woman!