JANUARY 24, 1917


Adams, whose Mohawk name meant “Approaching Voice,” was born at the Akwesasne Reserve on Cornwall Island, Ontario.  Her mother died when Mary was 10 and her father left to do ironwork.  Having learned from her mother how to weave baskets, she wove to support herself and her brother.  She married at 17 and wove baskets every day because she had to–she had twelve children.  Achieving financial freedom, she taught basket weaving on the Reserve and traveled to lecture on basketmaking.  A Catholic, in 1980, she presented Pope John Paul II with a basket made to honor the beatification of now St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk woman known as the “Lily of the Mohawks.”   During her life, she produced more than 25,000 baskets.  Her work is in permanent collections of the Iroquois Indian Museum, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, New York State Governor’s Collection of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian.  Adams died in Snye, Quebec, on May 23, 1999.

Source:  "Mary Kawennatakie Adams," Smithsonian American Art Museum.  Retrieved 6/5/2019, https://americanart.si.edu/artist/mary-adams-26
Photo:  Mary Kawennatakie Adams, Basket, 1985, sweetgrass.  Courtesy, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson, 1986.65.67A-B.  Retrieved 5/21/2020, https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/basket-31571.

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