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ADAMS, Mary Kawennatakie

Akwesasne Indian Reserve, Ontario, 1917
Fort Covington, New York, 1999
Biography synopsis
Mary Adams (also known as Mary Kawennatakie) was a First Nations textile artist born on the Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve in Ontario. Some sources state Cornwall Island, Ontario, as well as St. Regis Reservation, Quebec. Adam's Mohawk name, "Kawennatakie", stands for 'approaching voice'. As a member of the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation, Adams learned how to weave traditional baskets from her mother, who passed away when she was only ten years old. In the 1920's, Adams began to weave ornate splint ash and sweet grass baskets, which she sold as a means to support herself and her brother. In 1934, Adams married and had twelve children. In 1980, the artist presented Pope John Paul II with a basket specially created to honor the beatification of the first Native American woman, Kateri Tekakwitha. In her work, Adams produced increasingly imaginative basket designs and patterns, including herwork "Wedding Cake Basket" Adams also taught basket weaving at the Museum on the Mohawk Reservation in St. Regis, Quebec. In 1997, she received an "Excellence in Iroquois Art" award. Adams also participated in a major traveling group exhibition titled "Crossing the Threshold" in 1998, which featured dozens of women artists, including Helen Frankenthaler and Miriam Schapiro.
Media used
Basket making
File & Archive locations
Canadian Museum of Civilization Archives, QC
Thunder Bay Art Gallery, ON - Resource Centre
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC

Writings about
"Mary Adams, Wedding Cake Basket." Crossing the Threshold 2010
"Mary Adams." Smithsonian American Art Museum 2010
"Mary Adams." Women's Studies Newsletter 15 (1987).
"Meet the Masters: Akwesasne Basketmakers." North Country Public Radio Online 2008
"Mohawk Basketmaking: A Cultural Profile (Review)." American Anthropologist 90.1/2 (1988): 234-235.
Abbott, Sidney. "Women of the Fourth World: The Women of Sweetgrass, Cedar and Sage Exhibit." Artspace 11.1 (Winter 1986-1987): 22-23.
Barreiro, Jose. Native American Expressive Culture. Ithaca, N.Y.: Akwe:kon Press, American Indian Program, 1994.
Blue Spruce, Duane & Thrasher, Tanya. The Land Has Memory: Indigenous Knowledge, Native Landscapes, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Washington, District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution, 2008.
Cook, Katsi. "A Voice Coming Towards Us: A Tribute to Mohawk Basketmaker Mary Adams." Akwekon Journal 11.1 (1994): 28-29.
Cook, Katzi. "An Interview With Mohawk Basketmaker Mary Adams." Unbroken Circles: Traditional Arts of Contemporary Woodland Peoples. Edited by S. Dixon. Ithaca, NY: American Indian Program, 1990.
Folwell, Jody. Hold Everything! Masterworks of Basketry and Pottery From the Heard Museum. Phoenix, Arizona: Heard Museum, 2001.
Green, Rayna & Fernandez, Melanie. The British Museum Encyclopedia of Native North America. London, England: British Museum Press, 1999.
Hartigan, Lyndan Roscoe. Made with Passion; The Hemphill Folk Art Collection Washington: Smithsonian Institution & National Museum of American Art, 1990.
Keating, Neal. Mary Adams: An Exhibition of Her Work, October 5 Through December 14, 1997. Howes Cave, New York: Iroquois Indian Museum, 1997.
LaPlantz, Shereen. Plaited Basketry: The Woven Form. Bayside, Cal.: Press de LaPlantz, 1982.
Lincoln, Kenneth. Indi'n Humor: Bicultural Play in Native America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Mowat, Linda et al. Basketmakers: Meaning and Form in Native American Baskets. Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, 1992.
Phillips, Ruth B. Trading Identities: The Souvenir in Native North American Art from the Northeast, 1700-1900. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998.
Porter, Frank W. ed. The Art of Native American Basketry: A Living Legacy. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.
Pulleyn, Rob. The Basketmaker's Art: Contemporary Baskets and Their Makers. Asheville, N.C.: Lark Books, 1992.
Racette, Sherry Farrell. Looking for Stories and Unbroken Threads: Museum Artifacts as Women's History and Cultural Legacy. Restoring the Balance: First Nations Women, Community, and Culture Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2009.
Reno, Dawn E. Contemporary Native American Artists. Brooklyn, New York: Alliance Publishing, 1995.
Richter, Paula Bradstreet. Wedded Bliss: The Marriage of Art and Ceremony. Salem, Massachussetts: Peabody Essex Museum, 2008.
Semmens, Frank. Mohawk Basketmaking: A Cultural Profile. University Park, Pennsylvania: Psychological Cinema Register, 1980.
Steinbaum, Bernice. Crossing the Threshold: Invitational Group Exhibition: Mary Adams Mary ... [et al.] New York: Steinbaum Krauss Gallery, 1997.
Stock, Michele. Iroquois Basketry Thrives: Reports on a NYFS Mentoring Project New York Folklore Society Newsletter 20.1/2 (1999): 15
Teleki, Gloria Roth. Collecting Traditional American Basketry. New York: Dutton, 1979.
Thornburn, Olivia. Pope Basket, Narrative of Subsistence to Acclamation: Mary Adams: Mohawk Basket-Maker Artist. Ottawa: Carleton University, 1999.
Thornburn, Olivia. "Mary Kawennatakie Adams: Mohawk Basket Maker and Artist." American Art 15.2 (Summer 2001): 90-95.
Turnbaugh, William A. & Sarah Peabody. "Film Reviews." American Anthropologist 90.1 (Mar. 1988): 234-235.
Venbrux, Eric; Rosi, Pamela Sheffield; Welsch, Robert L. Exploring World Art. Waveland Press, 2006.
Weatherford, Elizabeth et al. Native Americans on Film and Video, Volume 1. New York: Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation, 1981.
Young, Jane M. "Film Reviews." Journal of American Folklore 97.385 (Jul.-Sept, 1984): 382-383.

Writings by
Adams, Mary & Smith, Jaune Quick-to-See et al. "Women of Sweetgrass, Cedar, and Sage." Women's Studies Quarterly 15.1/2 (Spring/Summer 1987): 35-41.
Adams, Mary & Snipe, Henrietta. Folk Art: Mary Adams & Henrietta Snipe (video). 1980.

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