Link to Previous Artist
22 of 35
Link to Next Artist

Henry Arquette

Feb. 12, 1931 - Sept. 18, 2015

State
Tradition
Year
United States Map Highlighting New York
Loading...
Henry Arquette, Washington, D.C., 2014, photograph by Alan Govenar
Henry Arquette at the 2014 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Henry Arquette shaking hands with Nicholas R. Spitzer at the 2014 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Henry Arquette at the 2014 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Henry Arquette showing a basket at the 2014 National Heritage Fellowship Concert, Washington, D.C., photograph by Michael G. Stewart
Alan and Henry Arquette, Rosslyn, Virginia, 2014, photograph by Alan Govenar
Francine Cook, Henry Arquette and Vaughn Arquette, Washington, D.C., 2014, photograph by Alan Govenar
Henry Arquette, Washington, D.C., 2014, photograph by Alan Govenar

Henry Arquette was born on the Canadian side of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation and grew up on the American side, in northern New York State. As a child, he could hear for miles the sound of men pounding black ash logs to make splints for baskets. He learned the craft from his father and grandfather. For forty-three years he labored as an ironworker, building bridges, skyscrapers and other projects, such as the Unisphere at the 1964 World’s Fair. The work involved travel to sites as distant as Houston, leaving little time for basketry. After retiring in 1993, he devoted himself to making baskets and teaching others to do so at the Akwesasne Cultural Center in Hogansburg, New York.

Arquette’s students wove the baskets after others had done the hard work of using an ax to extract splints from black ash logs. “You got to pound it real good to get good splints,” he told an NEA interviewer. “Then whatever kind of baskets you're making, you cut them to that width, length and everything. Then when you've got enough, you put it in the water overnight. The next day you start from the thin end. Bend it, split it. That's when you weave it, when it's still wet.” Rims and handles are made of white ash, which is stronger. Arquette created functional packing, laundry, picnic, wedding and corn-washing baskets. In a wedding ceremony, the groom traditionally received a basket of food, the bride one bearing material for clothing, to reflect their roles.

Black ash has become scarce on the reservation because of overuse, pollution, insect infestation and plant disease. Arquette’s efforts in protecting the resource were rewarded with the National Aboriginal Forestry Association’s Ross Silversides Forestry Award in 2001. The trees are making a comeback, he said, but for the present, getting good wood involves a three-hour drive into Canada to purchase logs.

In 2004, Arquette received the Traditional Arts of Upstate New York’s North Country Heritage Award. He was also a member of a group of Mohawk basketmakers that received the same award in 1994. His baskets are in the National Museum of the American Indian and other collections around the world.

Bibliography
“NEA National Heritage Fellowships: Henry Arquette.”http://arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/henry-arquette
“Interview with Henry Arquette by Josephine Reed for the NEA,” September 17, 2014. http://arts.gov/honors/heritage/fellows/henry-arquette

Listen

Henry Arquette answers the question 'How did you become a basketmaker?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette answers the question 'What was it like growing up in a reservation in upstate New York?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette answers the question 'What kind of baskets do you make?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette answers the question 'What kind of wood do you use to make baskets?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Alan Arquette answers the question 'In what ways have you been involved in this basketmaking tradition?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette answers the question 'When you get this big piece of wood home, what do you do with that?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette answers the question 'After the wood is prepared, what is the process of making a basket?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette talks about forms and shaping by hand, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette answers the question 'What is a wedding basket?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette talks about the state of basketmaking, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Alan Arquette talks about how basketmaking is disappearing, interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014

Henry Arquette answers the question 'Have you been able to pass this tradition on?' Interview by Alan Govenar, Washington, D.C., 2014