Robin McBride Scott
At LAW, I demonstrate how pre-contact Southeastern United States native peoples used river cane to make baskets and other items. I have been demonstrating for 21 years, and I have been demonstrating at LAW for 13 years.
The birth of my daughter inspired me to learn more about the traditional weaving of my ancestors. I wanted to be able to pass this knowledge on to her as she got older.
I taught myself how to process and weave river cane. I have spent over 16 years studying pre-contact and historic Southeastern river cane basketry, including actual pre-contact examples of these items. Based on fragments from dry rockshelters and other sites, I piece together what I believe the pre-contact mat or basketry may have looked like originally.
I believe it is important to preserve and pass on the ancient tech- nologies that I have learned. The ancient weavers who developed basketry were incredibly intelligent and creative people who should be celebrated for their ingenuity. I feel it is important to pass on these traditions to younger generations.
A close friend and former LAW demonstrator was my inspiration to demonstrate what I learned. I demonstrate many ancient art forms and technologies besides Southeastern river cane basketry. They include Southeastern coiled paddled pottery, porcupine quillwork, moose hair false embroidery, birch bark containers, beadwork, cattail and bulrush mats, ribbon work, and traditional Southeastern clothing and moccasins.
I have demonstrated native technologies for museums, schools, and festivals in both state and national contexts. These include the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.; Cahokia Mounds State Historic site in Illinois; Russell Cave National Monument in Alabama; and Angel Mounds State Historic site and Indiana State Museum in Indiana. I also have demonstrated as an Artist in Residence during the exhibit “Weave, Wattle & Weir: Fiber Art of the Native Southeast” at the Tennessee Valley Art Association in Alabama and during the Woven Worlds basketry exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indiana. I have demonstrated at the Heard Museum’s Celebration of Basketry and Native Foods Festival in Arizona and at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians Southeastern Basketry Symposium in Mississippi. I also demonstrate at various schools throughout Indiana.
My demonstration at LAW includes river cane raw materials, older tribal baskets, and baskets I have woven, like these baskets.
My river cane mats are based on pre-contact and historic Southeastern mats.
I continue to demonstrate at LAW because I believe the event provides an incredible opportunity to share with visitors the knowledge, skills, and lifeways of the ancient people of Kentucky. I also think it is very important to help visitors understand why archaeological sites need to be preserved. Through the years, I have learned so much from all of the other demonstrators and archaeologists who participate in the event, which is always wonderful.
Demonstrating at LAW is different in many ways from demonstrating at other events. Because of its location, I am able to point out river cane growing right behind my demonstration area. Most LAW visitors are familiar with river cane, so when I talk about the material I use to make my baskets, they understand what I’m saying. And because most visitors know of river cane or have even put it to other uses themselves, they seem to have a greater interest in learning more about how I use it in basketry. The event site is also inviting to visitors. It encourages them to stay and talk with demonstrators for long periods of time. It is very rewarding to me as a demonstrator that visitors want to stay and learn more about river cane and basketry.
I explain how to weave baskets of river cane at Living Archaeology Weekend 2012.
I hope that during their visit to LAW, people will learn about the incredible ingenuity and resourcefulness of the pre-contact native people who lived in Kentucky and the South-eastern U.S. I hope they also gain a greater appreciation for the versatility of river cane and the incredible amount of time and effort that goes into creating river cane basketry. I hope that visitors will take away a sense of pre-contact native peoples’ rich culture, technologies and skills. I also hope they take away a feeling of responsibility to help protect archaeological sites that are en- dangered. These kinds of sites are the reason we have a greater understanding of the lifeways of those ancient peoples.
I weave these dyed river cane splints based on traditional Southeastern basketry designs.