Alberta House Fiber Arts Show

Alberta House Fiber Art Show

We do not normally, come north to the cabin this early in the summer season. While the days this week have been quite pleasant and unusually warm for this time of year, the nights still get cold. We have had freezing temperature for the last two nights. Our cabin is a summer cabin and is only heated by fire, which is a lot of work and does not always work all that well. The main reason that we did come north was to see a Fiber Arts show that is ongoing this month at the Alberta House. Neighbors Paulette and Dashie spearheaded this show. Anne was asked by them to lend to this show two hooked rugs from the cabin. Paulette has done a lot of research on these rugs and found the following newspaper article, “Sugar Island Indians Lead the Way in Reviving Ancient Arts of the Upper Peninsula Red Men,” Sault Evening News, 1939:

The Great Depression spanned the years 1929 to about 1939, a period of economic crisis in the United States and around the world. Franklin D. Roosevelt elected in 1933 acted quickly to create jobs and stimulate the economy through the creation of what he called “a New Deal for the forgotten man”, a program for people without resources to support themselves or their families. The New Deal was formalized as the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA), an umbrella agency for the many programs created to help Americans during the Depression, including infrastructure projects, jobs programs, and social services. In 1935, Roosevelt created the Federal Art Project (FAP) as the agency that would administer artist employment projects. Roosevelt saw the arts and access to them as fundamental to American life and democracy. He believed the arts fostered resilience and pride in American culture and history. In 1938, Native Americans on Sugar Island were employed in a WPA project designed to make them self-supporting through the manufacture of native crafts handed down through the generations. Hooked rugs, snowshoes, black ash baskets, and rustic cedar furniture were but a few of the native crafts made on Sugar Island under the WPA program.

Pictured on the right are the two hooked rugs that were made on Sugar Island as part of the WPA Indian Handicrafts project. (A native woman from Cross Village, through the WPA program, was paid to go to Sugar Island to teach rug hooking to the natives there.) They were purchased by Anne’s great aunt Elizabeth and were then passed down as part of the family’s cabin decor. The materials used in these rugs were likely recycled clothing on a burlap backing. The themes reflect native life on the island.

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