Tradition

Donald Sanipass working with crooked knife
Donald Sanipass, Micmac, Master Basketmaker using a crooked knife to make a handle for a potato basket. The knife was made by Donald’s brother Wolf Sanipass.
Image from the Hudson Museum archive.

The crooked knives in this exhibit reflect the lavish workmanship bestowed on a “simple” tool. Crafted with care and decorated with motifs that had significance to their makers, these knives reflect the distinctive woodcarving traditions of Maine and Atlantic Canada. Dated examples in this exhibit range from 1871 to 1914, a period in which the Maine woods were extensively harvested. Until the Depression, crooked knives were commonly made and used tools. After the Depression their use declined significantly as modern manufactured goods replaced the objects made with crooked knives. Today, Maine Indian basketmakers and birch bark canoe builders continue to use crooked knives, celebrating the unique qualities that these knives possess and encouraging their perpetuation for future generations.