Arts and Artisans


In Akwesasne art is an expression of our culture. It represents who we are as a Mohawk people, where we have come, and how we will evolve. The traditions of basketmaking, beadwork and textiles have been passed down through the generations of Mohawk and the Haudenosaunee, the “people of the longhouse” or “people who build a house.” Named by the French as the Iroquois Confederacy, Haudenosaunee is a union of six nations dating back nearly 1,000 years, including the Mohawk.

This artistry can be seen throughout Akwesasne and each work of art has a story to tell. The decoration on these crafts can be anything from symbols of the Mohawk creation story to the artist’s personal expression. “It’s our love language, making things for each other,” says local artist Sydney Jacobs. Today we continue our rich artistic traditions with a new generation of artists, blending the craftsmanship and history from their ancestors with a modern sensibility.


In Akwesasne art is an expression of our culture. It represents who we are as a Mohawk people, where we have come, and how we will evolve. The traditions of basketmaking, beadwork and textiles have been passed down through the generations of Mohawk and the Haudenosaunee, the “people of the longhouse” or “people who build a house.”  Named by the French as the Iroquois Confederacy, Haudenosaunee is a union of six nations dating back nearly 1,000 years, including the Mohawk.

This artistry can be seen throughout Akwesasne and each work of art has a story to tell. The decoration on these crafts can be anything from symbols of the Mohawk creation story to the artist’s personal expression. “It’s our love language, making things for each other,” says local artist Sydney Jacobs. Today we continue our rich artistic traditions with a new generation of artists, blending the craftsmanship and history from their ancestors with a modern sensibility.

Intricate baskets made of Black Ash and sweetgrass have been a Mohawk tradition for generations. Black Ash is a preferred material because of its strong wood that can be broken into splints, but it is becoming harder and harder to find due to environmental issues. You will find colorful and detailed baskets throughout the Akwesasne Mohawk Territory adorning tables and mantles, each with their own story behind it.

Part of a new generation of basket makers, Carrie Hill has dedicated herself to the ancient art. Carrie learned to make baskets from her aunt and excelled early on. “The tradition of weaving Black Ash Splints and Sweetgrass goes back generations in my family,” she says. “Weaving felt natural, right; I fell in love with the entire process and was soon creating my own unique pieces.” She has since created her own basket-making company, Chill Baskets, through which she creates her own pieces and works on commission. She innovates the ancient technique and creates baskets of new shapes, sizes, colors and uses, as well as wearable woven works of art like earrings and cuffs. She is not only a basket maker but a teacher hoping to share this tradition with future generations.

Reach out to Carrie Hill to set up an appointment or follow her work on Facebook and Instagram @chillbaskets.

Iroquois beadwork has been practiced for centuries, with the original beads made out of materials like bone or shell. This art speaks a language of its own, expressing beliefs, symbols and traditional motifs with meaning. Today much of the beadwork is done in different size glass beads, but still carries on the traditional embellishments and bold, vibrant patterns.

At Bee Creative Art Studio in Hogansburg, Tammy King sells wearable works of art.  The beadwork jewelry Tammy creates is not just reserved for special occasions, you will see women throughout the community wear traditional and contemporary beadwork on any given day.  In addition to Bee Creative Art Studio, don’t miss the impressive beadwork on display at The Bear’s Den Gift Shop.

Creativity runs through our veins and design is no exception. Sydney Jacobs is part of this new generation of young artists drawing inspiration from tribal customs and intertwining them into her various works of art.  As a designer, illustrator, and maker of things, Sydney takes a historical approach to her work conducting extensive research on the history, language, nature, and traditions of her people. “We are a nation of artists. We lost aspects of our culture when we were colonized and we want to bring back that culture.” The people of Akwesasne were couture makers, creating very elaborate and time-consuming textiles, which was how you showed the love and respect for your family. 

While she employs modern esthetics and digital design, Sydney draws from traditional motifs like nature, which has long inspired her ancestors, and researches natives flowers and plants from different time periods and weaves them into her work. She also works in symbols from the Mohawk creation story. She also leverages her graphic design skills to digitally bead designs on fabrics based on centuries-old beadwork, like this quilt inspired by a 1760s design.

Her traditional beliefs also span to the operation of her business. “I have a traditional perspective to my artwork right down to the materials I use,” Sydney says. She calls upon a Mohawk mindfulness practice which reflects on how your actions will affect everything around you (from the water and land to the animals and children) seven generations from now. This awareness of the impact of her actions leads her to use materials that are fair trade or sustainably sourced, reduce her plastic consumption and buy organic cotton.  

You can learn more about Sydney and her work on her Facebook page.  Also, be sure to check out the Native North American Travelling College for visitor experiences around Mohawk arts and design.