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Michigan Heritage Awards

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Photo of John Pigeon talking about basketmaking
Photo by Minnie Wabanimkee

John Pigeon
2010 awardee, Hopkins (Allegan County), black ash basket making

John Pigeon is known in the Native American community throughout Michigan and beyond for his mastery and teaching of black ash basketry and his knowledge about the Anishinaabe culture. Active in his community of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians for over thirty years, he teaches family and extended family, holds community weaving sessions and hosts art markets, providing a way for artists to sell their work. John is a seventh-generation basket maker, having learned from his mother and father, Jennie and Edmund White Pigeon, who learned from their parents and grandparents. He is now teaching his grandchildren in the same way he taught his children. He is acknowledged for his community leadership, generosity and sharing, passing on these skills and knowledge to young basket makers and future generations. Respectful of their relationship with the earth, John says “Season to season, year after year, my family and I gather our seeds and then plant and replant, always acknowledging the gifts we receive.” John has shared his talents in numerous museum educational programs and exhibits such as the basketry show at the Heard Museum (Phoenix, Arizona), the Eiteljorg Museum (Indianapolis, Indiana) educational workshops, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, as well as the MSU Museum’s Great Lakes Folk Festival and Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. He has been a mentor to many and is responsible for the development of other Native American basket weavers in the state. His respectful teaching and sharing are what inspired those whose lives he’s touched to nominate him for this community leadership award.

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