The Abenaki basketry collection donated by Rodney Johnson of Rochester, NY, is a unique collection of 20th century Native American material culture handed down through four generations of his family. The collection, which includes baskets, basket-making tools, birch bark and wooden items, represents the types of things once made by Mr. Johnson’s great-grandparents, Norman and Angeline Sarah (Totoson) Johnson and his great-uncle George Johnson in Lake George, NY, during the early to mid-1900s.
As early as the mid-19th century, Native American families would sell beadwork, baskets, and other hand-made items as souvenirs to tourists at well-known vacation destinations such as Niagara Falls, Saratoga Springs, and Lake George. The Johnson family was among a group of Native American artisans who settled in Lake George where they ran a small store selling baskets, canoes, and other items. Their family’s collection, which also includes a cradleboard donated by his great-grandmother in 1909, is the largest and best documented collection of Abenaki material culture ever acquired by the NYSM.