The Ancestors of St. George’s Indian Band
As a First Nation’s Band Council, the St. George’s Indian Band strives to promote cultural awareness and a sense of pride in our Mi’kmaq heritage.
Anthony White was born: Sept. 28, 1915, @ St. George’s, NL. He is the son of Kenneth White and Adelaide Benoit. Anthony married Georgina Tobin on August 20, 1935. Anthony White is the most renowned of the Spruce Root Basket Makers of K’Taqmkuk (Newfoundland). He is credited with reviving the craft of Spruce Root Basket Making in the late 1970’s.
In 1982, Anthony White and his son Daniel, were audiotaped and photographed as part of the Provincial Museum of Newfoundland’s “Traces Project”. Root Basket Making was included in this study because Anthony’s mother, Adelaide Benoit White, made baskets with her father. The museum has a large beautifully crafted root basket made by Anthony White, which has been displayed in their Mi’kmaq exhibit, “Elitagatick” in St. John’s, NL.
The following is taken from the book “Acadian Root Baskets of Atlantic Canada by Joleen Gordon.
Photo of Anthony White donated by St. George’s Indian Band Members , Faron and Louise Critchley. Faron is a descendant of Anthony White, Basket Maker. Thank you guys!
Two distinctive styles of root woven ribbed baskets have been made in two areas of Newfoundland for at least three, and perhaps four, generations: in the Acadian communities of Shallop Cove and St. George’s near the Port au Port peninsula on the west coast, and in the British communities of Cobb’s Arm, Virgin Arm, and Lewisporte on the Notre Dame coast.
Acadians from Cape Breton first settled in western Newfoundland at the end of the eighteenth century. By 1850, eighty percent of the people in the Port au Port peninsula and St. George’s Bay area were French-speaking. During the 1900’s, these people went through a drastic cultural and linguistic assimilation into the larger English-speaking community. Through intermarriage, the skill of making root-woven ribbed baskets was shared by the Acadians and the Mi’kmaq. Anthony White (1915-1990) is credited with reviving the craft in the late 1970’s. When he retired and needed a basket to collect his potatoes, he remembered the potato baskets made by his father and perhaps others in the community.
The first people to come to Shallop Cove were the Aucoins from Margaree in Cape Breton. In 1849, Mr. Antoine LeBlanc arrived from Margaree. His brothers and sisters arrived in 1850, but they established in St. George’s. His descendants still live on what was once his property. The early settlers were practically self-sufficient. They farmed all the vegetables that they needed. There was plenty of wild game to catch in the area: caribou, and rabbit. Also there was plenty of fish. Herring was fished in the spring and cod in the summer. The herring fishery was important because this was how people purchased the supplies that they would not produce themselves: tea, molasses, beans, pork, salt beef and flour.
Antoine LeBlanc’s son Kenneth, also known as Canut LeBlanc, married Adelaide Benoit. Adelaide was a Mi’kmaq woman from Newfoundland who became well known for her basketmaking skills. Their son Antoine, known in later life as Anthony White, took up the skill, teaching his son Daniel. In 1996, it was with great pride that Daniel took his grandmother’s skills to Conne River on the south coast to revive the craft in this Mi’kmaq community. Daniel continues his interest in his father’s basketry.
LeBlanc family records show that during the Expulsion of 1755, the family fled to the Margaree area from Port Royal, where the original LeBlanc settler, Daniel, had landed in 1645. It is interesting that the records of two basketmaking families, the Newfoundland LeBlancs and the Nova Scotia Saulniers, share ancestral heritage in Brittany, France. Perhaps this explains why the baskets look similar.
Linguistic evidence shows that although he did not use the French basket terms used by Mr. Saulnier and Mr. Dunguay, Mr. White referred to the 4-point diamond wraps by their English translation “the ears”. Perhaps earlier LeBlanc generations used the French terms of les Oreilles and la bouche, which they anglicized, as they did their surnames during the time of assimilation.
Anthony White enjoyed making baskets for his family, typically the round gathering basket with overhand handle. The basket framework, handle, rim, and ribs are all made of whole sticks of peeled witherod or cherry. The two circular rim and handle hoops, made on a mould, are held together with a 4-point diamond wrap. There is only one set of ribs, with no turnbacks in the weaving.
Anthony shared his skills with others, teaching Edward Young and an evening class of young adults at Bay St. George Community College in Stephenville, NL, from October to November, 1980. One of these students was Eileen Murphy of Corner Brook, who has been a valuable informant for this study, and who continues to demonstrate the craft in Newfoundland.
Mr. White loved to travel with his basketmaking. He demonstrated at the summer fairs in Piccadilly on the Port au Port peninsula, and at a national craft exhibition in Toronto. In 1986, he was selected to demonstrate his craft as part of the traditional crafts of Newfoundland display at Expo ’86 in Vancouver. Mr. White sold his baskets directly to customers and through the Beavercraft store in Stephenville. Colleen Lynch, who worked as a design specialist with the Newfoundland Department of Rural Development in the late 1970 to 1980’s, wrote of Mr. White and Mr. Young in the Stephenville area making spruce root baskets in a style “which they relate was brought to the area by the early French settlers”.