Theresa Secord (Penobscot), Master Basket Maker
Theresa Secord (b. 1958) is a traditional Penobscot basketmaker and the founding executive director of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance. After earning a Master’s degree in geology and working for Mobil Oil in the early 1980’s, she returned to Maine to work for her Tribe, heading up a mineral assessment program on the newly re-acquired 300,000 acres of Penobscot and Passamaquoddy lands.
On Indian Island, Maine, the village where her mother was born, Secord began an apprenticeship and friendship with Penobscot basketmaker, Madeline Tomer Shay that lasted 5 years, until Shay’s passing in 1993; sadly, Shay would become known as the last fluent speaker of the Penobscot language. Determined to help save the weaving traditions, Theresa led the founding of the Maine Indian
Basketmakers Alliance that same year to address some of the barriers associated with sustaining the art in all four tribal communities (Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Maliseet and Micmac).
For this work, Theresa has been recognized a number of times; in 2003, she became the first U.S. citizen to receive the Prize for Creativity in Rural Life, by the Women’s World Summit Foundation at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The following year, she received the Governor’s Award for Arts and Heritage Tourism, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Tourism and the Small Business Minority Advocate of the Year Award from the SBA.
Over the past 10 years, Theresa has won many awards for her own basketry, including at Santa Fe Indian Market, the Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair and Market and the Eiteljorg Indian Market. She has published articles on Maine Indian basketry in Indian Artist and Native Peoples magazine and has been a featured artist in the latter and in National Museum of American Indian Magazine.
Secord’s baskets have been purchased by collectors throughout the US and have appeared in several major national exhibitions and permanent collections. In 2009, Theresa was named a Community Spirit Award recipient by the First Peoples Fund. In 2010, she gave a keynote address at the Indigenous International Weavers Symposium in Rotorua, New Zealand. She was named the 2011 Traditional Arts Fellow for Maine, by the Maine Arts Commission and the 2013 Master Craft Artist of the Year by the Maine Crafts Association.
Theresa is most proud of her work advocating for the ash and sweetgrass basketry tradition in Maine and coaching other Native American artists to meet their own goals through professional artist development training.