2013-14 Folklife Apprenticeship Award recipient
Rico Newman of the Choptico Band of the Piscataway is a master in finger weaving, also known as Indian braiding. Finger weaving is an ancient art of flat braiding that predates the loom. While cultures around the world developed their own variations of finger weaving, Native American peoples in the present-day eastern United States cultivated finger weaving into a fine art.
While a range of materials can be used in finger weaving, from the inner bark of a tree to wool and animal hide, the basic concept for weaving remains the same: several lengths of material are tied to a secure post or tree, and the dangling materials are tightly woven in an under-over pattern, moving away from the fastened end.
For centuries, these intricate braids have been used to make sashes, belts, and garters, fulfilling a range of ceremonial and practical functions. Rico’s mother was skilled at many forms of weaving, but upon her passing, no one picked up the tradition. He had to search out Pueblo and Shawnee artists who taught him the basic techniques. With the recent recognition (2012) of the Piscataway people by the State of Maryland, there is a resurgence of pride and interest in their tribal traditions, and Rico has created many sashes and garters worn as part of traditional Piscataway regalia.
Rico sits on the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs and is the Chairman of Maryland Indian Tourism Association., Inc.