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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


November 1, 2003 - Issue 99


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Carrying on Cherokee Tradition


Split Oak BasketQualla Arts & Crafts is taking advantage of a recent grant to teach traditional crafts to a new generation of Cherokee.

Since 1946, the non-profit Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual has provided a place for Cherokee artists and craftspeople to market their creations. It was the first co-op ever managed on a Native American reservation.

Located today in a gallery in the heart of Cherokee, Qualla Arts & Crafts features beadwork, basketry, woodcarving, finger weaving, pottery, jewelry, masks, dolls and other works created by the co-op's 300 members.

In 2002 the co-op's board and staff determined that a series of workshops taught by members would be a worthwhile endeavor. As part of the co-ops's efforts to keep its standards at the highest levels, they wanted the workshops to serve as an opportunity to help members share their knowledge and their pride in their workmanship with each other. In addition, they wanted the sessions to help members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) who were interested in learning the traditions of their tribe to master new skills.

Qualla Arts & Crafts applied for and received a $20,000 grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation in fall 2002 to cover instructors' stipends and expenses to document the workshops. As a result, more than 200 members of the EBCI participated in workshops about weaving and rimming baskets, woodcarving (which included making masks and basket handles), and Lifeways, a class in which several enrolled members of the EBCI spoke about the past and how things relate to the past. Other funding was provided by in-kind assistance from staff and volunteers, the co-op's operating budget and a fundraising event.

"Community involvement was the most important result of the workshops," said Vicki Ledford, the general manager of Qualla Arts & Crafts. "People loved the opportunity to spend time with each other and to better understand what their parents went through at an earlier time. For instance, people shared stories about what their mothers used to do when they wove baskets, and even seasoned artists learned some new things by sharing.

"We learned that freezing bloodroot in freezer containers is a good way to preserve bloodroot for later use," Ledford said. "Before, basket weavers dug bloodroot as they needed it or dug extra and dried it for use in the winter. But at the workshop, we learned how freezing bloodroot keeps it fresh and more colorful."

Betty Maney, who taught several of the basket workshops, loved seeing teenagers at the evening sessions.

"It did my heart good to see young people and adults coming together and laughing like family," Maney said. "The youngsters turned out some nice pieces, too."

Mario Esquivel, Betty's son, made a basket for the first time at one of the workshops. He has always admired her work, but when he split white oak for his mother's classes, he was inspired to try his hand at basket weaving himself.

"Now that I know how to find white oak, work it up into splits and gather dyes, I decided I was ready to learn how to make a basket," he said.

Other instructors were Davy Arch (woodcarving, basket handles, mask making and Lifeways) and Ramona Lossie and her sister Lucille Lossie (single and double weave baskets).

Ledford said the workshops strengthened Qualla Arts & Crafts as an organization.

"Our members got to spend time with members of the community and served as mentors," she said, "And our staff got to learn more about the craft workers and what their work involves — that helps us sell their work more effectively."

Qualla Arts & Crafts has applied for a new grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation to offer additional workshops to enrolled members in late 2003 or early 2004.

The Qualla Arts & Crafts Mutual is located on U.S. 441 at the intersection with Drama Road, where the entrance of the drama, "Unto These Hills," is located. The co-op's telephone number is 828.497.3103.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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