Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Euchee (Yuchi)’ Category

Two Euchee (Yuchi) Baskets in the Collections of the Philbrook Museum of Art

The basketry traditions of the Native South have experienced divergent histories from a common regional tradition of work basketry. Among the North Carolina Cherokee, for instance, the indigenous river cane basketry tradition was augmented with the adoption of an old European white oak splint basketry practice and a more modern vine runner basketry practice using Japanese honeysuckle. The two older traditions are focused on workbasket forms, even as these have increasingly become works of art and heritage appreciated as aesthetically compelling collectables rather than tools of labor. The vine runner basketry made in honeysuckle added graceful forms intended by their makers to be visually appreciated more than used for rough labor. The richness of Cherokee basket making, up to the present, has been facilitated through an arts and crafts market fostered by the location of the Eastern Cherokee community in a key tourism destination at the eastern gateway to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. While workbaskets were, for a time during the early 20th century, presented for sale to outsiders among the Florida Seminole, Florida Seminole basketry shifted in that century to decorative craft baskets made from coiled sweet grass. As in Cherokee, North Carolina, these baskets were crafted with non-Seminole tourist-collectors in mind.

Not all Southern Native communities reside in locales where tourism and tourist craft markets could foster (and reshape) local basketry practice. In many native communities, local baskets were used less and less for work—replaced by commercial containers—and thereby they became less and less common, as did knowledge of their construction and use. In some contemporary Native communities, a commitment to revitalize tribal cultures has more recently led to a renewal of basketry practices, not so much for external consumption but as heritage endeavors celebratory of local traditions. This dynamic is found among the Catawba (ex: “Catawba Indian basket maker revives almost-lost ancient tradition”) and among numerous groups—such as the Chickasaw—who have begun regularly organizing basketry classes (ex: “Chickasaw Nation to host basket weaving class”).

While revivals of the sort that numerous communities are pursuing can be initiated in the near or distant future, there are some communities in which basketry has quietly fallen into obsolescence. As with heritage languages, we might describe basketry in such communities as “sleeping”—especially when extant baskets are present in museums and some ethnographic documentation of basket making or use has been made. As with “sleeping languages,” sleeping basketry traditions are capable of being revitalized, especially when knowledge can be gained from basket makers among neighboring peoples sharing similar practices.

While they are an extraordinarily vital community in many other ways, sleeping describes the present state of basketry among the Euchee (Yuchi) people now residing in Tulsa, Creek, and Okmulgee Counties in (present-day) Oklahoma. (For the remainder of this note, I will just use the “Euchee” spelling.) To my knowledge, eight Euchee baskets are curated in museum collections. Then a Ph.D. student in anthropology, Frank G. Speck collected five Euchee baskets in the Sand Creek tribal town near Bristow, Indian Territory in 1904. These were purchased with funds from the American Museum of Natural History and are preserved in its collections. They can be studied in the AMNH’s online database and were discussed in Speck’s Ethnology of the Yuchi Indians, a book-length study that is now freely accessible via the HathiTrust Digital Library and the Internet Archive (see pages 31-34). [If consulting the AMNH database, see numbers 50 / 5368, 50 / 5369, 50 / 5370, 50 / 5371, and 50 / 5372]

One Euchee basket is cared for by the Columbus Museum in Columbus, Georgia. (I hope to report on it later.)

Of interest here are two baskets close to the present-day Euchee community, at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. These two baskets (I believe, the only ones in Oklahoma museum collections) are significant in a number of ways that I will narrate here.

They are, to my knowledge, the most recently collected baskets from among the Euchee. Some Euchee families preserve heirloom objects from the past, but I have not been shown or told about old workbaskets in the possession of the Euchee families that I know. There is a chance that these two were among the last in Euchee hands.

They were collected by famed basketry collector Clark Field. One can learn more about Field and his collection in the volume Woven Worlds: Basketry from the Clark Field Collection edited by Lydia L. Wyckoff and published by the Philbrook Musuem of Art. Field collected these two baskets from Johnson Tiger, then living in Kellyville, Oklahoma. [Kellyville is a municipality in the territory of the Yuchi Tribal Town known as Polecat (after nearby Polecat Creek)].

Tiger indicated for Field that the first of the baskets (catalog number 1963.13.2) was made by his grandfather George Fulsom and dated to 1875. George Fulsom was age 57 at the time of the 1910 census and thus he was born around 1853. If the basket was actually crafted in 1875, this would have been when George Fulsom was about 22 years of age. Field paid Tiger $27.50 for the basket in 1962, which would be about $218 in 2016 dollars. (As noted below, it may be that this amount was the price paid for both baskets.)

IMG_5425

Euchee tray or fanner basket of river cane. Collected from Johnson Tiger in 1962 and attributed to his grandfather George Fulsom. Late 19th century. Polecat Tribal Town. Philbrook Musuem of Art #1963.13.2. Used with permission of the Philbrook Museum of Art.

This plaited basket is made of river cane, the primary material out of which baskets were historically made in the Native South, but a plant that was and is increasingly rare generally and that is particularly rare on the western edge of its range in Oklahoma. Like most of the known Euchee baskets, this example was one of two fundamental tools used in processing corn for food. (It could be used, of course, for other activities, including other food processing ones.) With a solid bottom, this kind of basket was used to both catch grain falling through a sifter (sieve) basket and for fanning grain that has been pounded (or ground) so as to separate the grain from the chaff.

As J. Marshall Gettys has noted, this basket is interesting because it is made of rivercane (the region’s old material) but it has a reinforced rim assembled in a style more common in European American basketry styles. In river cane trays or sifters in the South, a braided rim (as found in the second basket, below) would be more common (Gettys 2001:182).

The second basket was likely long used as a pair with the first one. It (catalog number 1963.13.3) is a sifter basket or sieve. Johnson Tiger told Field that Fannie Fulsom, his grandmother and the wife of George Fulsom, made this basket. As with the first basket, he dated it to 1875. According to the 1910 census, Fannie Fulsom was 45 in 1910, indicating that she was born around 1865. If this is correct and if the basket were made in 1875, then she would have been age ten at the time of its manufacture. While it is possible a ten-year-old made it, my intuition is that it was either made at a later (but still probably nineteenth century) date or by a different maker. Like all of the other Euchee baskets in museum collections, this (and the other Philbrook basket) shows extensive wear from practical use. Especially noteworthy is the way that the basket was patched with cloth strips. Because they are woven with evenly sized openings in their bases (bottoms), sifter baskets are more fragile than fully woven trays, such as the other Philbrook basket.

IMG_5454

Euchee sifter basket or sieve in river cane style but made with hardwood splints, probably hickory. Collected from Johnson Tiger in 1962 and attributed to his grandmother Fannie Fulsom. Late 19th century. Polecat Tribal Town. Philbrook Musuem of Art #1963.13.3. Used with permission of the Philbrook Museum of Art.

The Philbrook records do not preserve a purchase price for the second basket. It is possible, but unproven, that the price recorded for the first basket was a price for both baskets.

While this basket has a braided rim in the region’s aboriginal style, it is made not of river cane but of narrow splints of hardwood (probably hickory). My interpretation of this material is that it represents an Indian Territory (/Oklahoma) adaptation in a setting in which river cane was difficult to obtain. To my knowledge, it is only in Oklahoma that we find Southern river cane-based forms produced in materials other than river cane. Elsewhere in the South, newer materials were utilized in altered, adopted, or innovated forms.

Euchee basket making may continue to sleep. If it does, that should not be taken to mean that Euchee people lack appreciation for the baskets, basket making, and the basket-using of their ancestors. Elders I have known, from the 1990s to the present, have often recalled memories of how baskets such as these were used. These stories were never simply for my benefit. They are regularly shared with audiences of younger Euchee people. The tellers of such stories are eager to preserve a memory of past Euchee ways of life. The moral of such stories often center on how hard older Euchee people worked to care for their families and communities and how they possessed and use specialized cultural knowledge to sustain a rich and self-sufficient social life in the face of hardships and limited financial resources. In the late 1990s, I worked with cultural leaders from the Euchee community to organize an exhibition at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum. For this exhibition, two of the AMNH baskets were lent and displayed. Euchee elders noted how well-worn these baskets were. This prompted not only an appreciation for their industry of their ancestors, but also laughter at the thought that the baskets unnamed Euchee owners turned a nice profit selling end-of-life, totally worn out, baskets to an earnest young scholar from the East. They also appreciated the fact that some Euchee work baskets still existed in the world and would thus be available for future generations to see and appreciate. These thoughts apply, I think, to the two baskets that Johnson Tiger sold to Clark Field in 1962.

Thank you to my friend Christina Burke, Curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at the Philbrook Museum of Art for letting me spend time with these two baskets, not once but twice. Thanks also to the Euchee elders who have shared their people’s past and present with me.

Good News Roundup

There is way too much stuff going on in my life and work these days. Most of it is really good stuff, but it is hard to keep up. Before moving on to new reporting, here are some good news highlights from recent weeks.

Colleagues and I shepherded into print the 50th volume (=golden anniversary) of the Journal of Folklore Research, for which I serve as Interim Editor. JFR 50(1-3), a triple issue (!), is a special one titled Ethnopoetics, Narrative Inequality, and Voice: The Legacy of Dell Hymes and is guest edited by Paul V. Kroskrity (UCLA) and Anthony Webster (Texas). The guest editors contributed a post about the issue for the IU Press Journals Blog and the triple issue itself is can be found on the Project Muse and JSTOR digital platforms. Thanks to all who have supported JFR over its first five decades.

The Open Folklore project recently released a new version of the OF portal site. The new site incorporates a range of new features and is built upon the latest version of Drupal. I hope that it is already helping you with your own research efforts. If you have not seen it yet, check it out at http://openfolklore.org/

In September, two scholars whose Ph.D. committees I chaired finished their doctorates. Congratulations to Dr. Flory Gingging and Dr. Gabrielle Berlinger!

I noted the award quickly previously, but I had a great time attending the Indiana Governor’s Arts Awards where Traditional Arts Indiana, led by my friend and colleague Jon Kay, was recognized.

The new issue of Ethnohistory is out and it includes a generous and positive review of Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. The reviewer is Marvin T. Smith, author of several key works on the archaeology and ethnohistory of the Native South. Find it (behind a paywall) here: http://ethnohistory.dukejournals.org/content/60/4.toc

A while back, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures opened a fine exhibition curated by IU Folklore graduate student Meredith McGriff. It is Melted Ash: Michiana Wood Fired Pottery and it is a sight to behold. If you have not seen it, stop by the museum and check it out.

Open Access week just kicked off and there are a lot of activities planned for the IUB campus. To get things started my friend and collaborator Jennifer Laherty did an interview with WFHB. It is about 8 minutes long and it can be found on the station’s website: http://wfhb.org/news/open-access-week/

The very talented Bethany Nolan was kind enough to talk to me about Yuchi Folklore and to write about our discussion for her Art at IU blog.

The Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians just held its 17th (!!!!) annual Heritage Days festival. A few years ago a Miss Yuchi/Euchee was added to the festivities and the young women chosen have been great representatives of their nation. This year another awesome young woman was selected. Congratulations to A.S. on being selected for this big honor and big responsibility.

Yuchi Folklore: Cultural Expression in a Southeastern Native American Community

A quick note to report that Yuchi Folklore: Cultural Expression in Southeastern Native American Community is now in print and available from the University of Oklahoma Press (its publisher), Amazon.com, and other booksellers. Any royalties that the book might generate will be forwarded directly from the publisher to the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for its use in its cultural and historical preservation efforts. (So anyone who purchases the book is helping a not-for-profit university press with special interest in the peoples and histories of Oklahoma, and (if the book can first cover its production costs), also contributing in a small way to the cultural work of the Euchee people.)

Cover of Yuchi Folklore

Two of the book’s chapters were co-authored with Mary S. Linn, whom I want to thank for joining me in the effort. We both have benefited tremendously from the kindness and support of numerous Euchee (Yuchi) individuals and their help is hopefully meaningfully represented in the volume. None of our Euchee friends are responsible, of course, for the book’s shortcomings.

Chairman Andrew Skeeter (Euchee [Yuchi] Tribe of Indians) and Daniel Swan (Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History) provided generous blurbs appearing on the book’s back cover and two smart reviewers for the press provided great feedback which, I hope, was meaningfully put to use in my revision of the book. Thanks to them all as well.

The University of Oklahoma Press was a joy to work with and I very much appreciate its great efforts on my behalf.

Rather than summarize the book here, feel encouraged to check out its page at the University of Oklahoma Press.

Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era

There has been a real posting drought lately here at Shreds and Patches. In part this is due to a hyper abundance of matters worthy of posting about. So much has been going on that there has not been time to write about it all. With this note, I want to announce just one of these current events.

This month the University of Nebraska Press has published Yuchi Indian Histories Before the Removal Era. I am the editor of this book, but the real stars are (1) the remarkable Euchee/Yuchi people whose stories the book begins to uncover and (2) the nine talented, generous scholars who joined me in this undertaking. I want to thank them, the University of Nebraska Press, and the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for supporting this project and for being patient with me as I pushed it slowly along to publication. I have hope that the book will be useful scholars and students and, especially, to the Euchee/Yuchi community whose interests and goals prompted us to try to put it together.

One nice thing is that the press issued the book in paperback rather than in hardback, thus the price is more modest than is often the case with scholarly books. The book is also available from Amazon in a Kindle-friendly edition. (I have not checked this out myself yet.) If the book generates any royalties, all of these will be paid by the press directly to the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians for its use in historical and cultural preservation work.

Thanks again to all of the participants in this project.

Coconut Rattles in Florida and Oklahoma

The diversity of materials used by Native peoples in the Americas to make hand rattles is pretty staggering. Among the farming peoples of the Southwest, Plains, Northeast and Southeast, gourds are one important material used for this purpose. Having the same basic form as gourd rattles, but unique to some Southeastern Indian peoples, are rattles, such as this Florida Seminole example, made from coconuts. William C. Sturtevant provided the coconut used here to Jack Motlow, from whom he commissioned it for $2.00 in 1951. This Florida Seminole example is made exactly like those used among the Southeastern peoples in Oklahoma, including among the Yuchi. (I commissioned Yuchi examples for the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa during the later 1990s.) Such rattles are called “gourds” in English in Oklahoma and are particularly suited to the outdoor dances of the region. Such rattles are loud and thus sound great when used, as they most often are, outside, in open spaces. (The holes drilled in the coconut amplify the rattle’s sound.)

This example is #301 in the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

(The Seminole Tribune has published biographical profiles of two of Jack and Lena Motlow’s daughters. These profiles are of Louise Motlow and Mary Motlow Sanchez and are online.)

Oklahoma Native Language and History Projects Making Progress

A round up of some good news Oklahoma.

The team at the Euchee (Yuchi) History Project has published an account of the project’s work in the prestigious journal Native South. Native South is published by the University of Nebraska Press and is made available electronically via Project Muse. The article, by Stephen A. Martin and Adam Recvlohe,  is titled, appropriately enough “The Euchee (Yuchi) History Project.” It is accessible (toll access) here: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/native_south/v004/4.martin.html

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation have announced a series of grant awards under the Documenting Endangered Languages program. I would like to highlight the following projects pursued by friends and acquaintances and to congratulate all the grantees. Durbin Feeling (Cherokee Nation) and colleagues have received funding for “Collaborative Research: Documenting Cherokee Tone and Vowel Length.” James Rementer and colleagues at the Delaware Tribe have been awarded a grant for “Lenape Language Database Project.” Mary Linn and Amber Neely have been funded for Amber’s dissertation research on “Speaking Kiowa Today” and Sean O’Neill and Elizabeth Kickham have received support for “Choctaw Language Ideologies and their Impact on Teaching and Learning,” Elizabeth’s doctoral research. Rounding out the good news for Oklahoma language efforts, Mary Linn and Colleen Fitzgerald have received additional support for the ongoing “Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop and Documentation Project.” Congratulations to all of these language workers and the communities that stand behind them in support! Read the NEH/NSF press release here: http://www.neh.gov/news/archive/20110809.html

First Georgia Reports of Yuchis, 1733

Introduction

In the summer of 2004 I was beginning to coordinate a project focused on Yuchi (Euchee) history during the period before removal to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). This effort centered on a conference panel and a planned edited book. To facilitate this effort I experimented for the first time with a blogging platform–a very unfamiliar technology to me at the time.  The blog was called Yuchi History Notes and, as the title suggests, the aim was to collect short items of relevance to the development of work on Yuchi history.  For purely practical reasons at the time (including changing jobs and moving to a new position at Indiana University) I had to set the blog part of the project aside and I took it offline, first making a PDF copy of the content for posterity and future reconstitution.

Happily, work on the edited book is nearing completion at long last.  Among the most useful and generous contributions to the Yuchi History Notes came from Professor John T. Juricek, an eminent student of Southern Indian history and a professor at Emory University.  Because his contribution will be cited in the forthcoming book, I need to get it back into the accessible record.  Towards that end, it is offered here as the first reconstituted item in the Yuchi History Notes series.  My thanks go to Professor Juricek for his steadfast commitment to the task of making sense of Yuchi history in its wider contexts.

[Originally published on Monday, June 21, 2004 as Yuchi History Notes #7]

First Georgia Reports of Yuchis, 1733

John T. Juricek
Emory University

During the years I spent editing two volumes of documents focusing on 18th-century Creek Indians (Georgia Treaties, 1733-1763— hereafter GT, and Georgia and Florida Treaties, 1763-1776) I ran across numerous references to Yuchis among the Creeks. These references were mostly fragmentary so one at a time they did not tell much of a story. As they accumulated, however, it gradually became clear to me that the incorporation of Yuchis among the Creeks was not only never complete, whatever assimilation did occur was not quick or trouble free. At times Creeks and Yuchis killed each other and seemed on the verge of war.

Below I outline the first case of Creek-Yuchi friction that I noticed. One reason I point to this incident is that I’m afraid that I misinterpreted it. It’s less embarrassing to expose your own error than to have someone do
it for you.

Six weeks after his arrival at the site of Savannah, on March 12, 1733 James Oglethorpe wrote as follows to other Georgia Trustees back in London:

“There are in Georgia on this Side [of] the Mountains three considerable Nations of Indians, one called the Lower Creeks… making about 1000 Men able to bear arms… The other two Nations are the Uchees and the Upper Creeks the first consisting of 200, the latter of 1100 men. We agree so well with the Indians that the Creeks and Uchees have referred a Difference to me to determine which otherwise would occasion a War;…” (GT, pp. 11-12).

When the final sentence is compared with the preceding one, “the Creeks” in the last sentence appears to be a shortened form for “the Upper Creeks” in the previous sentence. The impression that the Yuchis were at odds with Upper Creeks was strengthened for me by a late June 1733 entry in Peter Gordon’s journal. Gordon reports that “the Chiefs of the Upper Creeks and Uchi nations” arrived together at Savannah “to enter in to a Treaty of Friendshipp with Mr. Oglethorp.” (GT, p. 18) Ahah! I knew it! The two groups of chiefs came to Oglethorpe for his help in making peace between them, and he did it. Accordingly, in the introduction to the chapter that included these documents, I wrote that on March 12 Oglethorpe reported “that the Upper Creeks and the Yuchis had asked him to mediate a quarrel between them.” (GT, p. 5)

I now believe that there is a much more likely interpretation. First, it is suspicious that the Upper Creek and Yuchi chiefs arrived together, not what one should expect of two nations on the brink of war, and the remainder of Gordon’s account seems to describe a genial meeting with no mention of previous trouble. Second, I had forgotten about an earlier entry in Gordon’s journal. On March 7 he wrote that Tomochichi, the local Lower Creek (Yamacraw) leader, had just said:

“… that with regard to one of his people, that hade been killed by the Uchis (another neighbouring nation of Indians) he would not take revenge without Mr. Oglethorps consent and approbation, (taking revenge is a terme they use, when they intend to declare warr).” (GT, p. 9)

Given this clear evidence of trouble between Lower Creeks and Yuchis, and lack of it between Upper Creeks and Yuchis (on this occasion), on March 12 Oglethorpe was almost certainly referring to the Lower Creek-Yuchi conflict that Gordon mentioned on March 7.

[Contributed via an email to Jason Jackson, dated 6/19/2004]

Among numerous other works, John T. Juricek is the author of  Colonial Georgia and the Creeks : Anglo-Indian Diplomacy on the Southern Frontier, 1733-1763 (Gainesville: University Press of Florica, 2010).

Fall Conference #2: Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium

At the beginning of October (8-9), I participated in the first even Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium, an event organized by the Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians and held in conjunction with the tribe’s annual Heritage Days Festival. The event took place near Kellyville, Oklahoma at the Creek County Fairgrounds, the place where the first Euchee Heritage Days Festival took place 14 years ago. (I am starting to feel really old!)

The inaugural history symposium is an outgrowth of the tribe’s current ANA-funded history project. The format for the event featured presentations by historians and historical anthropologists with broad knowledge of native (and non-native) history in the American South that is relevant to the specific question of Euchee tribal history. Presenters included Robbie Ethridge, David Chang, Steve Warren, Steve Martin, Joshua Piker, Mary Linn, Cindy Tiger (Euchee) and Tamara Wilson (Euchee). Euchee (Yuchi) Tribe of Indians Chairman Andrew Skeeter hosted the event and I had the honor of serving as a sort of facilitator and master of ceremonies. The symposium and the festival as a whole was very expertly organized and staffed by a very large and effective group of volunteers from the Euchee community.

The symposium program was organized chronologically and spanned the period from first contact with Europeans through to the present. Each of the presenters brought valuable knowledge to the table and there was much fruitful discussion among everyone assembled.  I think that there were eye opening moments too for all involved.  Those who were visiting Euchee country for the first time were, I know, impressed with the vitality of Euchee community life and the seriousness with which Euchee people pursue their language, culture and history work.  For Euchee community members, I think that there was a deepening of understanding of how complicated, and often troubling, the historical narrative of the past 500 years of Euchee history is. (The story of native involvement in the colonial slave trade was a source of much discussion.) For everyone, there was renewed hope that the complexities of this story can be sorted out and presented in ways that will be valuable to both the community and to scholars who have so often misunderstood the place of the Euchee in the larger history of North America.

The symposium was an all-day event on Friday (10/8/10) and then a briefer recap of the Friday discussions was held on Saturday morning as the first of the day’s festival events.

The festival itself is always fun and this year it was particularly excellent. In addition to the symposium there were a number of other firsts, including much involvement from the Euchee language classes.  Some hilarious skits and plays were staged in the Euchee language throughout the event. For the first time ever, the tribe selected its first tribal princess.  All of the participants (and organizers) did a wonderful job and Miss Julia Wakeford was crowned the first Miss Euchee Princess. The festival also featured the first all-Euchee Color Guard and, for the first time, an old fashioned Corn Stalk Shoot with old style bows and arrows.

As a scholarly conference that included amazing food, a stomp dance, a horseshoe tournament, hilarious Euchee comedy, lots of raffles and prizes, a bingo night, oodles of arts and crafts, cultural demonstrations, and socializing with lots of nice people from all over Eastern Oklahoma, the first Euchee (Yuchi) History Symposium set a standard for work and play that no regular academic conference can ever meet.  The Euchee people have every reason to be proud of this very successful event. I am very thankful that I was able to participate.

%d bloggers like this: