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Posts from the ‘Southern Studies’ Category

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.

A Very Small Pot by Maude Welch, Eastern Cherokee Potter

A very small “wedding jug” by Eastern Cherokee potter Maude Welch (1894-1953). William C. Sturtevant collected this piece from Ms. Welch on September 15, 1951, about two years before her death. Drawing upon her experience visiting Catawba potters, Mrs. Welch was central to the revitalization of pottery making among the Eastern Cherokee.  A rich profile of her and her work is available online from the Western Carolina University library. It was authored by M. Anna Fariello.

This piece (which is only about 2″ in all dimensions) is in the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. For those who are interested in such things, Sturtevant paid Mrs. Welch’s asking price of 50 cents. (Fifty cents is about $4.00 today, if adjusted for inflation.)

A Sea Island Basket by National Heritage Fellow Mary Jane Manigault

The William C. Sturtevant collection includes a nice group of coiled, sea grass baskets created by the African American weavers of the Sea Island region near Charleston, South Carolina. The better documented of these were collected by William C. Sturtevant in 1959. In this group is the basket shown above. It was made by Mary Jane Manigault (1913-2010), a basket maker who would go on (25 years later) to be awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984.

There is a rich literature about the Sea Island basketry tradition. A recent work is the exhibition catalog Grass Roots: The African Origins of an American Art. The volume was edited by Dale Rosengarten, Theodore Rosengarten, and Enid Schildkrout and published by the Museum of African Art in 2008. The associated exhibition led to free online resources on the subject being made available through the Museum of African Art, the National Museum of African Art, and the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina.

Interestingly, one of William Sturtevant’s photographs from his 1959 visit to the Sea Island region was featured in the Grass Roots exhibition’s online presence. It is an image of Pearl Dingle weaving a basket at her family’s stand in Mt. Pleasant South Carolina. You can see it on the McKissick website.

The rich obituary for Mrs. Manigault published on the website for the documentary film Bin Yah: There is No Place Like Home is definitely worth checking out. It notes that her baskets are among those in the amazing Sea Island collection curated at the Mathers Museum (at Indiana University) where I work as a Faculty Curator. The NEA National Heritage Fellow profile for her is another great online resource.

This basket is currently identified as T331 and is from the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

A Chitimacha Basket

Here is an image of a double woven river cane basket with lid from the Chitimacha people of Louisiana. It was purchased at auction in 1972 by William C. Sturtevant and is now in the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution (T070).

People Love Tiny Baskets

When wearing my curator hat, I have seen how ubiquitous love of tiny baskets seems to be, at least among fans of hand made objects. While I am sure that some engineer is doing nano-scale weaving already, tiny-scale seems good enough for fans of Native American basketry. The best known heroes in this area are the basket weavers of California, particularly the Pomo with their amazing feather covered baskets, but the art of the tiny basket has also been pursued in the native South. This impulse is reflected in this Choctaw basket by “Sweeny Willis” that was collected by John Mann Goggin among the Choctaw residing near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Ms. Willis’s name is spelled “Sweenie” elsewhere, such as in the records associated with pottery that she made that is in the collections of the National Museum of the American Indian.

This single weave river cane basket is currently referred to as #494 in the William C. Sturtevant Collection, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

For a bit of theorizing, look below the fold.

Read more

Put a Bird On It

I have been offline and not able to post on the Smithsonian work over the past few days. Today I need to get back to work, so here is a quick picture post. Shown above is a pine needle basket made by Rosa J. Pierite. In the artist’s information tag that accompanies the basket, she (?) identifies her tribal background as Choctaw-Tunica. Elsewhere (as in this Louisiana Folklife Center artist profile of Mrs. Pierite’s daughter, also a basketweaver), her tribal heritage has been noted as Choctaw-Biloxi.

Such pine needle baskets in the shape of a variety of animals–turkeys, alligators, etc.–are a remarkable basketry innovation from the Native peoples of Louisiana, but they are poorly represented in museum collections because earlier collectors and curators often ignored them as tourist arts. It is great that this example, along with three other pine needle baskets by Mrs. Pierite (not animal shaped) will be joining the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. This example is currently accounted as number T-006.

Please forgive the pop culture reference in my post title.

Yesterday was a Patchwork Day

I was not able to put together a post last night, so here is just one of the couple hundred pictures I shot yesterday. This one is another array of Florida Seminole patchwork samples. These were all collected in 1969 and are by the same seamstress. As with the other objects that I am looking at, they are destined for the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution.

Pot Holders, Or William C. Sturtevant Collections Research, Day 1

I am in Washington at the start of a period of research studying the collection of objects gathered over much of the career of Smithsonian anthropologist William C. Sturtevant (1927-2007). (For background on W.C.S., see this biographical sketch that I posted to the Museum Anthropology weblog and this Washington Post obituary by WP staff writer Louie Estrada.)

While Dr. Sturtevant was long associated with the Smithsonian, his individual research collection grew and grew over the course of his career and was not accessioned into the holdings of the National Museum of Natural History until after his death in 2007. My work with the objects is an extension of the Southeastern Native American Collections Project (SNACP), but it also aims to assist the museum in the work of organizing and cataloging the Sturtevant Collection.

Today was mainly a get organized day, but I can share a glimpse of the objects that was looking at.

Dr. Sturteveant worked throughout his career on issues in Florida Seminole ethnography, linguistics, ethnology, and ethnohistory. He was always particularly interested in material culture and he went to considerable lengths to document the rich visual and material culture of the Seminole people living in my home state. (I first met Dr. Sturtevant while still an undergraduate when he attended a conference on Seminole folk art not far from my family home.)

It will take a very long time to sort out the details, but I began (metaphorically) unraveling the threads of his collection and its history with initial study of eight relatively simple objects–patchwork decorated pot holders made for sale to non-Seminole tourists by Seminole women during in the 1980s. In addition to their aesthetic richness and visual interest, such objects speak to the complex ways that the Seminole people have adapted to life in one of the most complex corners of North America. The Seminole engagement with tourism began in the early 20th century, it continued through the period represented by these pot holders, and it continues up to the present-era, in which the Seminole Tribe of Florida is the force behind a myriad of tourist destinations, including the global Hard Rock cafe and casino enterprise.

For four of the eight pot holders that I looked at today, I already know the name of the artist. A few of the as-yet artist-unidentified objects are pictured below. All objects are from the collections of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History. I especially thank the department’s staff for hosting my research visit. Photographs shown here are my own quick and simple iPhone snapshots. (Better photographs can come later.)

Sturtevant Collection T162

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T162, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111A, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111B, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole

(Above) Patchwork Pot Holder, Florida Seminole, Sturtevant Collection T111C, Department of Anthropology, National Musuem of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Photograph by Jason Baird Jackson

I have a lot of data management work to accomplish before tomorrow, but I could not resist sharing this glimpse.

Historian Tiya Miles Honored with a 2011 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship

Congratulations to Tiya Miles on being honored with a 2011 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. It is always fun to see who has been awarded one of these amazing Fellowships and it is great when someone working in the same corners of the world that I do is a recipient. Learn more about the awards and Professor Miles’ work on African and Cherokee history in the American South here.

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).

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