Native American Pomoan basket-weavers. William Benson (1862–1937) was Eastern Pomo and his wife, Mary Benson (1878–1930), was Central Pomo. Both had Euro-American fathers. After marriage in 1894, they lived at the Central Pomo settlement of Yokaya, CA. Their first promoter was John Hudson (1857–1936), Ukiah medical doctor and amateur anthropologist, who took them to the fair in St Louis, MO, in 1904. Accustomed to dealing with Euro-Americans, William served as informant for the anthropologists Edwin M. Loeb and Jaime de Angulo and became the local agent for Grace Nicholson, a noted Pasadena basketwork dealer, for whom he made ceremonial costumes and implements and wrote down Pomo myths. In 1906 Nicholson acquired exclusive rights to baskets woven by both William and Mary in return for a monthly maintenance fee plus costs for materials and payment for the baskets. Nicholson promoted and publicized the Bensons and brought them to spend the winter of ...
(b Pittsburgh, PA, April 4, 1869; d Santa Fe, NM, January 8, 1958).
American architect and designer. Raised in St Paul, MN, Mary (Elizabeth Jane) Colter graduated in 1890 from the California School of Design in San Francisco, then taught mechanical drawing at a St Paul high school and contributed to local Arts and Crafts societies as lecturer and craftswoman. These pursuits nourished Colter’s love of Native American art and the Southwest, interests also fostered by her first professional projects—the interior of the Indian Building at the Santa Fe Railway’s Albuquerque station (1902) and the Grand Canyon’s Hopi House (1904), modeled on an Indian village. She completed both for her lifelong employer, the Fred Harvey Co., the famous purveyor of travel services, which hired her full-time in 1910.
Colter designed hotels, train stations, tourist attractions, restaurants and shops—at the Grand Canyon and along the Santa Fe line. She based her designs on Native American and Hispanic cultures and on the western landscape, and, through rigorous research, fashioned environments to charm the leisure traveler. The most dramatic is the Watchtower (...
(b Karuk territory, CA, July 26, 1875; d Somesbar, CA, July 19, 1947).
Native American basket-weaver. She was born of a Wiyot mother and Euro-American father. She achieved a secure life with her second marriage, in 1895, to Luther Hickox, a half-blood miner and mill-owner who later became Justice of the Peace. She directed her weaving to the élite market, specializing in a lidded ‘gift basket’ with undulating profile and a high knob. On these she delineated main designs with supreme attention to the relationship of positive and negative elements and embellished them with a complex scheme of bordering designs and shifts in weaving technique. Her second daughter, Louise Hickox (b 29 April 1896; d 18 Sept 1962), also a basket-weaver, achieved almost equal results. Both were interviewed extensively by anthropologist Lila O’Neale in 1928 and provided most of the technical information for O’Neale’s 1932 publication of Yurok–Karok basketwork. Their baskets were featured in a 1990 exhibition at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles. In ...
[Jameson, Charles; Yakuglas]
(b Port Townsend, WA, c. 1870; d Alert Bay, BC, 1938).
Native American Kwakiutl wood-carver. He was the son of Kugwisi’la’ogwa, a Kwakiutl woman from Fort Rupert, BC, and a white American sawmill owner from Port Townsend. When his mother died in 1877, he was adopted by her tribe and inherited the right to work as a wood-carver, receiving training from a kinsman. As a child, James’s left hand was injured in a shotgun accident, and he probably began carving because he was unable to participate in other activities. He was one of the first Kwakiutl wood-carvers to establish a reputation outside his own society, and he is best known for the hundreds of small totem poles he carved for sale to non-natives in the last 20–30 years of his life. James also produced traditional objects, including totem poles and masks, for use in potlatches and other Kwakiutl social events. The mask of Sisiutl, the dangerous ‘double-headed serpent’ (before 1914; Victoria, BC, Prov. Mus.), for example, was used in the Tlásulá (‘weasel dance’), one of the two principal ceremonial complexes in Kwakiutl society. James was instrumental in establishing what might be termed the Fort Rupert substyle of Southern Kwakiutl art, introducing new forms and the use of colour (...
Deborah A. Middleton
Ruled book used for recording accounts used by Native Americans in late 19th century as a paper source for colorful drawings. The emergence of ledger book art is considered to be a material culture link corresponding to the forced relocation of Plains tribes to government reservations in the 19th century. In the early 1860s Plains Indians acquired Western made papers in the form of ledger books and target books, as well as pens, watercolors, graphite and colored pencils, acquired through trade and as proceeds from battles with the American Army, in which they drew scenes that chronicled their experience and cultural traditions. During this early period, the demand for ledger book drawing was high among white settlers who viewed them as curiosities and souvenirs. Contemporary research on Plains Indians ledger book art is challenged by dispersed collections and the fragile and delicate material condition of ledger books due to poor quality paper and bindings. The dismantling of ledger books by art dealers seeking to gain economic profits is the largest threat to preserving these artworks and enabling future research on specific ledger book artists....
(b Washoe territory, CA–NV border, c. 1850; d Carson City, NV, Dec 6, 1925).
American basket-weaver of Native American Washoe descent. She worked, originally as a laundress, for Abe Cohn (1859–1934) and Amy Cohn (1861–1919), owners of the Emporium Co. clothing store in Carson City, NV. With their encouragement, she created a fine art curio style of basketwork, imitated by most Washoe weavers, and by 1897 she had developed the coiled, spheroid degikup basket type, finely decorated with red (redbud) and black (bracken fern) designs in a scattered arrangement. She also created a collection of miniature baskets for Amy Cohn and made simpler twined basketwork souvenirs. She spent winters at the Emporium Co. in Carson City and summers at their outlet, The Bicose, at Tahoe City, Lake Tahoe, CA. In 1922 a short documentary film was made about her work, and in 1925 Edward S(heriff) Curtis photographed her at the Emporium. Amy Cohn kept a ledger of Dat So La Lee’s baskets, recording their dimensions, dates of inception and completion, along with her interpretation of the designs. The ledger is preserved in the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, which also houses over a dozen of Dat So La Lee’s major works. Most of the information promulgated by Amy Cohn about Dat So La Lee was fabricated to make her appear more traditional and less innovative, including giving her a birth date before the start of continued Euro-American influence in the region. In contrast to her treatment of other weavers, Amy Cohn referred to Dat So La Lee by her Washoe name, disregarding the weaver’s own preference to interact with Euro-American society under her English name, Louisa Keyser. Amy Cohn promoted her as an ‘Indian Princess’, claiming special family rights to basket shapes and designs. She also fabricated a ceremonial function and design vocabulary for Dat So La Lee’s baskets and interpreted them as records of Washoe history and mythology. As Abe Cohn considered her major pieces to be works of art, he demanded high prices and in ...
(b New York, 1845; d after 1911).
American sculptor. Born to an African American father and a Native American mother, she was the first black American sculptor to achieve national prominence. During her early childhood she travelled with her family in the Chippewa tribe, by whom she was known as Wildfire. At 12 she attended school at Albany, NY (1857–9), then a liberal arts course at Oberlin College, OH (1860–63). Lewis then went to Boston (1863) to study with Edward Brackett (1818–1908) and Anne Whitney. Her medallion of the abolitionist John Browne and a bust of the Civil War hero Col. Robert Shaw were exhibited at the Soldiers’ Relief Fair (1864), Boston; the latter sold over 100 plaster copies, enabling Lewis to travel to Rome (1865). There she was introduced to the White Marmorean Flock, a group of women sculptors, including Harriet Hosmer and Emma Stebbins...
(b Southern Plains, c. 1847; d nr Kingfisher, OK, Oct 2, 1917).
Native American Southern Cheyenne artist. In his younger years Buffalo Meat lived the ordinary life of the buffalo-hunting Plains Indians. He married c. 1867. On 3 April 1875 he was arrested at the Cheyenne Agency, Indian Territory, OK, with the charge of participating in the murder of a Euro-American immigrant family. He was sentenced to imprisonment without a trial or hearing, along with 71 other Native American Indians. They arrived at Fort Marion, FL, on 21 May 1875. Encouraged by the fort’s commander, 26 of the younger prisoners started to produce an enormous amount of pencil, ink and crayon drawings depicting their former lives. It became known as ‘ledger book art’ and soon a white market developed for it (see Ledger book; see also Native North American art, §IV, 1, (iv)). Buffalo Meat made his first known drawings during this imprisonment, although he probably produced some art before his arrest. He departed for the reservation on ...
(b Tewa Village, First Mesa, Hopi Reservation, AZ, c. 1860; d Polacca, Hopi Reservation, July 20, 1942).
Native American Hopi–Tewa potter. In the 1890s she began to incorporate forms and motifs adapted from Sikyatki, Awatovi and other prehistoric Southwest pottery traditions (see Native North American art §V) in her work. By c. 1900 Nampeyo had elevated the new revival style to an independent art form, later designated Hano Polychrome. She worked in the traditional coil-and-scrape method with local clay. She formed vessels ranging from small seed jars and bowls to low-shouldered jars as large as 500 mm in diameter and ollas (large-mouthed water or grain jars) up to 460 mm high. On the surfaces she painted designs of stylized birds, feathers and graceful curvilinear motifs, inspired by ancient pottery, in finely ground mineral pigments and boiled vegetal matter, using a fibrous yucca-leaf, chewed at the end to form a brush (e.g. Samuel Barrett collection, Milwaukee, WI, Pub. Mus.). She fired the vessels outdoors with dried sheep dung or, less frequently, with coal; they turned a warm honey colour with red and black designs, occasionally with white accents. Nampeyo also made a smaller number of vessels with clay that fired red and during her early years sometimes laid a white slip on the surface before painting the design. She did not sign her work. In ...
G. Lola Worthington
Native American people and culture that thrived throughout the lower Mississippi region until the 18th century. Approximately nine village townships constituted a nation that was overall peaceable, although altercations with neighbouring tribes occurred. Existence was based on agriculture, and the society was also creatively artistic. Mulberry bark fibre textiles were skilfully woven as clothing, high-quality pottery was produced, and raised earthen mounds were built.
In 1682 the French first encountered and recorded the Natchez as the only advanced North American society based around a monotheistic, theocratic sun cult. Before their civilization declined, the nation practised large-scale devotion to one ruling leader. Maintaining complete and powerful religious authority through devout worship, he maintained an ‘earthly demi-god’ position over his citizens’ lives and property. Known as ‘the Sun’, the ruler required that all available natural resources and labour be devoted to supporting him as head of state. Inhabitants erected high platforms for his living quarters and temples. His authority, authenticated by a high-status priesthood, maintained his divine existence through sophisticated, ritualistic religious practices. Elaborate ceremonies conducted by his priesthood dedicated and sanctioned his elevated status. A central plaza contained his household. A large-scale mound with numerous temples and household buildings held his main temple with its ceremonial fire....
G. Lola Worthington
(b Navajo Reservation, 1896; d 1972).
Native American (Navajo) silversmith. Peshlakai is the son of Slender Maker of Silver, Beshtlagai-ithline-athlososigi, and nephew of Peshlagai Atsidfi and Slender Maker Old Silversmith, all foremost of the first generation of named Navajo silversmiths. Recognized among their peers as “innovators” in new forms of jewelry, his family refined and complemented the older Spanish techniques and influences from Mexican plateros. Learning the techniques and expertise of silversmithing from his father and uncles, Peshlakai became single-handedly recognized for his blending of elaborate and high-quality precise silver and turquoise jewelry work techniques. Analogous with his father’s work, he innovated and promoted stamp work and wire twist skills into uncommon, fresh artistry fashioning pieces into pioneering new forms of harmony and sturdiness. Until his death, he refined his silversmith techniques. Commencing his personalized fabrications in the 1920s, his pieces became immensely popular during the 1930s and 1940s, but his finest works were created during a period from1940 through ...
(b Blunden Harbour, BC, c. 1873; d Blunden Harbour, 1967).
Native American Kwakiutl wood-carver. Hereditary chief of the ’Nak’waxda’wx lineage, he was the most distinctive of Kwakiutl carvers. He carved the full range of objects used in Southern Kwakiutl society, from totem poles and painted house-fronts to masks and whistles, as well as miniature totem poles for sale to non-natives.
Seaweed’s early pieces reflected the more restrained, classic style that typified Southern Kwakiutl carving of the late 19th century. By the 1940s he had developed a flamboyant style that later became associated with wood-carvers of the Blunden Harbour–Smith Inlet region (see ). These later works are marked by a clarity in painted design and carved planes, an emphasis on the treatment of the eye and nostrils and a dramatic expression, but were still within the design tradition of the Northwest Coast. At first Seaweed prepared his own paints by adding pigments to fish-egg oil, using them to create a soft, matt finish, but from the 1930s he adopted commercial enamel paints, which served to enhance the theatrical effect of his work. The compass, used by other carvers of the region, enabled Seaweed to draw the distinctive eye area and to incorporate arcs and circles into the designs of his carvings. His work culminated in the production of dance masks such as the ‘monster-bird’ masks used in the ...
(b Western Oklahoma, 1861; d Stecker, Oklahoma, Dec 14, 1940).
Native American Kiowa draughtsman, silversmith and beadworker. He was the son of Chief Dohasan III, keeper of one of the Kiowa pictographic calendar counts, and younger brother of Ohettoint (1852–1934), one of the Fort Marion artist–prisoners also known as Charlie Buffalo (see Native North American art, §IV, 2 and Howling Wolf). Silverhorn was a key cultural figure and the most significant and prolific Native American artist in the last part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th. He probably learnt pictography at an early age. As a ceremonial leader, he was keeper of one of the sacred Kiowa medicine bundles. As a craftsman, he produced beadwork, war bonnets and jewellery made from German silver, an alloy of nickel, copper and zinc. For anthropologists, he illustrated religious ceremonies, myths and folklore, and painted model tipis and shields. Most of his works on paper and muslin are romantic evocations of the past and do not refer to specific events or individuals. An exception to his general output is the ...
(b c. 1850; d Waurika, OK, July 5, 1927).
Native American Southern Cheyenne draughtsman. He was one of the most talented and innovative of the artists imprisoned between 1875 and 1878 at Fort Marion, St Augustine, FL (see Native North American art, §IV, 1, (iv)). The drawings in his and others’ “sketchbooks” transformed traditional Plains art and brought to it a balance, symmetry, rhythm and decorativeness seldom encountered before. Howling Wolf was arrested in 1875 after the Red River War and, charged with being a ringleader, was imprisoned without trial in Fort Marion. There, encouraged by Capt. Richard Henry Pratt (1840–1924), he filled sketchbooks for sale with drawings of life on the Plains and occasional portrayals of the journey to prison and life at the fort. He abandoned most of the old warrior art style of picture writing, suited to conveying detailed information about war deeds, and instead created a number of deliberately composed works with strong design elements. On return from prison, he at first urged his people to follow the Bible Road. Then, disillusioned by conditions on the reservation and by his own poverty, he obtained the chieftaincy of the Bowstrings, a warrior society resisting Euro-American encroachment. He also resumed attending the Sun Dance and later joined the Native American Church, the Peyote religion. After he became disillusioned Howling Wolf also resumed depicting his war exploits and contributed drawings to at least one fellow warrior’s sketchbook (untraced). The latest sketchbook known to have been produced by him was done for an ethnologist (...
Jenifer P. Borum
(b Ash Grove, MO, Feb 20, 1890; d Chicago, IL, Dec 25, 1972).
American painter of African, Cherokee, Creek, and European ancestry. Although Yoakum claimed to have been born on a Navajo reservation in 1888, his birthplace and childhood home has been established as Ash Grove, MO. His aunt was adopted by a Navajo family, and although the artist drew great inspiration from the Navajo, his connection to them was imaginary. Yoakum’s life was indeed one of adventure and travel—he toured with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, the Ringling Bros. Circus, and also traveled around the world as stow-away and later as a soldier in World War I. Yet the line between fact and fantasy will always be blurred when contending with his lyrical landscapes that ostensibly offer a record of his far-ranging adventures to exotic locales.
While Yoakum began to draw by the 1950s, he did not devote himself to this calling until he had retired in the early 1960s. Settling in Chicago in ...