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The Fire Within

Shan Goshorn
15” X 15” X 19.50”
Arches watercolor paper splints printed with archival inks, acrylic paint, copper foil

This basket is woven in a contemporary shape of my own making, inspired by the Cherokee 7-sided star. This symbol is used on the national seals for all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes (The Eastern Band, Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band), each referring to the star as representing the 7 tribal clans. In this piece, however, I am literally referencing the central Council House fire, the importance of which can not be underestimated. At the beginning of every new year in the fall, all personal family fires would be extinguished and re-lit from embers of this sacred fire which was always kept burning, symbolizing rebirth and tribal continuity, connecting our past to the future. Each clan was represented by a distinct wood, contributing a “V” portion of the star border which surrounded the central fire.

The exterior is comprised of two documents representing actions that were devastating to Cherokee culture. The red splints include the names of Cherokee students who attended the Carlisle Indian Boarding School, an institution in Pennsylvania known for its forced assimilation of Indian children of all tribes into white society. The mission of the school was summed up by the coined phrase “Kill the Indian, save the man.” Children were punished easily and harshly for infractions such as speaking their native language, thus discouraging them from ever teaching it to their own children. The dark, charcoal colored splints are printed with The Indian Removal Act of 1830 which was used as the illegal basis to force removal of the Cherokee to Oklahoma. So many people died on this journey, it is known now as The Trail of Tears.

The interior features a ring of brightly burning fires referencing the eternal flame (embers from the original Council house fire were carried to Oklahoma and then back to Cherokee) and the rekindling of contemporary Cherokee people’s passion to reclaim our cultural birthright and traditions. Also included on the interior is a recent writing about what it is like to grow up as a Cherokee. This writing, written in the Cherokee syllabary, is recreated through a popular digital computer and phone font, symbolizing our active desire to never relinquish our traditions again. The basket’s internal fires are breaking through to the exterior documents, illustrating the way we will overcome this historical trauma by relying on the teachings of our ancestors.