30”(L) X 11”(W) X 15”(H) Arches watercolor paper splints printed with archival inks, acrylic paint, artificial sinew
The idea for this piece- including the title- visited me in a dream. The resulting work is a 3-D interpretation of the basic Cherokee basketry pattern called “Water,” a design which is included around the base and the rim. The finished basket is woven in a familiar Cherokee weave but expanded so the entire basket assumes the zig-zag of the pattern.
In the spring of 2016, I partook in one of my most difficult research excursions to date, conducted at the site of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School (1879-1918). This institution was the brainchild of Captain Richard H. Pratt and was an attempt to assimilate Indian children into white society by removing them from their homes and sequestering them far away in Pennsylvania. Pratt’s coined phrase “Kill the Indian, save the man” became the unofficial mission statement for this school and many others that soon followed. Students were completely denied their traditional culture, including the use of their native tongue. Infractions were frequent and often severe for disobedience such as “acting Indian.”
My visit was intense and heartbreaking. This was my first research trip with my 19 year old daughter; in preparation for it, I made a social media request for gifts of tobacco, sweet grass, cedar and sage and these medicinal herbs poured in from native people from all over the U.S. and Canada. My daughter and I made small bundles from these sacred plants and placed one on each of the 192 graves in the Carlisle school cemetery for the children who did not get to return home. I have never before been so powerfully moved by an experience and, as I have often described in my work, I felt profoundly led by the ancestors to share this story with the world.
Wrapping around the basket is a mournful, evening photo of the Tuckaseegee River
flowing through the ancestral Cherokee homeland. This image along with the river-like shape of the basket and plunging blue interior epitomize the deep sorrow and dark tide of removal experienced by Indian communities throughout the northern hemisphere over the sweeping
loss of their children and way of life. The interior features reproductions of the Carlisle student roster as evidence that we remember and honor the sacrifices these children were forced to endure.