What do you picture in your mind when you think of Native American jewelry? Most people picture pieces made of turquoise and silver…the pieces made famous by the Fred Harvey Railroad era (1880s-1930s) where southwestern Native communities were featured as cultural tourist attractions along the railroad routes. As a result of this complex history as well as today’s popular stereotypes of Native Americans in popular culture, the diversity of materials, meanings, and techniques is lost on the general public. Through my work I seek to educate people about the Southeastern design and adornment practices that my tribe connects to.
Native America is actually made up of hundreds of distinct cultures – each with it’s own language, religion, art, and fashion. Native American jewelry is equally diverse, with each tribe having a style all it’s own.
Each region of this country has a beautifully rich and diverse history of personal adornments. For southeastern tribes, like mine, the Chickasaw Nation, traditional jewelry materials include freshwater pearls from the Mississippi, intricately carved pendants or gorgets crafted out of conch shells from the Gulf of Mexico, and native copper from the Great Lakes region.
My new collection, of Earth and Place, combines elements of my Chickasaw heritage with the Art Deco architecture I find around my home in Los Angeles. As you wear these pieces, I hope you will consider how your heritage and history gives meaning to your life today to create a style that is all your own.