Basketry serves as an enduring thread of Cherokee culture in Oklahoma. – From the introduction in Oklahoma Cherokee Baskets, written by Karen Coody Cooper. This is as much a book of legacy as it is the telling of the history of Cherokee basketry.
Oklahoma Cherokee Baskets shares the history of basket makers, through the stories about Oklahoma Cherokee basket makers, past, present and future. While American Indian basketry was predominantly a woman’s craft in earlier times, the author was inspired by the stories of three men, who are recognized in the book. One of those men, Claude Medford Jr., Choctaw, of Natchitoches, Louisiana, she met during her time at the American Indian Archaeological Institute. She invited him in 1984, to participate in a symposium. She says she first thought of him as a vagabond, but soon discovered he was a dedicated researcher when it came to the history and art of basketry.
Cherokee basketry was ignored in national and regional studies of indigenous basketry for years. In recent years, it has regained interest and is once again an economic market. Over 175 years ago, 15,000 Cherokee people were forced to relocate to what we now know as the State of Oklahoma. Nearly eight generations later, the Cherokee basket makers stories reveal the persistence and tenacity of those same people. The book begins in the year 1700, in the east and traces it through the centuries into the age of “casino cash.” This book also provides a list of early basket makers, noteworthy collections of Cherokee baskets and a list of resources and references.