Catawba Indian Pottery: The Survival of a Folk Tradition by Thomas John Blumer, Mr. William L. Harris

By Thomas John Blumer, Mr. William L. Harris

With a Foreword by way of William Harris

whilst Europeans encountered them, the Catawba Indians have been dwelling alongside the river and through the valley that incorporates their identify close to the current North Carolina-South Carolina border. Archaeologists later amassed and pointed out different types of pottery varieties belonging to the ancient Catawba and extrapolated an organization with their protohistoric and prehistoric predecessors.

during this quantity, Thomas Blumer lines the development suggestions of these documented ceramics to the lineage in their possible present-day grasp potters or, in different phrases, he lines the Catawba pottery traditions. by way of mining facts from files and the oral traditions of latest potters, Blumer reconstructs revenues circuits frequently traveled via Catawba peddlers and thereby illuminates unresolved questions relating to exchange routes within the protohistoric interval. furthermore, the writer info specific thoughts of the consultant potters—factors similar to clay choice, instrument use, ornament, and firing techniques—which impression their styles.

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All of them had professional careers either in the Indian service or in the public sector (Records of the Owl Family). The Gordons are perhaps the best-known family to have subsisted on pottery before World War II. The backbone for the business was Sallie Gordon, a skilled and proli¤c master potter. Sallie was always so busy working in clay that she depended on her son Ervin to sell her wares for her. Ervin Gordon, for the most part, only sold pottery (Lula Beck, interview, 13 May 1987, BC). At ¤rst he sold his mother’s work.

Those Indians who work with schoolchildren who do make little objects are always on the defensive with their fellow potters. Catawba 8 Chapter 1 clay is far too valuable for such demonstration purposes, and the use of commercial clay often gives the potter some room for rationalization. In 1977, the potters demonstrated their craft at Winthrop College in front of academics and art students who understood clay. The Winthrop demonstrations became events of great pride. Doris Blue, one of the senior potters at the time, proudly announced that at one time the Indians were only allowed to sit at Winthrop’s gate.

For instance, in 1977 when Edna Brown was working in her garden she uncovered a nearly complete axe pipe (Edna Brown, interview, spring 1977, BC). It was apparently made with a squeeze mold and exhibits some ¤ne traditional Catawba incised designs. Such a ¤nd might be a cause for surprise in any other place but 10 Chapter 1 not on the Catawba Reservation. —and declared that it was probably the work of Susannah Owl. The Smithsonian collection fortunately contains vessels made by Susannah Owl, and a comparison to them adds credence to Edna Brown’s proclamation.

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