Okla. It won best of class in the Diverse Art Forms division
and Best of Show for the entire 6th Annual Cherokee Art Market,
but the turkey-feather cape made by Cherokee artist Shawna Cain
may have also won the comeback category if there was one.
Like pottery making and beadwork,
the making of turkey-feather capes among the Cherokee was lost over
time. Now all three have been reclaimed, and Cain, of Twist Mountain
in Adair County, expects more Cherokee people will seek out wild
turkey feathers to make their own capes.
Her exposure to turkey-feather
capes came through fellow Cherokee artist Lisa Rutherford who was
making topper feather capes for women that cover only the shoulders.
Later, Rutherford gathered a large amount of turkey feathers for
the two women to create a full-length cape, but then became too
busy to work on it.
Cain said she carried on
with the project on her own, which took about 10 weeks to complete.
"Lisa and Mary Smith
(Muscogee Creek) both inspired me because they were making feather
capes and teaching how to make them on a net," she said.
Cain added the artists did
research on turkey-feather capes at the Arkansas Archeological Survey
and discovered Southeastern tribes used net backing to attach the
wild-turkey feathers. The women decided to try out the method, Cain
said, and it worked for them though it took some experimentation
to get it right.
There are feathers from nine
turkeys in her award-winning cape, Cain said. Tail, wing and breast
feathers were used along with white down feathers to create accents
on the cape to signify it was a peace chief cape. The award-winning
cape is titled "Peace Chief Wild Turkey Cape."
ancient times, Cherokee towns had a peace chief and war chief. White
signified the piece chief and red the war chief.
"We know our chief wore
capes, and we had a peace chief and a war chief," she said.
The only draw back for bringing
this tradition back is finding enough turkey feathers for people
to make their own capes. Cain said she and her husband Roger offer
to buy feathers from hunters and people also give them feathers.
She said the lack of feathers is an issue, but one solution is using
feathers from other birds like ducks.
Cain said Rutherford hopes
to teach courses on how to create the netting to attach the turkey
feathers. She added some Cherokee women are wearing the turkey feather
topper capes as a fashion accessory, and she hopes through her work
and the work of Rutherford and Smith that the tradition of turkey-feather
capes will fully return among the Cherokee.
The 6th Annual Cherokee Art
Market, held Oct. 8 and 9 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, featured
art from more than 130 accomplished Native American artists representing
45 tribes from across the nation. Art forms included beadwork, pottery,
painting, basketry, sculptures and textiles.