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March 09, 2017

Shan Goshorn, in her own words: "Pieced Treaty: Spider’s Web Treaty Basket"

Shan Goshorn WHM2017
Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band of Cherokee, b. 1957), Pieced Treaty: Spider’s Web Treaty Basket, 2007. Tulsa, Oklahoma. Paper, paint; 50.8 x 50.8 x 71.1 cm. 26/6080. National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian

"As a teenager, I illustrated 20 Cherokee basket designs in pen and ink for a book by the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. After that, I felt like I could probably weave a basket.

"I didn’t ever try until recently when I had this idea to illustrate the tangled rewriting of the Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation tobacco compact. Non-Indian businesses felt that sovereignty gave Indians an unfair advantage when it comes to the sale of tobacco products and are lobbying to do away with Native sovereignty completely. The original compact was from 1993 to 2003—during that decade much in the tobacco world changed. The new compact was very complicated and the compromises unsatisfying; both the state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation felt the compact was being interpreted incorrectly by each other. Immediately after the rewriting they were (and still are) in arbitration trying to sort it out.

"I had the agreements printed on watercolor paper; I then painted the sheets, cut them into splints, and the woven result became Pieced Treaty: Spider’s Web Treaty Basket. Spider’s Web is a traditional Cherokee basket design; 'Pieced Treaty' refers to the continual breaking of agreements. This basket has been deliberately left unfinished as these 'negotiations' appear to be ongoing."

—Shan Goshorn
Shan Goshorn Studio
"Statements about Work," October 22, 2010

Pieced Treaty: Spider’s Web Treaty Basket is on view at the museum in Washington, D.C., in the exhibition Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.

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