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April 27, 2011

“Call It Caddo”

Robin Montoya (Caddo/Wichita), photo by M. Patterson (Caddo)

By Keevin Lewis, NMAI Community Services Coordinator

Revivals in Oklahoma can mean many different things to people. But for Jeri Redcorn (Caddo/Potawatomi), the revival of Caddo pottery is her main mission and personal story. Following the forced removal from their traditional lands, Jeri realized that today Caddo people are no longer making any pots and the pottery traditions are lost.

Following her acceptance into the NMAI Artist Leadership Program, Ms. Redcorn came to the Smithsonian in December 2010 and “discovered” that pots in the SI collections were named Hodges, Avery, Maxey, Haley, Bailey, etc. She's now determined to reclaim Caddo cultural material.

Jeri’s first step was to host a two-day Caddo Ceramics Workshop at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (SNOMNH) in Norman, Oklahoma. This workshop took place on March 10, 11, 2011. Approximately 30 participants attended this workshop, which included an overview and history of Caddo pottery, photos from the collections of the NMAI and the SNOMNH, tour of the Caddo exhibition and Caddo collections at SNOMNH, discussion on clay types, and time for making pottery. These students made bowls, cups, and other types of containers with Caddo designs and patterns seen for the SNOMNH collections and exhibitions.

Ms. Redcorn’s next step was to address the issue of nomenclature of Caddo pottery. And a great place to begin this discussion was right next door at the Oklahoma History Center (OHC) on Saturday, March 12, 2011, where Jeri organized a symposium and invited key individuals to address important Caddo art and cultural issues. With the Director of OHC, Dr. Bob Blackburn, and Justice Yvonne Kauger, Oklahoma Supreme Court, and Stacey Halfmoon, American Indian Cultural Center & Museum, leading off with introductions to a symposium on Caddo History and Ceramics, the stage was set to initiate a dialogue as to why Caddo cultural materials held in museums ought to be changed to titles that are culturally appropriate to the Caddo people.

Phil Cross, Caddo Historian, and Dr. George Sabo, III, Arkansas Archeological Survey Professor of Anthropology, University of Arkansas, talked about how the Caddo people have endured removal from traditional lands, loss of language, stories, and traditions, and continue to exist while overcoming great odds for cultural survival. Even though most Caddo cultural material held in museums and archives are named after archeologists and archeological sites, renaming of these items are possible in collaboration and consultation with Caddo people and museums by learning from each other in the renaming process. As a result of this symposium, Dr. Sabo, Mr. Cross, and Ms. Redcorn were invited to make the same presentation at the Caddo Archeology Conference on March 23, 2011, in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. It was reported that the response to their presentations were highly welcomed!


Symposium participants at the Oklahoma History Center, Stacey Halfmoon,
Caddo, Phil Cross, Caddo, Bronwyn Gordon, Caddo, Dr. George Sabo.
Photo by Mary Patterson (Caddo)

If the Caddo Ceramic Workshop and Symposium weren’t enough information for the average participant, then I’m sure the afternoon of Caddo dancing is the best way to end the “Caddo Festival: Honoring Our Caddo Elders” events at OHC. With Phil Cross as the emcee and hosted by the Caddo Culture Club Singers, the afternoon following the symposium was filled with the Turkey Dance, Drum Dance, Fish Dance, Swing Dance, Vine Dance, Duck Dance, Alligator Dance, the Stirrup Dance and Bell Dance. It was reported by OHC staff that approximately 400 people attended these Caddo dance performances! Somehow all these dances were completed within 4 hours during the daylight, as most of these dances are usually performed overnight ending at sunrise.

Now that these events have past, the Caddo culture continues through pottery making, art shows, music and dances, with Jeri Redcorn as the mentor and teacher who is striving and reviving the lost art of Caddo Pottery. I have learned that Jeri is a very methodical and earnest individual and given the time, resources, and opportunity she is bound to make changes. Jeri notes that she “accepts the challenge and responsibility to share her pottery experience so this clay art is not lost, but handed down from generation to generation with the utmost respect.”

The next Artist Leadership/Emerging Artist Program deadline is May 2, 2011. Please see the NMAI website under Indigenous Contemporary Arts Program form more information: Artist Leadership/Emerging Artist Program


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Wonderful! Kudos to Jeri! She's carried her curiosity to fullblown passion. I am honored to call her my friend. You too, Phil. :)

Great article, Jeri! You and Keevin do each other proud. I wish I had gotten to attend the clay pottery days, but enjoyed the history presentation and the dance.

it is nice info, even though i have no idea what was going on there but it seems like truely festive show. just can't wait the post for the next show of pottery making. oh, and i think it would be lots of fun if you put some more pics.

Great article, Jeri! You and Keevin do each other proud. I wish I had gotten to attend the clay pottery days, but enjoyed the history presentation and the dance.

Wow, you might say that the technology is very good! Photo, so beautiful, very clear, wish you good luck, create the future together!

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