Traditional crafts taught at NSU Center for Tribal Studies | News

A crafting circle happens every Monday in the Center for Tribal Studies at Northeastern State University, and students come together to learn traditional crafts.

On Feb. 27, a group of crafters gathered in the basement of the University Center to learn how to do beading and spend time together.

Melody Proctor is the interim director of CTS. She said the crafting circle was an idea started by Lily Drywater, a student who enjoys teaching different classes. 

“That’s part of what we do at CTS is provide those different opportunities for people to learn about Native culture,” Proctor said. “[Lily’s idea] really aligned with what we wanted to do and we wanted to support her.”

CTS provides the materials and space for Drywater to teach. Recently, Drywater started bringing in different artists to speak and share their crafts. On the final Monday of each month one of the artists is a guest at the circle.

“We’ve had people doing different types of beading so far this semester,” Proctor said. “The finger weaving is what Lily teaches. In October we did pumpkin baskets. We also offered the materials for Indigenous Peoples Day as well.”

In the beginning it was not a structured class but just offered different supplies so students could come by and work on whatever craft interested them, Proctor said.

Drywater worked on a finger weaver project – a belt for someone who asked for the piece to be a little different than the traditional ones.

“This is traditionally used by southeastern tribes and other tribes as well, but we typically make belts a lot wider and longer than this one [I’m working on],” Drywater said. “I’m going to sew this one onto a regular modern belt because she wanted to be able to wear it every day.”

The piece she was working on was still somewhat traditional, Drywater said.

“We have a more traditional pattern that is oblique and it looks like a plaid,” Drywater said.

Brandon Tucker is a studying homeland security and during the crafting circle, decided to make a long necklace like Drywater wore which had belonged to her grandmother.

“My grandma made this and she used to wear it around her wrist but I wear it as a necklace,” Drywater said. “She had it for years and she passed away a few years ago.”

Tucker picked through the selection of beads and settled on earthy colors of deep blue, brown and white, wanting to keep it traditional.

“My mom showed me how to bead when I was little, so doing it now is nostalgic,” Tucker said. “Last semester I was in Cherokee class and I speak a little Cherokee.”

Nico Jackson is a junior studying cell and molecular biology with a minor in Cherokee language. Busy with homework, he sat with the group as they worked on their crafts.

“I’m a tribal citizen so I try to be around the community when I can,” Jackson said. 

The Center for Tribal Studies offers support to students at NSU by helping them get connected to resources on or off campus, Proctor said. 

“Basically, just making sure they have what they need to be successful throughout their time at NSU. That also includes helping them prepare for what happens next – grad school, career – there’s a lot that goes into it,” Proctor said.

Some of the services include retention efforts focused on supplemental instruction and faculty and peer mentoring.

“We offer leadership development and career exploration. My previous role was the student services coordinator and with that I did focus on retention and recruitment efforts,” Proctor said. “Being aware of the different resources on campus – being sure  our students know of the different tutoring schedules and where they are offered.”

Cultural events are presented by the center throughout the year, offering opportunities to students as well as the public to learn about Native American culture.

“This semester we have the 51st Annual Symposium on the American Indian,” Proctor said. 

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