Neil, the Head of Museums travelled to Oklahoma this week to install Southeastern beadworks from our collection in the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. The exhibition entitled ‘1700s Beadwork of Southeastern Tribes’ opened on Saturday 23 May, as part of the Artesian Art Festival organised by the Chickasaw Nation, which included two public lectures by Neil who also helped to curate the exhibition.
It features a collection of woven and beaded items that were collected by Aberdeen graduate William Ogilvie between 1765 and 1775. Ogilvie was Secretary to John Stuart, Indian Affairs Commissioner for the southern British colonies of North America, and was present at the Treaty of Augusta in 1773 which saw the Cherokee ceding two million acres to the Colony of Georgia. He later became a trader in Florida and, despite losing much property during the American Revolution, was able to retire to Newtonmill near Edzell from where he donated the beadwork to the museum in Marischal College in about 1809.
This is the first time that some of these items have returned to America in 250 years, though some were loaned to the Cherokee National Museum for an exhibition in 2008.
This collection is of great importance to the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek peoples as so little material survives from the period before their removal from traditional lands to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in the 1830s, also known as the ‘Trail of Tears’. As well as being of historic interest, bead-workers and weavers are now being inspired by the high quality work of their ancestors and the techniques, materials and patterns as they create present-day art works.
Further research, analysis and detailed photography will lead to an on-line resource being created in collaboration with the University Museums.