Native Village Youth and Education News

January 1, 2009 Issue 193 Volume 4

 Quilting Traditions

Lawton, Okla. – The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center is proud to announce the traveling exhibition, To Honor and Comfort:  Native Quilting Traditions.  The museum is hosting a reception to kick off the exhibit at 1:00 p.m. on December 8th.  The exhibition will be on display through January 30, 2009.

 Vanessa Tomahsah (right), and Collections Manager, Nekole Alligood, show one of many quilts featured in the new exhibit To Honor and Comfort:  Native American Quilting Traditions on display beginning December 8 at the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center.  The exhibit runs through January 30, 2009 and is open to the public.

To Honor and Comfort chronicles the history and diversity of Comanche Quilt Makers and pays tribute to these and other native artists who continue to create vibrant works of art, one stitch at a time.  Of the various North American Indian art forms that resulted from contact with Euro-Americans, quilt making is perhaps the least well known. Quilt making in Native communities was first learned through contact with primarily Euro-Americans, who possessed commercially manufactured cloth and steel needles. Traders, missionaries, government agents and settlers all played roles in introducing quilting fabrics and techniques. It was not surprising that Native peoples -- already skilled at similar craft forms such as fabricating tapa cloth and hide garments, and embroidering with porcupine quills and moose hair -- became adept at quilting and began to use quilts for purposes unique to their own cultures.

Quilts have been used in nearly every Native community for everyday purposes such as bed coverings, shelter coverings, infant’s swing cradles, weather insulation, and providing a soft place to sit on the ground. In some communities, quilts also play important roles in tribal ceremonies, the honoring of individuals, and other activities.

To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions includes twenty-nine quilts from all over the country, including examples by Cherokee, Sioux, Navajo, Ojibway and Native Hawaiian quilters. The museum will supplement the exhibit by showcasing a variety of quilts designed by artists within the Comanche Nation.  Other components of the exhibit include hands-on activities, a listening station where visitors can listen to tape-recorded stories from some of the quilters, videos of quilting activities in two Native communities, and a series of panels with photographs and explanatory text.

Developed by Michigan State University Museum, To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions is based on an exhibition originally created by Michigan State University Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with Atlatl, Inc., a national service organization for Native American arts (Phoenix, Ariz). A board of museum specialists working in both Native and non-Native museums across North America were instrumental in helping to design this version specifically created to tour to smaller museums, in particular, tribal museums and cultural centers.

The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center is an entity of the Comanche Nation.  The museum opened to the public in September 2007 with the mission of preserving and expanding the knowledge of local communities about Indian Arts and Culture with an emphasis on Comanche history and culture.

Bottom right: Hawaiian Flag Quilt, Harriet Soong and Sharon Balai

Please click on photos and graphics for source credits and details.
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