*The piece below was written for Cherokee during my time at JB Media. I had only just begun writing for their blog after managing their social media accounts the previous year. This piece really represents more of the work I would like to do moving forward interviewing artists and place-makers and sharing their story alongside a history of what they do and it’s place in the world.
With the longest continuing pottery tradition of any tribe in the country, the Eastern Band of Cherokee holds over 3,000 years of history hand-crafting pottery from their land. In that time, many different styles, shapes, tools and techniques have emerged from artist to artist and region to region. Over the years, there have been numerous workshops, festivals and grants with local and regional nonprofit support for artists working in the craft.
“Didanisisgi” is the Cherokee word for mud dauber, a type of wasp that builds its nest from mud. According to Cherokee legend, the mud dauber taught the Cherokee how to make pottery. As the legend goes, a kindhearted girl was carrying a bark bucket to fill with water at the spring when she noticed a mud dauber struggling to get out, its wings wet and stuck in the mud. The little girl was scared of being stung but used a stick to help the little dauber get out safely.
As she continued on with her water, she tripped and out flew the bucket, which took her so long to make, and it smashed into many pieces on the ground. She heard the buzzing of the mud dauber she helped nearby, who then stopped to help her. He said, “Don’t feel so badly. I will teach you something useful. I will teach you to make pottery so you can teach your people.” He then went on to take pieces of clay from the bank until he had enough to make a small pot. He molded and shaped the clay and taught the girl how to make, stamp, and fire pottery so it could hold water. The girl rushed home to teach her people, and according to the legend, the Cherokee have been making pottery ever since.
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