Cherokee National Treasure Knokovtee Scott dies

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/31/2019 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee National Treasure Knokovtee Scott creates a piece of art from purple mussel shells during a class at the Cherokee Arts Center in Tahlequah. The Cherokee/Muscogee Creek artist died on Dec. 21 at age 68. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee/Muscogee Creek artist Knokovtee Scott assists Cherokee Nation citizen Lisa Rutherford with filing a mussel shell piece during a 2012 shell art class at the Cherokee Arts Center in Tahlequah. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
In this 2012 photo, shell art made by Cherokee/Muscogee Creek artist Knokovtee Scott includes decorative gorgets and jewelry. To the left are the purple mussel shells used by Scott to make his art. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
LOCUST GROVE – Cherokee National Treasure Knokovtee Scott died on Dec. 21 at age 68 at his home in Rose.

Scott was born Feb. 10, 1951, to Effie (Downing) and the Rev. Kenneth S. Scott.

He graduated from Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa with the class of 1969. In 1970, he attended the University of Washington and was a part of its Indian studied program where he studied Indian carving.

He spent a semester studying sculpture at the University of Tulsa before going to the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he was a studio artist. He completed his bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah with a major in fine art education. He completed his education there with a master’s degree in education in curriculum and instruction.

Scott became a teacher in numerous states, including Oklahoma. His talent centered around his ability to draw and make purple muscle shell gorgets, and his ability won him numerous awards and honors.

Scott credited his parents for his love of art as he began taking art lessons at age 4. And according to his obituary, he had many art pieces in permanent collections at the Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, the Southern Plains Museum and Smithsonian Institute.

For his skill in carving, Scott was designated a Cherokee National Treasure in 1990.

According to a 2017 Cherokee Phoenix story, the Cherokee/Muscogee Creek artist worked hard to ensure artistry using purple mussel shells was not lost again.

Mussel shells are found in rivers and lakes in northeastern Oklahoma, but purple mussels are rare and cherished for their purple hue, which can show the colors of a rainbow in sunlight.

He began working with shells as art in 1975 after returning home from the IAIA. He said he knew the colors in the shell would make great jewelry and that the shell was thick enough to work with.

“It was almost like opal,” he said in the story. “I started working on it and taught myself how to cut it without wasting any part of it. I wanted to get as much out of the shell as I could.”

He said not many Cherokee people know they have access to a material that rivals the turquoise stone, which is popular in the Indian art world.

Scott gathered his shells at lakes Hudson and Tenkiller and at the Fort Gibson reservoir by walking in shallow water and feeling with his feet for the curved shells embedded upright in mud or sand.

Scott, once called a revivalist for shell art, said the art needs to be revived. However, he knew time is not on his side because of health problems. He was a diabetic and had issues with his heart, the story stated.

“I’m in a race against time to make sure this is not lost again,” Scott said in the 2017 story.

Late in life, he taught shell art class in Tahlequah at the Cherokee Arts Center. His students learned about mussel shells, how to find and cut them, as well as how to inscribe, carve and buff them into jewelry. He encouraged his students to study the designs used by ancient Mississippian shell workers so that those designs were not lost.

He is survived by his longtime companion Vickie Hamilton of the home; sisters Katie Scott, of Tulsa, and Nancy Scott Fields, of Sapulpa; brother Danny Scott and wife Linda, of Placentia, California; numerous nieces, nephews, other relatives and a host of friends. He was preceded in death by his parents.

Funeral services were held Dec. 27 at the Locust Grove Funeral Home Chapel. Interment followed at Hogan Cemetery west of Locust Grove.

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