National Treasure tells about lifetime of sewing

BY TESINA JACKSON
Former Reporter
07/11/2013 09:26 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee National Treasure Lorene Drywater looks at some of her Cherokee tear dresses she has made over the years. Drywater used to sell traditional clothing that she made to supplement her income. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee National Treasure Lorene Drywater shows how to make a buffalo grass doll. Once Drywater find the grass, she digs it, washes it, makes the doll and then lays it out to dry. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A display of Cherokee National Treasure Lorene Drywater’s buffalo grass dolls and turtles. Drywater said she learned how to sew from watching her family when she was young. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
In 2011, Cherokee National Treasure Lorene Drywater decided to sell most of her items at an art show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa, Okla. This tear dresses placed third and she decided to keep it. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
STEELEY HOLLOW, Okla. – Even though Cherokee Nation citizen Lorene Drywater became a National Treasure in 1990 for Cherokee traditional clothing, sewing is something she has done all of her life.

“Just by watching my momma sew,” Drywater said. “She was an expert and then my sister and my cousin. My sister was the oldest and then our cousin was the third or fourth child in the family and she did a lot of sewing. I just learned a little bit of everything.”

When Drywater, 80, became a Cherokee National Treasure, she didn’t understand what it meant.

“At first I didn’t know what that was,” she said. “What does it mean? Finally I realized what it meant. That meant I was an old woman.”

Cherokee National Treasure designations are given annually at the principal chief’s state of the Nation address during the Cherokee National Holiday. The title is given to those who made lifelong commitments to the Cherokee culture through the preservation and revival of traditions that are at risk of being lost. Those recognized are presented with a handmade medallion crafted by Cherokee artisans.

Drywater said she started sewing as soon as she could hold on to a needle, and when she would visit family, she would look for needles in their yard and house to sew with.

“Every time we went to visit our kinfolks I would look around in their yard or where they swept the floor in their house and pick up the dirt, dust, whatever, and I would find a needle in it and I would come running back to momma and say ‘here, put this on your dress,’” she said. “That’s how I got my needles, but they were rusty. I was old enough to know what I was doing. I would get that rust off of that needle on a rock and I did a pretty good job of it. Of course, momma would take some.”

When she was 5, she started making buffalo grass dolls. Once Drywater found the grass she would dig it, take it home, wash it off, make the doll and then dry it.

“When I get through making these dolls, I line them up and let them get dry,” she said. “That way they will be ready whenever I’m ready for them, then I’ll start making dresses.”

Drywater said the buffalo grass dolls are her pride and joy.

“I love it whenever they turn out this way, the right color,” she said.

After Drywater got married, approximately 50 years ago, she began made traditional clothing again. She made clothing such as Cherokee tear dresses and ribbon shirts and sold them to supplement her income.

“When I started making them, everybody would come over to my house and would take me over to Muskogee or wherever they wanted to buy the material,” she said.

Drywater said there weren’t many places to buy material in Tahlequah until Wal-Mart opened.

“That’s when they turned me loose and told me to get whatever (material) I could and I did,” she said. “I had all of those materials stacked up in my bedroom for when they got ready to order a dress.”

Drywater started selling the Cherokee dresses at $40, but as the cost of items increased so did the prices.
She also made a Sequoyah-styled jacket for former Principal Chief Chad Smith.

“She’s not only one of the sweetest Cherokee woman you could ever find, she shows determination, creativity, she’s such a delight to be around,” Smith said. “Everybody would be blessed to have a mother, aunt or grandmother like her.”

Along with making traditional clothing and buffalo grass dolls, Drywater also makes small turtles out of felt material that she sells as pincushions.

“Our people always believed that turtles were a very important animal,” she said. “They had told us that ‘you take that home with you, if it’s dead, set it up somewhere along the edge of the roof of your house because a turtle doesn’t get blown away.’ And if you have a turtle sitting up there along the edge of your roof your house won’t get blown away.”

In 2011, Drywater decided to sell most of her items at an art show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Catoosa. One of her tear dresses placed third, so she decided to keep.

After spending a lifetime of making Cherokee traditional clothing, turtles and buffalo grass dolls, Drywater has decided to take a break from sewing.

“Now I don’t do that much sewing for other people because there are a lot of other people out there that learned how to sew,” she said.

And although she may not sew as much as she used to, she still likes to get out her items every once in a while to admire them.

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org


918-453-5000, ext. 6139

ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏍᏗᎵ ᏧᎨᏓᎵᏴᎢ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ.-Lorene Drywater ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎵ National Treasure ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ 1990 ᎢᏳᏰᎵᏗᏃ ᏕᎦᏰᏫᏒᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᎿᏬᏍᏗ , ᏱᎪᎯᏓᏭ ᎨᏒ ᏕᎦᏰᏫᏍᎬᎢ.

“ ᎡᏥ ᏥᎦᏙᏍᏛᎢ ᏕᎦᏰᏫᏒᏍᎬᎢ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Drywater. ᎠᏏᎾᏏ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᏩᏰᏫᏒᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏦᏍᏓᎸᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎣᏍᏓᏓᏛᏂ . ᎤᏓᏂᎳᎨᏃ ᎨᏒᎢ ᏦᏍᏓᏓᎸᎢ ᎠᎴᏃ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎣᎬᏂ ᏦᎢᏁᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏅᎩᏁᎢ ᏪᎯ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎥᎿᎢ ᎠᏂᏏᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᎠᎴᏍᏊ ᏍᏈᏍᏙᏒᎢ ᎦᏰᏫᏒᏍᎬᎢ. ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏗᏊ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ .”

Drywater Z,80,ᏣᎳᎩ National Treasure ᏥᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ , ᎥᏝ ᏱᎪᎵᎨᎢ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ . “ ᎢᎬᏱᎢᏃ ᎥᏝ ᏯᏆᏂᏖᎢ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎥᏍᎩᎾ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᎦᏙᎲᎤᏍᏗ ᎦᏛᎬ ? ᎦᏂᎵᏭ ᏩᏬᎵᏨᎢ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ ᏥᎦᏴᎵᎨᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎦᏛᎬ .”

ᏣᎳᎩ National Treasure ᏑᏕᏘᏴᏓᏳᏓᎳ ᏛᎨᏥᏃᏣᎵᏍᎪᎢ ᎦᎪ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗ ᎨᎲᎢ ᎾᎿᎢ ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᎯ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎡᏆ ᏧᏂᏍᏆᎸᎡᎰᎢ . ᎾᏍᎩ ᏛᎨᏥᏁᎸᎢ ᎨᎪᎵᏍᏙᏗ Ꮎ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎸᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏂᏧᎾᏛᏁᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᏍᎩᏯᎢ ᎾᏅᏛᏁᎲᎢ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏤᎲᏍᏗᎲᎢ ᏧᎾᏛᏁᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎨᏒᏕᎩ ᎤᏂᏲᎱᏎᏗᎢ ᏥᎩ . ᎾᏍᎩ ᎨᎪᎵᏨᎢ ᏕᎨᏥᏁᎰᎢ ᏧᎾᏯᏟᏗ ᎩᎶ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎪᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎤᏬᏢᏅᎢ .

Drywater Z ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ ᎤᏩᏰᏫᏒᏗᎢ ᎾᎯᏳ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎢ ᏴᎩ ᎦᏰᏫᏍᏗ ᎤᏩᏙᏗᎢ , ᎪᎱᏍᏗᏃ ᏧᏮᎿ ᏱᏚᏩᏛᎯᏙᎵ , ᏗᏴᎩ ᏗᎦᏰᏫᏍᏙᏗ ᏚᏲᎮᎢ ᎥᎿᎢ ᎣᏂ ᏚᏃᏢᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏙᏧᏁᏅᏒᎢ ᎤᏩᏰᏫᏍᏙᏗ .

“ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᏃ ᏲᎨᎾ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏦᎬᏂ ᏧᏁᏅᏒᎢ ᎣᏂ ᏥᎦᏖᏃᎵᏙᎲᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎥᎿ ᏚᎾᏃᏌᎯᏙᎸᎢ ᏯᏖᏃᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏧᏁᏅᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏴᎫᏖᎦ ᎦᏓ, ᎪᏍᏚ ,ᎠᎴ ᎢᏥᏴᏩᏘᏍᎬᎢ ᏴᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎡᏥ ᏤᏙᎲᎢ ᏫᏥᎷᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂ, ᏣᏌᏃᎲᎢ ᏅᏂᏓ ,” ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ. “ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏱᎬᏛᏁᏓ ᏕᏱᎲᎢ ᏴᎩ ᏗᎦᏰᏫᏍᏙᏗ , ᏧᏓᏗᎩᏗᏃ ᏕᎨᎲᎢ . ᎠᏆᏔᏂᏃ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᏆᏂᏛᎢ ᏂᎦᏛᏁᎲᎢ . ᏅᏯ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏂᎬᏂᏕᎲᎢ ᏧᏓᏗᎩᏛ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓᏃ ᏂᎦᏛᏁᎲᎢ . ᎡᏥᏃ ᏓᏱᎲᎢ ᎢᎦᏓ .” 5Ꮓ ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓᏃ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᎴᏅᎮᎢ ᏯᎾᏏ ᎦᏄᎸᎢ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏗᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᏕᎪᏢᏍᎬᎢ . ᎾᏊᏃ Drywater ᎤᏩᏛᎯ ᎦᏄᎸᎢ ᎠᏰᎩᏍᎬᎢ , ᎠᏫᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏧᏪᏅᏒᎢ , ᎢᎦᏅᎦᎵᏍᎬᎢ , ᏗᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᎢᎪᏢᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎧᏲᏗᏍᎬᎢ . “ ᏯᏆᏍᏆᏙᏅ ᏕᎪᏢᏍᎬᎢ ᏗᏁᏟᏙᏗ , ᏕᏥᏅᏅᏍᎪᎢ ᎤᏂᎧᏲᏗᎢ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ “ ᎾᏊᏃ ᏗᏛᏅᏍᏔᏅᏃᏅᎢ ᎾᎯᏳ ᏗᏋᏙᏗ ᏳᏟᎠᎶᏝ , ᏱᎦᎴᎾᏃ ᏗᏌᏃ ᏕᎪᎸᏍᎬᎢ .” Drywater Ꮓ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎢᎦᎢ ᏚᎦᎵᏍᏓᏗᎰᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᏁᏟᏙᏗ . ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏰᎸᏐᎢ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏱᏄᎾᎵᏍᏔᏂ , ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎤᎾᎵᏑᏫᏓ ᏱᏄᎾᎵᏍᏔᏂ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ .

ᏓᎦᏨᏍᏔᏂᏃ Drywater 50 ᎾᏕᏘᏱ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ , ᏏᏊ ᎤᎴᏅᎮᎢ ᏓᎬᎭᎴᏫᏍᎢ ᏗᎿᏬᎢ. ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᏌZᏍᏗ ᏓᎬᎭᎴᏫᏎᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏘᏟᏙᏗ ᏗᏇᏡᏍᏗ ᏗᎦᎬᏂ ᎠᎴ ᏙᎦᎾᏕᎬᎢ ᎠᎪᏗᎲᎢ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎪᏢᏍᎬᎢ .

“ ᎠᏆᎴᏅᎯᏃ ᏕᎪᏢᏍᎬᎢ , ᎤᎾᎴᏅᎲᎢ ᏴᏫ ᎠᏂᎷᎬᎢ ᏗᏇᏅᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎢᎬᏆᏘᎾᏫᏗᎲᎢ ᎫᏐᎢ ᏗᎦᎫᎲᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎭᏢᏭ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᎲᎢ ᎤᏂᏩᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎿᏬᎢ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ . Drywater ᎥᏝ ᎥᏍᎩᏱᎦᎢ ᏱᏗᎪᏢᏒᎢ ᎬᏩᎯᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᎿᏬᎢ ᏓᎵᏆ ᎦᏚᎲᎢ ᎩᎳ ᎤᏂᏍᏚᎢᏌ wal-Mart . “ ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏛᎩᏲᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎥᎬᎩᏃᎯᏎᎸᎢ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎲᏭ ᎠᎿᏬ ᏕᎯᏁᏍᎨᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎾᏆᏛᏁᎳ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ . “
ᎥᏍᎩᏃ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏗᎩᎬᎭᎴᏫᏍᏙᏗ ᎠᏋᏒᏍᏗᎢ ᎧᏅᏑᎸᎢ ᎥᎿᏃ ᎠᎩᏒᏛᎢ ᏳᎾᏛᏅᎢᏍᏔᏅ ᎤᎾᏛᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏌᏃᎢ ,” Drywater Ꮓ ᎤᎴᏅᎮᎢ ᏗᏌᏃ ᏕᎦᎾᏕᎬᎢ $40 ᎠᏕᎳᎭ , ᎠᏎᏅ ᎤᏓᎴᏅᎲᎢ ᎧᏂᏉᎬᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏚᎬᏩᎶᏛᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏁᏉᏨᎢ ᏚᎬᏩᎶᏛᎢ ᏗᏌᏃᎢ .

ᎠᎴᏃᏍᏊ ᏍᏏᏉᏲ ᎤᎿᏬᎥᎢ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎦᏌᎴᎾ ᎤᏩᏰᏫᏒᎢ ᎠᎪᏢᎾᏁᎸᎢ ᎤᎬᏫᏳᎯ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ Chad Smith . “ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᎨᏯ ᎠᏩᏛᎯᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏱᏚᏭᎪᏔᏂ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎢᏳᏛᏁᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᏛᏛᏁᎵ , ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎤᏬᏢᏅᏗᎢ , ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏩᏛᎯᏓᏍᏗᎢ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Smith . ᎾᏂᎥᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏳᏂᏰᎸᎭ ᎥᏍᎩ ᏳᏂᎧᎭ ᎤᏂᏥᎢ , ᎤᏂᏠᎩ , ᎤᏂᎵᏏ .” ᏗᎿᏬᏃ ᏕᎦᏰᏫᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏯᎾᏏ ᎦᏄᎸᎢ ᏗᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏴᎩ ᏗᎫᏍᏙᏗ ᏓᎦᏏ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏙᎪᏢᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏙᎦᎾᏕᎪᎢ .


“ ᎠᏯᏃ ᏗᎦᏤᎵᎢ ᏴᏫ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏓ ᏄᏅᏅᎢ ᏓᎦᏏ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ . “ ᎣᎩᏃᎯᏎᎯᏃ ᎨᏒᎢ ᏯᏫᏛᎯ ᏓᎦᏏ ᎤᏯᏍᎩ ᏯᏫᏛᎯ ᏦᏪᏅᏒᎢ , ᎦᏌᎾᎵ ᎠᏍᏛᎢ ᏯᏝᏂ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏓᎦᏏᏃ ᎥᏝ ᏳᏃᎸᏗᏍᎪᎢ .” ᎠᎴᏃ ᏓᎦᏏ ᎤᏯᏍᎩ ᏲᏝᎭ ᏦᏪᏅᏒᎢ ᎦᏌᎾᎵ ᎥᏝ ᏱᎦᏲᏃᎸᏗ ᏦᏪᏅᏒᎢ .”

2011, Drywater ᏚᏭᎪᏔᏁᎢ ᏭᎪᏛᎢ ᎤᎾᏗᏅᏗᎢ ᏂᎦᎥᎢ ᎤᏬᏢᏅᏅᎢ ᎾᎿᎢ Hard Rock Hotel & Casino ᎾᎿᎢ Catoosa .ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏌᏊ ᎠᏌᏃ ᎤᏬᏢᏅᎢ ᏦᎢᏁ ᎠᏓᏒᎲᏍᏗ ᎤᏓᏒᏅᎢ , ᎠᎴ ᎤᎮᏍᏗᏃ ᎤᏪᎵᏒᎢ .” ᏱᎪᎯᏓᏃ ᎨᏒ ᏗᎿᏬ ᏓᎬᎭᎴᏫᏍᎬᎢ ,ᏓᎦᏏ ᎠᎴ ᏯᎾᏏ ᎦᏄᎸᎯ ᏗᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᏕᎪᏢᏍᎬᎢ ,Drywater Ꮓ ᏕᎫᎪᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎤᏣᏑᏐᎸᏍᏙᏗᎢ.

“ ᎿᏊᏃ ᎥᏝ ᎥᏍᎩ ᏱᎦᎢ ᏱᏗᎦᏥᏰᏫᏎᎰᎢ ᏴᏫ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎲ ᎤᏂᎪᏙᏃ ᎾᏊ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᎠ ᎤᏂᏰᏫᏒᏗᎢ ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ .

ᎿᏊᏃ ᎥᏝ ᎥᏍᎩ ᏱᎦᎢ ᏱᎦᏰᏫᏍᎪᎢ , ᏏᏃ ᎤᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎤᎪᎵᏰᎥᎲᏍᏗᎢ ᎤᏬᏢᏅᏅᎢ .

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