Cherokee National Treasure Knokovtee Scott dies

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

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. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Dec. 27 at the Locust Grove Funeral Home Chapel. The chapel is at 608 E. Joe Koelsch Drive. Interment will follow at Hogan Cemetery west of Locust Grove.

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 Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 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.

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.