Mildred Quaempts


2012-2013 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional skill/art/craft: Umatilla Dentalium Piecework
Religion: Seven Drum
Ethnic Background: Yakama/Cayuse
Apprentice: Modesta Minthorn

Contact Information

Phone: 541-310-1914
Email: mildredquaempts@ctuir.org

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it:

Piecework with denatallium shell which can elaborately decorate a dress, hair pieces, earrings, hats. I usually make hairpieces and wedding veils for brides. I enjoy making the veils because they each are not made the same. I do stay as traditional as possible when I make the veils. I don’t give the veils to the bride until one day before she marries or the same day.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

I first observed and helped using denalliums with my grandma, Annie Joe, better known as “Tquannanmy” when she was applying them on medallions or on dresses. I was 9 year old. I used to travel with her to Indian wedding trades and saw other young girls wearing hairpieces made from dentallium. I love looking at old photos of individuals using dentallium.

How, when, why did you come to Oregon:

I was born and raised on the Umatilla Indian Reservation and have lived in Oregon all my 59 years.

Mildred Quaempts Biography

Birthplace: Pendleton, OR
Birth Date: 4/10/53

My name is Mildred Anne Quaempts, my Indian name is istisyawak. I have been a resident of the state of Oregon all of my life. I have five children (one deceased) and six grandchildren. I am a Umatilla language speaker and have had the opportunity to learn other dialects at Warm Springs and Yakama. I help the tribal community during sacred ceremonies my hobby is sewing wedding headdresses or veils for women and dentallium hair ties. I have been using dentalliums since I was ten years old helping my grandmother to put cowrie and dentallium shells on dresses and dentallium medallians with tiny shells. I like to use real smoked hide or white hide, old beads and two inch shells.

Experience/Honors

My honor is making items using dentallium in memory of my grandma Annie Joe who not only taught me this special work but [also from whom] I learned to speak our Indian Language. It’s always rewarding to see my work and never had an opportunity to do presentations. I did mentor on woman who was making a veil for her daughter’s wedding.

I sing at Pendleton Round Up Saturday Arena and participated in the night show Happy Canyon singing [and] welcome dance.

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