Oregon Folklife Network
 

Roberta Kirk

2014-2015 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional skill/art/craft: Plateau beadwork
Ethnic Background: Wasco, Warm Springs and Dine’
Apprentice: Annie Kirk

Contact Information

Phone: 541-553-3465, 541-553-2982
E-mail: hklumiat@hotmail.com

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

I'll be teaching how to make dentalium shell hairties, necklaces or breastplates. Dentalium shells used to be used as money and it signified wealth and was something that was always sought after. Its sewn on to dresses and also used as wedding veils, hair ties and necklaces or breastplates.

I teach how to make a traditional Plateau Shell Dress. This dress will include floral applique on the shoulder or yoke, front and back, and will also have three rows of dentallium shells in the front and back. This dress is for ceremonies to be worn at the longhouse for feasts or for other ceremonies. During funerals for other food gathers or highly regarded persons, we wear our shell dresses or buckskin dresses in their honor. The shell dress has been used by our people for many many years and it’s typical to adorn it with beads and shells or elk teeth.

The Plateau Tribes lived along the tributaries of the Columbia River and usually spoke a dialect of Ichishkiin or Sahaptin language. We all use longhouses and celebrate First Food Ceremonies such as Salmon Feast, Root Feast and Huckleberry Feast. When presenting ourselves to Creator, we are always supposed to present ourselves in our finest manner and this is where the shell dress has its place.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

I saw my older sister doing beadwork when I was a child and she showed me how to work on projects.

I am self-taught on using the dentalium shells. I made my first dentalium breastplate about 40 years ago and have been working with the shells ever since.

Sewing, self-taught. I know how to sew and can look at something and figure out how to make it or make a pattern. When I was a young girl, my family’s home burnt down and many priceless treasures burnt up as well such as huckleberry baskets, beaded bags, beaded dresses, and photographs. As I was growing up, I always saw the girls my age wearing beautiful dresses that were passed down from their grandparents and I didn’t have any. My mother was an orphan and raised by her grandmother who was a medicine woman. Everything that was gifted to my mother was burnt in the home fire and so I knew if I wanted anything then I better learn how to make it myself. Since then, I’ve been making ribbon shirts, shell dresses, and beaded buckskin dresses. Accessories such as moccasins, beaded bags, beaded eagle fans, barrettes, and buckskin burial outfits for men, women and children.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

Beadwork and regalia making is very important to our people. We always show ourselves to Creator in our finest wear and so we make beautiful clothing for our children and families.

Artist Biography

Birthplace: Redmond, OR
Birth Date:11/18/57

My Indian name is H’Klumaiyat and I am Wasco, Warm Springs on my mother’s side and Dine’ on my father’s side. I am enrolled and have been raised with my mother’s tribe, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon. I am a traditional food gatherer for the Simnasho Longhouse and this includes digging for the Root Feast and picking huckleberries for the Huckleberry Feast.

I studied museology and three-dimensional arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Sante Fe, NM and completed in 1985.

I have been working in museum related areas since then and also still doing beadwork and longhouse fashion design as my artistic expression. I have worked as Registrar for our museum at Warm Springs and then worked at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) as a Museum Specialist where I oversaw the Traditional Care component of NMAI’s collection. I now work in our tribe’s Cultural Resources Department as the NAGPRA Coordinator and Review and Compliance Coordinator.

I have practiced traditional arts and sewing since I was a young girl. I know how to make men’s and women’s outfits for powwow, longhouse, traditional social dancing and burial.

When I make anything, I try to make it the best I can. I have beaded two dresses which are fully beaded and both have accessories. I have two granddaughters which these dresses will be passed down to.

Experience/Honors

2000—Honorable Mention, The Museum at Warm Springs, Beaded Dress “Auuna Waashaa—Let's Go Dance” Dress

2001—Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Master artist, Beaded Plateau outfits

2014—Honorable Mention, The Museum at Warm Springs, Beaded Ceremonial Hat “In My Granddaughter's Honor”

2014—Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program Master Artist, Wasco Floral Dress

2016—University of Oregon Museum exhibit, Wasco Floral Dress with Dentaliums