Published on February 20, 2013 by Amy
TYLER, Texas – Award-winning Cherokee beadwork artist Martha Berry is one of eight women being honored by the “Women in Tyler” organization.
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The eight women who fit this year’s theme of “women who do amazing things” were recently invited to a reception at the McClendon House in Tyler to meet and greet with other influential women in the organization. This is the 14th year for the event.
“I am deeply honored to be selected to be a Women of Tyler 2013 honoree. It is important that the revival of Cherokee beadwork be recognized all over the USA, and the world. This recognition in Texas is a good beginning, we still have much work to do,” Berry said.
Berry, 64, of Tyler, taught herself the craft of beading and is credited with bringing back the art form for the Cherokee people. Her work is displayed in museums across the nation and she divides her time teaching others the craft and doing research.
She researches and creates beadwork that is inspired by the styles of Southeastern/Woodland Native Americans. Those Native nations include the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Yuchi and Alabama. Her beadwork often illustrates the stories and lore of her Cherokee ancestors.
Berry said Cherokee beadwork evolved from the trade network Cherokees established with white traders in the mid-1600s. They bought or traded for European glass seed beads, steel needles, silk thread and ribbon, and cloth made of wool, cotton and linen. By 1776, Cherokee bead workers had become skilled at their craft using the materials they got from white traders.
The Golden Age for Cherokee beadwork was from about 1800 to 1840. After 1840 Cherokee beadwork and the number of Cherokee bead workers dwindled due mostly to the forced removal of the Cherokees in 1838 and 1839.
“Following the removal, the Cherokees abandoned their beautiful beaded art. The relocation had left them sick, cold, hungry, exhausted and facing the rebuilding of their homes, farms and families,” Berry said in a 2007 interview. “There was no place in their lives for luxury items such as beautifully beaded moccasins, bandolier bags, sashes, belts and leggings.”
To honor women, “Women in Tyler” picks a theme and solicits candidates’ names from its members and the community. The ladies are invited as honored guests to a luncheon on March 21.