Cherokee basket maker receives prestigious recognition; Mary Aitson named 2017 ‘Red Earth Honored One’

Posted by Eric Oesch on 05/23/2018

Cherokee basket maker Mary Aitson, of Woodward, OK, is named Red Earth Honored One for 2018, an award bestowed upon a Native master visual artist whose support of Indian art has been substantial throughout their life. Aitson will be recognized during the 32nd Red Earth Festival scheduled June 8-10, 2018 at the Cox Convention Center and Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City.

Aitson was named on her mother’s Cherokee allotted land in Adair County and grew up in Scraper Hollow, named in honor of her great, great Grandfather, Captain Archibald Scraper of the 2nd Regiment, Indian Home Guard. She graduated from Stilwell High School and earned both a BS and Master’s Degree from Northeastern Oklahoma State University in Tahlequah.

She retired from teaching sixth grade for 38 years in Kansas and northwestern Oklahoma, and became a traditional basket maker more than 20 years ago after studying with under previous Red Earth Honored One Mavis Doering. She also studied under Cherokee National Treasure, Thelma Forest, and worked with Cherokee basketry master Eunice O’Field.

Aitson works with cultural designs and native materials including honeysuckle and buck brush. Her choices of natural dyes include black walnut and blood root as well as blueberries, elderberries and pocketberries.

She embraces a full spectrum of basketry mediums and has produced pieced in palm using both commercial dyes as well as non-traditional natural dyes like red onion skins and peach leaves. Her baskets have been in the gallery at the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko, Kirkpatrick Galleries in Oklahoma City, Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum in Woodward, and the Red Earth Art Center in Oklahoma City.

Aitson has been an exhibitor at Santa Fe Indian Market for over 15 years and was chosen to demonstrate basket weaving at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa for a members-only opening of the show “Woven Worlds Exhibit” in 2011. She demonstrated basket weaving on the “Artrain USA” sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council during the train’s stop in Woodward, and has been a featured demonstrator at events, conferences and museums throughout the state.

The award-winning Red Earth Festival will draw thousands to the Cox Convention Center and Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City the weekend of June 8-10. Artists from throughout the nation will be featured in a juried art market that coincides with a spectacular powwow, outdoor parade, hand game tournament, and Ask the Expert sessions for those interested in learning more about their Native art pieces.

The Oklahoma Travel Industry Association has awarded its Redbud Award for Oklahoma’s Outstanding Event to previous Red Earth Festivals, and USA TODAY has named the Red Earth Festival one of 10 Great Places to Celebrate American Indian Culture. The American Bus Association has listed the Red Earth Festival a Top 100 Event in North America placing it alongside such greats as the Indianapolis 500, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Calgary Stampede as one of the very best events.

Tickets for the three-day festival can be purchased in advance online by visiting www.RedEarth.org. All children 18 and under are admitted free of charge with a paid adult. General admission day tickets are $11 and include admission to the Red Earth Art Market, general admission seating to the Red Earth PowWow, and access to all events and performances scheduled throughout the weekend. A $16 day ticket includes all of the above and includes reserved seating for the PowWow Saturday or Sunday.

Red Earth, Inc. is an Allied Arts member agency and is funded in part by the Chickasaw Nation, Choctaw Nation, Oklahoma Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau .. Red Earth, Inc. is a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to promote the rich traditions of American Indian arts and cultures through education, a premier festival, a museum and fine art markets.

Visit www.RedEarth.org or call (405) 427-5228 for additional information including ticket and lodging discounts.

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