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Choctaw Pottery

Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Louisiana,Native American | No Comments

Pipes made by Ahojeobe; small silver ornament
Plate 14: Pipes made by Ahojeobe; small silver ornament

The Choctaw have a strange superstitious belief in connection with the making of pottery. They say that no person except the one who is making the object should see it until after it has been removed from the fire. If another person chances to look on an object while it is being made or before it is burned, the Choctaw believe that it will crack as soon as placed near the fire.

Pottery bowls are no longer made, although they are remembered by the living Indians, who recall having seen bowls provided with three small feet; consequently bowls must have been in use only a short time ago

Pipes (ashun’kwa) are still made and used by the Choctaw. Two specimens fashioned by Ahojeobe (Emil John), plate 13, are shown in plate 14. These are made of a white clay that outcrops in certain places beneath the superstratum of yellow clay and sand along the banks of the bayous. There is no tempering of sand or pulverized shell, only the clay being used.

The clay is moistened and kneaded until the mass is uniformly damp throughout. The pipe is then modeled and allowed to dry. The incised decoration is added before the pipe is burned in a bed of hot ashes and glowing coals. When thoroughly burned it turns rather dark An color, whereupon it is removed from the fire and immediately immersed in a bowl of grease, which is absorbed by the clay and carbonized by the intense heat. This process causes the pottery to turn black and also adds a certain luster to the surface.

Herein probably is to be found the explanation of the origin of the rich black ware obtained from mounds and burials in Louisiana and Mississippi.

The use of white clay by the Choctaw is in harmony with a state­ment made by Lawson,1 concerning the Indians of Carolina, about the year 1690: “Where they find a vein of white clay, fit for their purpose, [they] make tobacco pipes.”

Footnotes

  1. The history of Carolina, London 1714; reprint, 339, Raleigh, 1860. 


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