Choctaw-Apache Pine Straw Hat Sunday, Dec 23 2012 

Reprinted from

Marcy Williams learned to create crafts out of pine straw in the 1950s, when someone came to the Catholic Church in Zwolle and taught a group of women how to make pine straw baskets. Two of her sisters attended, made a basket, and quit working with straw. Marcy Williams made a few baskets of her own, but did not pursue the craft until in the early 1990s, when she began to work with pine straw again. Being basically self-taught, she used pine straw to create not only baskets, but dolls and hats as well.

Mrs. Williams found a doll with a face that “looked like Grandma Parrie” and used it to create a Dutch doll. Using either used or new dolls, Mrs. Williams fashioned dresses of varying lengths and styles. The dolls ranged in size from about eight inches to about three feet. The dresses could be plain or fancy, body-hugging or flared, short or long. Once made onto the doll, however, the dresses were not to be removed.

In addition to doll clothing, Mrs. Williams fashioned accessories for adults or children. She made a number of hats of varying sizes and styles for both women and men. She also covered shoes with pine straw and made a pair of pine straw shoes, and also made purses from pine straw.

Williams used pine straw to make a variety of other crafts. She covered various liquor bottles with pine straw to resemble Chianti bottles, made a three-layer cake from pine straw, and even made a pine straw table cover for her dining room table. Many of her items were purely decorative. She made roses and other flowers from pine straw and used them to decorate hats, shoes, and unusual pieces of drift wood. Mrs. Williams was working on a series of small animals, like turtles and road runners, out of pine straw before her death in 2001.


North Louisiana

Native American

Photo: Thomas A. Wintz, Jr.

Ruby Parrie’s Choctaw-Apache Hand Knotted Rosary Sunday, Dec 23 2012 

RubyRosaryReprinted from

Creole State Exhibit Artifacts at Louisaina Folklife

Ruby Parrie’s traditional skills developed from need and circumstance. One of 18 children, each of whom had chores and responsibilities, she was so small when she started cooking that she had to stand on an apple crate to reach the cabinet. She learned to quilt when she was just 10 years old. Her mother taught her to hand sew shirt tails and material pieces into plain, square quilt tops, stuffing the quilts with grass and using unraveled flour sacks for the thread. After she married Leo Parrie and began to rear their 11 children, her mother-in-law taught her to use a treadle sewing machine. Mrs. Parrie still uses the hanging quilt frame that originally belonged to her mother-in-law.

Ruby’s mother-in-law also taught her to sew without using pre-made patterns or directions. She makes most of her own clothes and makes uniforms and clothing for other people using patterns that she creates free-hand from newspapers. Mrs. Parrie also makes shirts, blouses, dresses, pants, ties, and other regalia for Native American powwow activities. She has a sense of Native American color and style and dressed her children in clothing she made to reflect their heritage.

Having been raised in an economically deprived community, Mrs. Parrie does not like to waste anything. One day in the yard, she picked up a string so that no small animal would tangle in it. She idly made knots in the string while talking to a friend. The string began to resemble a rosary, so Mrs. Parrie experimented with knots and string types and began to make rosaries. She sometimes purchases beads to decorate the rosaries or has local artisans carve crosses.
Mrs. Parrie’s foodways traditions combine elements from Native American, European, and Southern cultures. Cleppies, a corruption of the French word, crêpes, are a type of Indian fry bread. Mrs. Parrie also makes sweet potato pies that are half-moon shaped and either baked or fried, similar to the Spanish empanada. Red pepper soup includes chicken, garlic, roasted red peppers that she has grown and dried, corn meal, and water. This soup is generally served on special occasions.

Mrs. Parrie’s specialty food is tamales. Using her mother’s recipe, she processes dried corn into hominy to make masa for the wrapping.. The meat for the tamales may be pork roast, beef, hog’s head, chicken, or deer that is cooked with garlic, salt, and her home-grown peppers. With special preparation, the corn, meat, seasonings, and corn shucks are steamed to perfection. She usually makes tamales about once a week, producing about 25 dozen at a time.

North Louisiana

Native American

Wood, Twine
Photo: Thomas A. Wintz, Jr.

Jim Toby’s Choctaw-Apache Bird Carvings Sunday, Dec 23 2012 

JimTobyBirdHornspoonsToday I found an interesting write-up on Jim Toby’s bird carvings. Like many other Choctaw men, Jim Toby made horn spoons. These are very ornate.

“Jim Toby was born in 1910 and passed away in 1986. He was a member of the Choctaw-Apache community. During the Great Depression, Toby worked as a cowboy and specialized in bronco riding. He learned to hunt using a bow and arrow, and was often found in the woods watching birds and other animals. In his later years he began to create animal images from wood and bone. These two birds are carved from cow horn, from which he also made spoons…”

The Choctaw-Apache community is located in Sabine Parish, centered around the towns of Ebarb and Zwolle.

Some thoughts on 2011 NSU Folk Festival Friday, Dec 23 2011 

The 2011 NSU Folk Festival, “The Tribes Remain: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Cultures” 

The gathering was an excellent opportunity for American Indian artisans from throughout the state and to get together with tribal members from Oklahoma and throughout the Southeast. The newsletter in advance of the festival is located here. An unplanned problems at Prather Coliseum the event was moved to the Friedman Student Union an nearby locations.

I was honored and privileged to present alongside Marjorie Battise in a narrative session entitled “Food Ways: The Three Sisters: Corn, Beans, and Squash and other Gifts.”  Mrs. Battiste is a recognized Koasati (Coushatta) pine needle basket maker and food historian. She was inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Master Folk Artists in 1982.

The event included Caddo singing and dance. Chickasaw stomp dance, Mississippi Choctaw exhibition stickball game, crafts artists, and music. A schedule of the events is available here. Sonny Carter took some excellent pictures of the festival.