Osage artist and fashion designer Wendy Ponca created a unique link to her people’s heritage with her collection of “Wedding Clothes of the Earth and Sky People.”
Ponca unveiled her exhibit June 26 at the Osage Tribal Museum.
“My clothing designs represent the type of garments that might have been worn by Osage people pre-European contact as well as clothing worn by people who ‘floated down from the stars’ to intermarry with the earth people,” said Ponca.
Ponca’s designs are her interpretation of the Osage Creation story and depict three Osage divisions – the Tzhu, Hangka and Whazhazhe. During the showing, three Osage couples modeled clothing representative of the Earth and Sky people. Models for the Earth fashions were Christopher Cote of Pawhuska, Zachary Johnson and Ashley Webb of Grayhorse. Sky fashions were modeled by Madeline Pennington, Alexandra Ponca Stock, and David Robert Ashmore of Grayhorse.
“These models all dance traditionally and range in ages from 14-29,” said Ponca.
Osage silversmith artist Terry Wann designed and created the distinctive copper and silver jewelry. Ponca used all-natural materials for her collection which included shells, eagle and hawk feathers, bone, bear claws, elk, deer, otter, fox and buffalo hides. Several were embellished with copper and silver. Her Earth collection includes an otter-hide hat with her father’s vintage quill-worked feather along with a Cahokia Mound ceremonial pot crafted by her late father. Ponca’s Sky designs incorporated molar, crystals, silver, white fox fur, hematite, and fresh-water shells.
Wendy Ponca has devoted her life to creating beautiful Osage clothing, ribbon work, and finger weaving – all of which convey the story of her heritage. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAHA) of Santa Fe, NM, the Kansas City, MO, Art Institute, and South Western College of Santa Fe. Ponca has the distinction of serving as Director of Development at the National Indian Monument Institute in Tulsa, as an art instructor at the University of Las Vega, NV, and a professor of Fiber Arts & Design at the IAHA. She was commissioned by Pendleton Woolen Mills in 1995 to create four special blanket designs for Pendleton’s “Hope Series.” Profits from this limited edition series were contributed to the American Indian Scholarship Fund to aid 29 American Indian colleges.
Ponca’s wedding exhibit will be on display at the Osage Tribal Museum through August 7. A unique feature of this exhibit is that the clothing, jewelry and custom photographs will be available for purchase. Ponca will also accept custom orders. For more information, call the Osage Tribal Museum at 918-287-5441 or Wendy Ponca at 918-407-5795.
The Cahokia Mounds are located about 15 minutes northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. It is the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the Americas north of Mexico. The inhabits were accomplished builders who erected a wide variety of structures from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that have maintained their grandeur for centuries. The Cahokia (not to be confused with the unnamed prehistoric inhabitants of the Cahokia Mounds) were an Algonquian speaking Native American tribe and member of the Illinois Confederation. They were originally located in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, and Arkansas, later removed to Kansas, and finally to present-day Oklahoma.
“Geologists have connected the Osage Tribe to the Cahokia Mounds through songs and chants used when a Chief was initiated,” said Ponca. “The Osages held Cahokia leadership positions as priests.”
The site is open to the public and administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, and is supported by the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society. For more information, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahokia (tribe)