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NEW YORK — Courtney Parchcorn-John was among an elite group of First American artists recently selected to share the art and culture of beadwork during the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) NY Women’s History Month: “Beauty of Beadwork” exhibition.

Parchcorn-John, Chickasaw; along with Tessa Robledo, Comanche/Kiowa; Katrina Mitten, Miami Tribe of Oklahoma; and Julie Ayers, Tlingit and Nisga’a, were invited by the Smithsonian Institution to share their unique techniques and explain the variety of beads and materials used to create beautiful accessories and decor.

The event was conducted at the NMAI’s New York location, in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at 1 Bowling Green in lower Manhattan, March 16-17.

Parchcorn-John’s work highlights her love of her tribal culture. At a young age, her father taught her the ancient art of beadwork with a goal of teaching his daughter patience and mental discipline.

Among her artwork displayed at the New York event, Parchcorn-John included “For All The Grandfathers,” a beaded cane she created at the age of 17. It earned “Best of Show” in the Youth Arts Competition at Red Earth Festival, Oklahoma City. The cane was intended to be given to her maternal grandfather, Franklin D. “R. L.” Allen, a full-blood Chickasaw.

Unfortunately, Allen died May 19, 2007, just as Parchcorn-John was working on the eagle section of the cane. The three eagles pay homage to her grandfather, a Korean War veteran.

Parchcorn-John also displayed a pair of hand-beaded turquoise boots created for Chickasaw Triana Browne for the Miss America “Show Us Your Shoes Parade” September 2016. Featuring both the Great Seal of the Chickasaw Nation and the Oklahoma State Seal, the art was created by Parchcorn-John and her father, Buddy. To complete this project, the duo worked for three weeks, utilizing a total of 40,666 glass beads.

Throughout the decades, Parchcorn-John has regarded beadwork as an ancient art with an “ancient respect” of her ancestors – a tie that will never be broken.

In recent years, she had paused her artwork projects and the invitation to the NMAI event was a surprise and surreal.

“Cady Gierke from NMAI saw the videos of my beadwork on Chickasaw.tv,” Parchcorn-John said. “It still surprised me that she (invited) me. I just feel like I’ve been out of the art world for a while to even have been thought about after all these years.”

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“Beauty of Beadwork” offered Parchcorn-John a new perspective about her beadwork and reinvigorated her to resume her art.

“The scene and meeting all the people and other women who bead definitely made me feel blessed to be there. It was a breath of fresh air I needed to pull me back into my beadwork. Being there was a whole different scene than being at home. I don’t think I’ve ever been around so many people in my life,” she said.

Parchcorn-John, who serves as a public school programs specialist for the Chickasaw Nation, said the event reminded her of her former position, a cultural demonstrator at the Chickasaw Cultural Center, Sulphur, Oklahoma.

“The event itself was like being back at the cultural center; interacting with everyone talking about beadwork, the techniques I use, as well as talking about Chickasaw people and where we came from,” she said.

Representing the Chickasaw people in the Big Apple was an honor, Parchcorn-John said.

“I’m always thankful for the support the Chickasaw Nation gives me, so I always do my best to represent and let people know who we are, and we are still here as a people.”

The event was conducted in conjunction with Women’s History Month.

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