National Spotlight Shines on Chickasaw Artisans

Randy Shackleford admires the work of Chickasaw artisans at the C.H. Nash Museum at the Chucalissa Archaeological Site in Memphis, Tennessee.

Randy Shackleford admires the work of Chickasaw artisans at the C.H. Nash Museum at the Chucalissa Archaeological Site in Memphis, Tennessee.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – Wayne Walker and Randy Shackleford are well known among artists and craftsman for their exquisite, detailed Native art work.

Now, Americans are getting a chance to fall in love with their creations embodying the heritage and traditions handed down for centuries by Chickasaw people.

Walker, an environmental technician with the Chickasaw Nation who resides in Ada, Oklahoma, and Shackleford, a math and science instructor at Paoli schools who calls Noble, Oklahoma home, have works of art on display in the C.H. Nash Museum at the Chucalissa Archaeological Site. It is an ancient mound location in the Chickasaw ancestral homelands operated through the University of Memphis.

Shackleford’s beaded hat band was manufactured on commission for display at Chucalissa.
Walker’s contributions were donated spontaneously with little encouragement they would ever be displayed for the general public to enjoy.

Walker contributed a youth bow and arrow. The archery ensemble is painted in tribal colors. Shackleford’s beaded hat band – replete with symbols sacred to Chickasaws – is on display along with other Chickasaw-made art. It is on loan to the museum by the Chickasaw Nation. A stomp dance belt, gorget, pucker-toed moccasins, and even a small game blow dart gun are on display at Chucalissa.

The museum serves as a gateway to understanding the science of archaeology and the interpretation of Native American and traditional cultures of the area. Its exhibits interpret the prehistory of the mid-south, contemporary Southeastern Native Americans, and the African-American cultural heritage of the Chucalissa site’s landscape.

Troupe takes a detour

It was 2008. The Chickasaw Dance Troupe had just crossed the Mississippi River bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee. The troupe decided to take a detour to the Chucalissa facility before heading to Tuscumbia, Alabama, for Oka Kapassa Festival, a special Native American gathering celebrating the culture and traditions of American Indians who once thrived in what is now northern Alabama.

Walker noticed a few Chickasaw displays but decided more were needed.

He stepped up. He would donate works, he announced to Chucalissa staff.

Walker always is equipped with his handsome, decorative – yet fully functional – weaponry. At the time, Walker worked at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma, demonstrating hide tanning, stomp dancing and other activities. His handcrafted weapons assisted him in fully demonstrating the importance of the ancient Chickasaw way of life during those teaching opportunities.

Neither of the men knew if, nor when, their work would be displayed.

Excursion reveals art display

Recently, Shackleford embarked upon a trip to Tennessee to visit a daughter. He stopped by the museum only to discover all the Chickasaw items fully displayed.

Walker is a traditional Chickasaw bow and weapons craftsman. He has bows and arrows in other museums and his work is prominently featured in shadowbox showcases at the Chickasaw Nation Department of Housing.

Shackleford is a prolific artist – paintings, flutes, crafts, bead work – and much more have been featured in many art venues, especially the annual Southeast Art Show and Market, a popular addition to the Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting and Festival in Tishomingo.

“It is always a good feeling to see items you’ve made displayed in a museum,” Shackleford said. “Being able to contribute and give people information about Chickasaws, our heritage and culture, is appealing and I enjoy doing it.”

Walker’s link to his Chickasaw heritage is foremost in his mind when talking about the honor of having bows displayed for everyone to enjoy.

“In 1995, when I knew I was bringing my family back to Ada, I was so excited,” Walker said. “All I could think about was going out to Kullihoma and walking and hunting in the woods. I did, too, every weekend for several months. One most important thing I desired was to see, feel and touch a bow. So I went to the old (headquarters) gym where I was told a bow was displayed. There wasn’t a bow and I felt so empty. I came home to touch and fee


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