Choctaw Indigenous Potters to Visit USA Campus

Posted on September 26, 2023 by Lance Crawford
Lance Crawford

The University of South Alabama and Mobile-area communities will have the rare opportunity to witness the work of Indigenous potters from Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma the first week in October.  

The project, Braiding Knowledge in Mobile Bay: Collaborative Research on Indigenous Art Traditions, is led by South Associate Professor of Anthropology Dr. Erin Nelson and is funded by USA’s Social Justice Research Initiative.

"We're excited to work with potters from Choctaw Nation,” said Nelson. “As archaeologists we typically only get to see the end product of people’s work - bits of broken pottery that survive in the archaeological record. Witnessing the process of making pots, cooking a meal, really adds a personal dimension to our interpretations of the past.”  

Often times scientific evidence is valued over Indigenous knowledge, but Nelson is partnering with Choctaw Nation so that both their Indigenous traditions and her scientific methods carry equal weight when studying pottery found at archaeological sites. 

The Choctaw potters will source local pottery-making clays that their ancestors, who lived in this area, may have used. They will analyze pottery excavated from archaeological sites and create pottery using traditional knowledge.  

“I don’t think any of us have had the opportunity to use Mobile area clays before,” said Ian Thompson, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer and Senior Director of Choctaw Nation’s Historic Preservation Department. “Along with trying new clays from the Choctaw home area, we always relish the opportunity to see more ancestral pottery and to learn more nuances of technique."

Thompson will present “Out of the Earth: Revitalizing Choctaw Traditional Art” at South’s Alabama Marx Library Tuesday, October 3, at 6:00 p.m. He will also present this talk at the Eastern Shore Arts Center in Fairhope on Wednesday, October 4, at 6:00 p.m.

“Traditional pottery never completely died out at Choctaw Nation, but we’ve been working to revitalize it into something more vibrant in recent years,” said Thompson, “The roots of Choctaw pottery go back 100 generations and span several states.”

On Friday, October 6, from 10:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. the public is invited to attend two events at the Native Plants Garden at the University of South Alabama Archaeology Museum. Members of Choctaw Nation will recreate Choctaw dishes using traditional cooking methods. Then, at 7:00 p.m., they will demonstrate traditional open pit firing of clay vessels. 

The Social Justice Research Initiative, which supports faculty research efforts on social justice, is sponsored by the Office of Research and Economic Development; the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs; and the Division of Academic Affairs.

For more information on the event call the Archaeology Museum at (251) 460-6106, email,or visit their Facebook page.

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