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wells-fig-5Members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, master beadworker Sally Wells and apprentice Madison Dean will work together to pass down the art of traditional beadwork, crafting headbands, collar necklaces, bracelets and other beaded jewelry worn with women’s ceremonial clothing. Wells states, “I was taught by my mother as a little girl and I have been doing this most of my life.” A group of Mississippi Choctaw relocated to Ripley in West Tennessee in the 1950s and have since established a strong ongoing Native American presence. Wells and Dean maintain ties both with the Ripley community and the Mississippi Choctaw, participating in annual pow wows and cultural gatherings. With over 36 years of volunteer work for the Native American Indian Association in Nashville, Wells coordinates the arts demonstration area for the NAIA annual pow wow. Wells says of Dean, “She is very much interested to follow our footsteps. I hope that she can teach in the Choctaw community when she has enough skill.” For her part, Dean explains, “The elders in my family have this skill. Beading is a very important aspect of my family and the Native American community. It is very important to keep our culture alive and this, I feel, is one way of doing it.” Wells frequently demonstrates and talks about Indian beadwork at schools, churches, powwows and gatherings, and plans to invite Dean with her when Dean is more proficient.

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