Chickaway and Thompson: Choctaw Basketry

Eleanor Chickaway
Dorian Thompson

Eleanor Chickaway of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians has been weaving for 35 years. As a child, she watched her grandmothers make baskets, and later in life, her mother taught her to weave. She continues practicing this rare and endangered tradition to this day and demonstrates her craft at Choctaw festivals, fairs, and pow wows. Basket making has declined in the past several years as older basket makers have died, and there are no living basket makers in the Tennessee Choctaw community. She will teach apprentice, Dorian Thompson, a resident of Lauderdale County, Tennessee, the double weave style of Choctaw Basketry, including the harvesting of river cane and dying process.

Dorian Thompson is a leader in the Tennessee Choctaw Community and a descendant of renowned Choctaw basket maker, Minnie Bell. She is skilled in many traditional Choctaw arts. During dance performances at Choctaw festivals, Dorian serves as a presenter and interpreter of Choctaw culture for the audience. She explains, “The Choctaw Baskets have been a part of our culture and history for centuries. It is definitely something to preserve, especially if not many are practicing this art. There are a few in Mississippi, but no basket makers in Tennessee. The baskets are still very much needed in our pageants and festivals.”