Traditional Crafting By The Mattaponi Tribe
Christine "Rippling Water" Custalow learned traditional crafting at a young age from her mother, Snow Flake, who first taught her beadwork. Over the years, she learned other art forms and shared her knowledge of pottery, beadwork, leatherwork, and regalia making with each of her children and grandchildren who all continue the traditions.
She proudly revived the art of her ancestors, specializing in pinch pot and coil methods of pottery making. She uses the same sizes, shapes, tempers, and firing of Late-Woodland pottery. This method has been used for two to three thousand years. Firing with wood gives pottery the desired black and white colors. The heat and smoke intensity determine the color pattern. Burnishing with a smooth stone or wood tool gives the pots a smooth and shiny finish. Today, the work of Rippling Water is on permanent display at the National Museum of the American Indian, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Historic Williamsburg, and many places in New Jersey and Maryland.
Rippling Water knows the importance of sharing cultural knowledge with the younger generations. She remembers when Virginia law refused to acknowledge the Indian race. Indians shed much of their culture and self-identity in an effort to survive. "Native Americans had to change their looks, their dress, their speech-- everything", she says. "I want to teach Indian children to be proud of themselves."Adding, "I don't want them to go through what I went through."
Raven Brightwater Custalow talks with Lisa Reagan about her nonprofit work and expansive vision for revitalizing Indigenous traditions in collaboration with Virginia’s eleven Native American tribes. Raven shares her inspiration for her work, growing up on one of the oldest reservation in the country, and being surrounded by family members who practiced and taught Indigenous traditions in crafts and drumming. Raven’s work today includes a documentary series of the eleven tribes elders, ongoing presentations and educational programs, and collaborations with many tribal members. She speaks frankly in the interview about her frustration with some of the tribes exclusion of women in their leadership, a colonial remnant necessary for communicating with the patriarchal settlers 400 years ago. Raven talks of her hope of returning to the matriarchal roots of her tribal heritage, and preparing her young children to carry their Indigenous traditions into the future.