Beading, Gary Greene, Nez Perce Tribe

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Gary Greene: ‘íin wées weyetin’ituu te’qenín’, it go Gary Greene. My Indian name is Wrapped Around the Sun. I got that from my dad and I live here in Lapwai and I'm Nimiipuu. My main concern is making things for the powwow circuit. It's out of necessity that we learn these things, because if we don't learn them, then we have to have somebody make them. And unfortunately, when I was growing up, I wasn't given the opportunity to participate in our dancing. And I was introduced by Mr. Leroy Seth to the floor early 70s, and I enjoyed that, but also had the yearning to partake by myself, and there's a ceremony that goes along with it. But also, you have to have decoration. You got to have your regalia, and if you don't have it, you either have somebody make it or you make it yourself.

Gary Greene: The Nez Perce National Historical Park Service. They'll allow you to handle some of the old things and they'll even give you pictures of those things. And you can understand how those things are manufactured. You can understand what materials they use, but also there's a color scheme that you have to understand. And a lot of our color scheme comes from our roots and our hillside that once in the spring time, all those colors, they come alive. They show you all the beautiful colors, the greens, the light green, the browns, the reds, the yellows, everything comes alive and you could see those things, and there's a connection. Would you take a look at hillside? And they connect to the sky and that light blue color is beautiful. And I think that may be attributed our people giving thanks for a new year and a new life and having a clear sky above us. Although there is beauty in old stuff, but the new stuff, contemporary stuff has its beauty in itself too. You have to learn the various threads and weather wax and what you're going to bead on.

Gary Greene: So, we have to go through each step on how to better your things and make them everlasting because if you buy cheap things, if you use cheap material, it'll eventually tear apart, and many times they'll come apart in the worst time. If you continuously reach to do some research in some of the old bead work, you see these combinations. And when they teach art today, while they talk about complementary colors, you could see that same example in our old things, in some of the design work that they utilized. You could see a progression of what was really old and some of the old things that they used with the lane work that they utilized and the color schemes that they utilized. And then they got into the floral work.

Gary Greene: Materials are a variety. You just don't utilize one because when I'm working on things on my regalia, I'm talking about a man's regalia, we like to utilize leather, but we also utilize felt. And sometimes it's just canvas or 10 canvas, like they started long time ago. And so, it depends on what you have on hand, too. Sometimes you want to run down the store and buy something, or you want to do it the old way, which is up to you, because self-choice. I like to use brain tan leather because the aroma is really good, it's medicinal and it works real good too. So, I got a deer hide, brain tan, I got elk hide, I got moose hide. I have those things, and I rarely buy anymore. Only when I'm going to do a small thing, a item, like a medallion or something small, then I'll go to my felt and get a image and pack it down and start beading.

Gary Greene: One of the things that a dancer really needs is a pair of moccasins and I think these are my latest ones. It's a lot of trial and error because one pattern doesn't fit all. So, you have to understand that it's good to make an example of your work and see if it fits and make one out of felt or something and see how that works. But also in the functionality, well, you make it, then you realize, well, I put an insert in, then sometimes it doesn't work. So, then you have to remember the next time you make it, now I'm going to have to put insert in and then put my foot down, then make a pattern out of that. So, you learn by making mistakes which is good. But also, these things that you want to utilize in the design work, I usually go down to the Park Service and take a look at what they have down there and get pumped up and get excited about making something. And that's my M.O. is to go down there.

Gary Greene: This is a little girl. If you can see, like I said, it's an illusion and people will see it and they'll, they'll compliment me about that. It feels good that they'll see it from afar and you can realize what it is, but you get close, you really can't see it. This one's a little bit more intricate with the smaller beads and whatnot, but I got into the realistic part of bead work a while back only because I got tired of doing the lane work. And this is the kind of lane work that I'm talking about. This is nice and everything, but it gets tiresome after a while. So, you want to move on to something more exciting. So, this is one of the things that I've done.

Gary Greene: And there's a few other examples that people are wearing nowadays. And of course, I have done Chief Joseph, Chief Joseph Head. And this one here, it's little bit nicer piece of work here too, but in talking about, well, what do you use it on? It depends on what you need. We know that our women were making things that the family needed, from footwear to leggings to tóhon to you know sámx, to shirt, even to the coats to keep warm throughout the year. But also, well how do you get that leather? Well, the man has to go and bring it back. Now, the women, they go out and harvest an animal and take it to the whole process of gutting it out, skinning it and making the brain-tanned hide out of it.

Gary Greene: A lot of our old stuff was either taken or plundered somehow, and even taken from graves. And sometimes, we lose that spirit, that along with it then we lose the possession, the ownership of it, and we can't get it back because some people, "Well, it's mine now." And we don't know the history, how they got it, but the collection itself, it kind of reminds me of how redemption of something taken away, no matter how it was taken, and finally is coming home, not because, yeah it's coming home.

Gary Greene: How can we preserve not only the item, but also the knowledge? We need to do videos and what not, how our old people made those things, because those people behind us will also have maybe a library of things on how to make things rather than going to one person, because that person may be gone. I appreciate the return of the law that brings back some of our old stuff. Even the bones that were in universities and private ownership, they need to be returned because they still have the spirit. And although we didn't grow up with those things, we still love them. We're one of them.

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10 minutes

Gary Greene discusses beading techniques.

Last updated: June 22, 2021