Mary Rector Aitson grew up on her mother’s allotted Cherokee land in Scraper Hollow. The area was named for her great, great grandfather, Captain Archibald Scraper, who endured the Trail of Tears removal to what is now Oklahoma. It is estimated Scraper was about 18 when he and his family left the Cherokee Nation East on September 20, 1838, and arrived at Woodall (in what is now eastern Oklahoma) on March 24, 1839. Scraper went on to serve many roles in the Cherokee Nation, including Councilor and Senator, and as a delegate to Washington in the years immediately following the Civil War. He also served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation in 1877.

Aitson taught sixth grade for many years in Kansas and northwestern Oklahoma. Near the end of her 38-year teaching tenure she signed up for a basket weaving workshop at the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain. Her teacher was fellow Oklahoma Judicial Center artist Mavis Doering, see page 184. “Basket weaving is such an important part of the Cherokee tradition and I wanted something meaningful to do with my retirement.” She took a second workshop with Doering, as well as a class with Thelma Forest and received information from Eunice O’Field.

In the twenty years since taking the class, Aitson has completed many baskets. She has shared her love of the craft through numerous demonstrations in Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas. Most notably, she served as a demonstrating artist at the Santa Fe Indian Market, at the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa and on Artrain USA, sponsored by the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Aitson’s work has garnered top honors at the Red Earth Festival, the Santa Fe Indian Market and the Cherokee Art Market. Her pieces have been displayed at the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko, the Kirkpatrick Galleries in Oklahoma City, the Plains Indian and Pioneers Museum in Woodward, Oklahoma and the Red Earth Gallery in Oklahoma City. Her baskets are included in many private collections and the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This basket was donated to the Oklahoma Judicial Center collection by Dawna and Neil Chapman.