Three Sistern of the Supreme Court

Artist: Jereldine Cross Redcorn

Growing up on her grandmother’s Caddo land allotment near Colony, Oklahoma, Jereldine (Jeri) Cross Redcorn never aspired to be an artist. She studied math at Wayland University in Plainview, Texas and earned a masters in educational administration from Penn State University. In fact, she was in her fifties and well settled into a teaching career when the inspiration to create pottery took hold of her. In June 1991, she was with other members of the Caddo Culture Club touring the Museum of the Red River in Idabel, Oklahoma. It was there that she saw for the first time pottery vessels made by her Caddo ancestors. The Caddo removal in 1859, and subsequent years of hardship meant the pottery tradition had been completely lost by the tribe; not a single person who knew the techniques remained.

Inspired by the vessels she saw, Redcorn became determined to revive this lost tradition. She started working with clay, read archeology books and visited many more museums. She studied the work of her ancestors, and talked with scores of archeologists. She requested special access to collections so she could gain insight into the crafting methods used hundreds of years ago. She took graduate studies in anthropology at the University of Colorado in Boulder to learn the cultural details behind the historical pieces.

Passion and dedication allowed Redcorn to master the art of Caddo pottery. Defining characteristics of Caddo pottery include an extremely thin highly polished body, extraordinary light weight and extravagantly intricate patterns of swirling and interlocking scrolls, tick marks, cross-hatched zones and bands.

In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama selected one of her pots, Intertwining Scrolls, to be displayed in the Oval Office of the White House. It occupies a place of honor, directly across from the President when he is seated at his desk. Redcorn was named Honored One at the Red Earth Art Show for her lifetime of contributions to Native American Art and she was named a Rockefeller Fellow by the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois. She has also been an artist in residence at the Art Institute of Chicago and served as a Smithsonian Community Scholar.

Her works are included in the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Texas State Natural History Museum, the Spiro Mounds Museum and the Oklahoma History Center. Redcorn is Caddo and Potawatomi and a relation of Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe on the Potawatomi side. Her tribal name is Zhi-BipQuah, meaning River Woman, an appropriate title for someone who collects the principal element of her craft from the riverbank.

Redcorn attended school with Justice Yvonne Kauger in Colony, Oklahoma and they played on the same basketball team. Later she regularly played tennis with the late Justice Alma Wilson. Her three pieces in the Judicial Center collection were specially commissioned for the building. They are dedicated to the “Sistern” of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, Justice Alma Wilson, Justice Yvonne Kauger and Justice Noma Gurich, a basketball player from Indiana. They are inspired by Spiro Engraved pieces and each pot has a dancing figure engraved on it, representing corn, beans and pumpkins. Caddo women carried these seeds with them when leaving the underground to go the light, the sun. These seeds allowed Spiro and other cities to become centers of commerce and society for the Caddo and other tribes. In Caddo, Corn Woman is Kish-sih Nutte, Bean Woman is Bah-hey Nutte and Pumpkin Woman is Coo-nooh-cah-ke-cus-neh Nutte.