Beads are easier to connect than family
January 16, 2020 9:19 AM   Subscribe

"You like dark colors. Every time I see you you’re wearin’ something dark. Not me. I like to wear red and yellow, so people know I’m around and don’t try talkin’ about me behind my back, aay? The thing is, you got to use some light colors, because you’re makin’ these for your mama, right, and she has dark hair, and you want ’em to stand out, and if they’re all dark colors, you can’t see the pattern." A short story about beading and relations. Beth Piatote is a Nez Perce writer and associate professor of Native American Studies at UC Berkeley. The Beadworkers at Counterpoint Press.
posted by stoneweaver (16 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was beautiful and evocative. Thanks for sharing!
posted by ChuraChura at 9:43 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Aw, man, that last sentence almost made me cry.
posted by praemunire at 9:58 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


Me, too praemunire! Oof, such a sweet build up talking all around for the real meat to be so subtle.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:24 AM on January 16


I loved this. So many layers to work through.

And this was really good and telling:

You got to watch out for some people, though. Most people aren’t like this; most people are real bighearted. But some people, when they buy your beadwork, they think it should last forever. Somebody’s car breaks down, he knows he got to take it to the shop, pay someone to get it goin’ again. But not with beadwork — not with something an Indian made. No, they bring it back 10 years later and they want you to fix it for free! They think because an Indian makes it, it’s got to last forever. Just think if the Indians did that with all the things the government made for us. Hey, you got to fix it for free!
posted by jj's.mama at 10:32 AM on January 16 [9 favorites]


Lovely. Thanks for the post.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:47 AM on January 16


I'm in awe of how much story Piatote can tell in so few words. Like, "You’re goin’ to look just like your mama did when she was young, except I think she was younger than you the last time she put on beadwork".
posted by lollusc at 11:58 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


That was a really elegant piece of writing. I'm not indigenous and my perspective is Canadian rather than American, and even I can see layers of dense history and detail and perspective and subtle wit packed into some of those sentences, so I assume that there are, in fact, many more layers in them that I don't see. And then that ending is such a perfect tiny punch in the heart.

I smirked at this:
What’s that? Oh, that’s all right. Just make it the same way on the other one and everyone will think you did it that way on purpose.
I knit and sometimes sew and it's a rare project where I don't think "as long as both sides match, will anyone notice?"
posted by jacquilynne at 12:00 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]


This is great writing , thank you for posting.

The head start school and the prison mentioned in the story are real places; the prison started holding pow wows just a few years ago.

Also, the illustration with the story is by Nani Chacon, an amazing Diné/Chicana artist. I don’t know if her work has shown up here before of not.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:22 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


I'm excited to read this later today. Thank you for posting!
posted by mcduff at 1:26 PM on January 16


A super small thing I kept thinking about while reading this: I have a really hard time picking up new skills and the way that the person teaching talks to me makes a huge difference in whether my anxiety gets the best of me when I can’t pick it up fast enough. The aunt’s encouraging patience was basically exactly what I need from a teacher.

I’m struggling to learn how to sew my from my partner’s mom, she has been begging me to learn for years because she knows I want to and because she wants a reason to spend more time with me. I just started and she’s not good at teaching (so I have a lot of anxiety about it) but this story did make me think about how much we’ve opened up to each other during the process, in between doing other things.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:31 PM on January 16 [5 favorites]


So many layers, indeed. Especially here:
She didn’t have to do things she didn’t want to, she didn’t even have to go to boarding school. I think she would have liked it. It wasn’t bad for me at that school. Those nuns were good to me; they doted on me. I was their pet. I think your mama missed out on something, not going to St. Andrew’s, because that’s when you get real close with other Indians.

Nothing is simple, is it? Not even beads, really.
posted by ewok_academy at 1:55 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


What a wonderful story and one that hits home. Early on in our art careers, Ms. Jabo and I made and sold beadwork here in Santa Fe. We are non-Native and called our business Paleface Designs so customers would know we were not Indian. The descriptions in this story of the beads and the stringing bring back good memories. But also…

But not with beadwork — not with something an Indian made. No, they bring it back 10 years later and they want you to fix it for free! They think because an Indian makes it, it’s got to last forever.

I can’t count the number of times that someone mailed us an earring that was stepped on, run through the wash or otherwise damaged and thought we should fix it for free. It’s the nature of a delicate art form. I think it’s why many jewelers get out of beadwork and go on to gold or silver.

I still admire the work of Native artists like Marcus Amerman, Teri Greeves and the local Pueblo artists who create amazing beadwork.
posted by jabo at 2:03 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]


This excerpt makes me want to read so much more.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:01 AM on January 17


This story is beautiful, and the illustration is gorgeous as well. Thank you for sharing it.
posted by daisyk at 7:29 AM on January 17


Thanks for this.
posted by PMdixon at 8:05 AM on January 17


Thank you for sharing this. I thought it was lovely.
posted by cp311 at 6:52 AM on February 8


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