Oral history interview with Yonavea Hawkins

OOHRP, Oklahoma State University
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Little Thunder: My name is Julie Pearson-Little Thunder. Today is Tuesday, April 7, 2015. I'm interviewing Yonavea Hawkins for the Oklahoma Native Artist project sponsored by the Oklahoma Oral History Research Program at Oklahoma State University. We are in Yonavea's home in Choctaw, Oklahoma outside of Oklahoma City. Yonavea, you graduated from Oklahoma City University, and your art is expressed in many areas, in painting, beading, weaving. While you excel at Caddo and Delaware clothing you get orders for dance clothes from people all over Oklahoma. Thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

Hawkins: Thank you.

Little Thunder: Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Hawkins: I was born in San Antonio, Texas. My dad was in the Air Force, so I was a military brat until my folks separated at the age of ten. I spent most of my time kind of going back and forth to different grade schools and in different states and then finally settled back here in Oklahoma with my mother and my sister.


Little Thunder: You did a little bit of traveling?

Hawkins: Yes. Yes. I actually lived in Montana, we lived in Arkansas, and two different trips back to Texas and stuff, too. Also, I don't remember, I was pretty little, we lived in the Canal Zone, also.

Little Thunder: Oh, in Panama?

Hawkins: Uh-huh. My middle sister was actually born near Panama City.

Little Thunder: What a great upbringing.

Hawkins: So--

Little Thunder: What did your mom then do for a living?

Hawkins: She was a homemaker. She, at that time, the wife stayed at home. She didn't work at all during my growing up. She was a homemaker.

Little Thunder: How about your grandparents? Were you able to have a relationship with them on either side?

Hawkins: When we moved back to Oklahoma, I had a chance to spend some time with my grandfather. My grandparents separated, too, so he remarried. He remarried a 2:00Kickapoo woman. Lived outside of Harrah. There was quite a few summers that we could just go stay with them and just run around barefoot and climb trees. Just have a good time, just being young.

You know, my grandpa didn't have [much], he just had a little bitty home. No indoor plumbing, no running water, so I had experiences of pumping water to bring it into the house and stuff. It was just kind of interesting, looking back on that. It was a very interesting but a good experience.

I remember in the summertimes we would sleep outside because it was warm. He would tell stories, Caddo stories and stuff. Being little, you know, you don't remember them as well as I would have liked to. I do remember the experience of sitting outside, hearing the bugs and everything else going on in the nighttime. 3:00Just hearing him tell those stories and stuff.

Little Thunder: Were you around the language then a little bit too when you were around him?

Hawkins: Just a tiny bit. He'd say a few words and stuff. The same thing with my mother. She would always say a few things, too.

Little Thunder: You were mentioning that being around that side of the family, you did hear a little bit of the language?

Hawkins: A little bit. Not you know, as much as I would have liked to. As an adult now, knowing that I didn't, just don't always think about asking questions when you're young. Now as an adult, I finally started doing some language classes here in Oklahoma City, so I've started participating in those. It's harder to learn as an adult.

Little Thunder: That's with the Caddo Cultural Club?

Hawkins: With the--we call it the Caddo Language Class, and some of the members of the Metro Caddo Cultural Club are involved with it. We get together, we've been doing it for about two years now and have been studying weekly. 4:00Fortunately, you know, the first two years we didn't think of calling it a beginner class, but this year, the third year, we developed a beginner class and an intermediate class. We don't want to call it advanced. We don't feel like we are that proficient yet.

Little Thunder: It's great that you now have two different--

Hawkins: Yeah, enough to get--

Little Thunder: --levels.

Hawkins: --get those kids interested and develop more programs. I shouldn't have said programs, but lessons. Then, the Caddo kids that are involved, they've been doing the Caddo Language Fair. They've been doing very well too. That makes us very proud. We are kind of behind doing some of those things and stuff. One, we are not a very large nation. Not as many Native speakers, of course. I think that's true with any tribe. They don't have as many Native speakers as they really would like to and stuff. They've--it's a lot of programs and stuff that I think that the Caddos could take a look at and try to take advantage and try to 5:00develop their own programs too.

Little Thunder: You have a neat story about your name, your first name.

Hawkins: Yes, yes. Yonavea was actually, is actually, a Comanche name. My grandmother wanted to name me that. She went to the family (she was good friends with a Comanche woman), and that was her name. She asked permission to name me that name. That's why I am a Caddo- Delaware-Kickapoo Indian with a Comanche name.

Little Thunder: (Laughs) With all your tribal heritages, has there been one that's been more dominant that the other?

Hawkins: Interesting enough, my mother though raised by her grandmother who was Delaware, she knew how to make Caddo clothes as well as Delaware clothes. That's where the influence lies. More so on the Caddo side because we were involved 6:00with the Caddo dances, and cultural events, and so I know more about my Caddo side. Not as much as I would like to know on the Delaware side. My grandmother was--my grandpa remarried. He married a Kickapoo woman, so there were some other things cultural, the Kickapoo side that I got a chance to learn about and know too. You know, Delaware, I know how to make those clothes.

Little Thunder: What was the first time that you were conscious of seeing Native art?

Hawkins: Maybe more so when we came back to Oklahoma. As a child, I always liked to draw, and paint and always enjoyed the art classes that they would have in the grade schools and stuff. It wasn't, per se, a particular art class, but it was more like a craft or a project, just part of the curriculum. That was 7:00probably more my influence when we came back to Oklahoma, seeing some of the things that were going on at that time.

Little Thunder: When did you make your first art?

Hawkins: In grade school, I got a chance to be part of--they must have been having an art show. I was probably about ten. I remember drawing a cat. Just the head and it was in pencil. Obviously, I have a lot of influence with drawing with pencil and stuff. That was my first art experience.

Little Thunder: (Laughs) Were you around beadwork or people making clothing like in your extended family?

Hawkins: Just my mother. When we came back to Oklahoma, we started being involved with some of the Caddo events. That was my experience there. She made 8:00our dresses. She didn't do beadwork. She didn't do moccasins. With her, she liked to sew, but she didn't like cutting out the clothes. That was me and my sister's jobs, was to cut out the clothes and then she would sew our clothes up. I understood at least the cutting out process, but not the sewing.

Little Thunder: How about any outstanding art memories in middle school or high school?

Hawkins: I always took the art classes and stuff, but it wasn't until college that I entered another competition and placed. It was at the American Indian Exposition [Anadarko, Oklahoma] when they had the art shows. That was another exposure, too, being in the competitions. I think I won second and third in Graphics with pen and ink.

Little Thunder: That's very exciting. You were how old then?

Hawkins: I was probably nineteen, about nineteen. I was also tribal princess 9:00that year, too. That's why both of those things together stick in my mind. (Laughter) It was more college that I started getting involved with the competition stuff. It just so happened there was competitions going on and so I participated.

Little Thunder: You started off at OCU [Oklahoma City University], is that right?

Hawkins: Yes, yes, I did.

Little Thunder: Enrolled as a fine arts major?

Hawkins: Yes, I was. I went in and thought I wanted to be a fine art major and do all the paintings and stuff. I really liked it, but about halfway through I thought maybe I need to have something else to support me, so I started doing graphic design. Took the commercial art classes and stuff that they had and went on professionally to be a graphic designer.

Little Thunder: That's a great background to bring into your artwork. Your first 10:00couple of jobs, are you both working full time in graphic design and also pursuing your art on the side?

Hawkins: Actually what happened, I went into the graphic design. Did that for several years. That was a creative outlet, doing the graphic design professionally. Then became a mother, and kind of job-wise switched into not much creative process, but the pre-press, the production part, preparing things for printing and going on lot of press checks.

By that point, my kids were needing Halloween clothes. I was making baby clothes and so that was still a creative outlet, to do the sewing and stuff for my kids. About the time they got into grade school, they were showing an interest in 11:00dancing. Because up to that point, I hadn't been participating culturally as much because I was focused on my career and my kids. They said, "We want to dance." It was like, "How do you want to dance?" I pointed to a Straight Dancer and then I pointed to a Fancy Dancer. Of course they wanted to be Fancy Dancers. And so, it's like, "I don't know anybody that makes those things," and I ended up making their bustles.

Little Thunder: Oh, wow. (Laughs)

Hawkins: I still have them here, too. It was an interesting experience. Before then, I had made my own clothes. Getting married and stuff, I had put on weight, so I had to learn how to make my own clothes. That's where I started making my moccasins and my dush-toh and my beads, everything that a Caddo woman would wear because I started with myself. Then, my sons come along, so I start with their 12:00bustles. Fortunately, they wanted to start Straight Dancing. Then I had to learn how to make Straight Dance clothes for my sons (Laughter) and their moccasins and all those things that men wear.

Little Thunder: When did you get involved in the art circuit again?

Hawkins: It wasn't until 2010 when Jeri Redcorn asked me to participate at Red Earth. She wanted to do a Caddo co-op. At that time, of course, I had my own things. I had a pair of moccasins that I was working on for myself. I thought, "I'll put those into the competition" because I saw there was a competition, and it was part of the booth. I assumed that you had to enter into the competition to be a participant at an art market. Shows you how much I knew at that time. 13:00Fortunately, I entered those in and it was a good experience for me. I won in the beadwork category. I wasn't aware, really, that that's a really stiff competition area because Oklahoma's known for their beadworkers. I was very blessed that I entered in my Delaware moccasins, and I placed, so I was really thrilled. That was the start. That was the start of me participating in Red Earth. I did that for several years at just Red Earth, and then, the past two years, I have expanded to other art markets and stuff and have been blessed to have also placed in the beadwork and cultural items categories.

Little Thunder: Now was that first show in the '90s, or was that already--

Hawkins: It was 2010.


Little Thunder: 2010.

Hawkins: I'm really a newbie at this.

Little Thunder: (Laughs) A whole life's experience that you bring to it.

Hawkins: Exactly.

Little Thunder: What painting media did you start out in?

Hawkins: I liked doing acrylics. Did more pencil drawings and pen-and-ink and realized that I really enjoyed drawing more so than painting. Not that I can't paint. I still feel like I'm learning on my painting techniques and stuff, but drawing with pencil, and charcoal, and pen and ink has always been my favorite medium. I like doing people. I just like people's faces, capturing their expressions and stuff.


Little Thunder: We'll take a look at a couple of those nice ones at the end, here. You also took a pottery class with Chase Earles. Is that right?

Hawkins: Yes, Chase had been talking about wanting to teach other Caddos about Caddo pottery and stuff. I think, we forget there are so many different Caddo pots and other items that belong to the Caddos, not realizing the Caddos were a very large nation at one time and occupied a lot of land mass. A lot of our items are in museums that you don't always see. They're in the collections. He had been learning from Jeri and now has taken off on his own with his knowledge and experience and his experimentation of learning how to fire and do wood fires. Most people don't realize the difference between Southeastern pottery and Southwestern pottery. It's a different firing technique, different clays which require that firing technique.We went to his home, in fact, one of my sons went 16:00with me and we learned how to grind up the clay and make the clay mix. Then we went back and had some firing. Also got a chance to actually work with the clay, and had Chase show me, "This is how you do it." I'm pretty proud of my first pot. It's like, "It's not too bad. It's not too crooked. It's acceptable enough." I had one of them at the Tulsa Art Market. I had a gentleman come up and he goes, "This looks really old." I said, "It's not." (Laughter) "I just did it a couple months ago. Just fired it and everything else." He wanted to buy it, but I said, "It's my first pot."

Little Thunder: Okay. Where did you fire that one? Did you fire it at Chase's?

Hawkins: At Chase's home. I've gone through two pit firings, and so now I 17:00understand about how to, at least, build the fire and how to warm up your pots so that you can actually come out with a pot. He takes pictures and stuff because he says people don't always believe that you pit fired.

Little Thunder: Right.

Hawkins: So it's, "Okay, take pictures of my pots. These are the ones I pit fired."

Little Thunder: We hope to see more pots, too, then. You're making clothing for yourself and your sons when they start to dance. Then did you start getting commissions when you were a young mother, for other Indian clothes?

Hawkins: Actually, no, because I never said too much about it. More of the commissions and stuff have occurred since starting out at Red Earth because I have pictures of my clothing. I would have people come and ask me, women, would 18:00ask me if I would make some clothes for--make a shirt for their husband. Would have men ask me about making Straight Dance clothes.

Tim Tallchief asked me, "Could you make some Osage ribbon work?" I said, "Well, yeah, I think so." I'm pretty brave. I can look at something and figure it out and so I ended up doing one of his--he said, "This is a family design. Could you duplicate it?" I made some Straight Dance clothes for him, and now I'm starting to get more orders for Straight Dance clothes as well as women's Caddo dresses and children's clothing, too.

Little Thunder: I didn't get to ask you when you made your first pair of moccasins? Did you learn from anybody or did you just figure it out--

Hawkins: No, I tried to do some research. I didn't have anybody teach me. I would look at examples that I would find in the museums and on the Internet, 19:00different sources and look at those. I'd cut them and then I'd, "Those don't quite look right," and so I'd take them apart and recut them and restitch them. Just learned on my own about the construction and stuff and how they should fit properly. Like I said, went on making my sons'--I could see the big difference from the first pairs that I made, to what I make now.

Little Thunder: Right.

Hawkins: That trial and error.

Little Thunder: Right, right. It's hard to--well, people are paying better prices (even dancers) for moccasins, but it's very labor intensive.

Hawkins: They really are. It's funny. Sometimes, someone will say, "How much are those?" "Well, it's this much." It does take some hours. Then, you have some people say, "I could do that myself," and I'll say, "Okay, go ahead. You're not hurting my feelings one bit." (Laughter)


Little Thunder: As you're getting into the business, that is the tricky part of it, how you decide how you're going to price things. What kinds of research were you doing? Were you just observing other artists, people who were making--Hawkins: Because I try to keep traditional, I would look at museums, the collections I would see in museums, whatever was on exhibit. One of the things I discovered about what's traditional, tradition is sustained by material availability. If the materials aren't there, you can't be traditional. Human nature, being what it is, you use what's available. Things that are traditional 21:00now, weren't traditional a hundred years ago. I had the opportunity to be asked to give a presentation on Caddo clothing. Because of that, I did more research, looking at written material that was available and descriptions that were there in these written accounts of what Caddos were wearing.

At one time, we wore black buckskin. We don't wear black buckskin anymore. I've never seen a black buckskin in my lifetime. I wish I had my grandmother here, I would ask. The descriptions were from the Spanish explorers. It was black buckskin with white seeds, decorated with white seeds. Fortunately, I had a 22:00chance to--to go to Alto, Texas and they had, it was a replica from the descriptions and stuff in their displays. It was one of those things that if I actually made one of those dresses, then it was like, "What kind of outfit is that?" Even today, wearing a Caddo dress, I'll get asked, "What tribe are you? What, what kind of clothing are you wearing?" because we are such a small tribe.

The funniest experience I had in Ada, I was at a powwow. I was dressed in my Caddo dress. I think at that time, I was wearing probably my two piece. Whether it was a one piece or two piece, I still had on my Caddo comb and I had a little girl come up to me, and she goes, "Your crown's on backwards." (Laughter) Okay, 23:00she's never seen a Caddo woman before. She doesn't know that that's part of our traditional dress, is to wear those combs. Going back to the fact of the cost of silverwork. You're not going to see those Caddo combs or as much silverwork as what you used to.

Little Thunder: Right.

Hawkins: It was (Laughter) kind of funny. I leaned down and told her, I said, "I'm Caddo. We wear our combs this way."

Little Thunder: I'm glad that you brought up those points about tradition. When you're actually making clothes to sell, when you first started out, in terms of knowing how to price things, were you sort of looking at perhaps other people? I don't imagine there were a lot of people, for example, making dush-tohs.

Hawkins: No.

Little Thunder: Were you just gauging your time--

Hawkins: Gauging my time.


Little Thunder: --and materials.

Hawkins: Yeah, time and materials. That's my best rule of thumb, especially if it's on a new project. I try to keep it within reason of what I think it will take the time for me to do. There's a lot of times I underestimate. I get carried away with the detail of it. A hundred years from now, someone's going to come across something that I made and I want it to hold up. I still want it to be there two hundred years from now.

Little Thunder: I was thinking, too, that even the art of sewing, just sewing with a sewing machine, that's kind of a lost art, anymore. I think Indian women are really keeping that alive in a way.

Hawkins: Right, we can't go to the store to find our clothes. You have to know 25:00someone who makes them and be able to find that person. That was the same issues that I had. I want these things, but I don't know who to ask to make those for me. I guess, fortunately, at least I can do things with my hands. God gave me a talent and a skill, and so I'm able to use those things for myself, for my family, and now for other people, too. Just recently, I had someone ask me if I would make her little girl, her Caddo dress, her first Caddo dress. It's real hard to not make that time for those first clothes for those younger ones. The same way with the Straight Dance clothes that I just got finished doing.

They're for young boys. If I don't make that time, when they are interested in 26:00doing it, it's lost, it's a lost opportunity. It's something they may not pick up and want to do again while that interest is there. I did the same thing about six months ago for another young lady that she wanted to have her Indian clothes and she was like rediscovering who she was. Those things are important. Adults that have already been dancing and that kind of stuff, I don't (it's probably bad of me to say) but I don't work them in as quickly because they're adults. They're already participating. I take in a lot of commission work and so I try to work that in and be fair to those people, but those younger people get the priority at first.

Little Thunder: I really appreciate what you're saying there. Have you done any 27:00museum shows at all?

Hawkins: I have been down to Alto [Texas], the Caddo Mounds. They asked me to come down there several years ago to show some of the Caddo clothing and so I go just about every other year. In fact, next weekend I'll be going down there. They kind of changed the dates from October to April. I'll go down there and talk to the people that come through there. In that area, a lot of the kids study the Caddo Indians because we were native to that area. Because the Caddo Indians were there, they'll come in and talk and ask questions and stuff. A couple years ago, I had a young lady that I was visiting with and sharing with her. She came back the following year and showed me her history project that she had won with, based on the Caddo Indians. She was so very proud of it and I was 28:00very proud, too, that she had won and that she had also taken the time and the opportunity to come back and show me what she had done, too. That was great.

Little Thunder: That's really neat. You know you inspired her. What was it like the first time you went down there?

Hawkins: It was interesting. Fortunately, I guess being at powwows (because I do like to powwow and go to other dances and participate in other events)

I'm kind of used to the tourists coming up and want to take their pictures with me, so it wasn't like a totally different experience. The people there were wanting to learn about Caddos. That's what they are there for. They were interested and so their questions were pretty good. Now there's always somebody humorous that kind of sticks in your mind. You got the usual questions of, "Is 29:00that what you wear at home every day?" You just smile and say, "No, I wear regular street clothes. I have a regular job." All you can do is just smile.

Little Thunder: Right.

Hawkins: These are my Indian clothes. Yes, I am Indian, but you know, I do work professionally.

Little Thunder: When you go to art shows, does your husband go or your sons?

Hawkins: Yes, my husband is very supportive. He's my biggest booster. He helps me set up. If I feel the need to go look at other things, he comes and he stays with me. He stays in the booth and gives me a break to let me get out and take a look and see what's going on out there. Of course, with art shows and stuff, sometimes there's suppliers, and so it's like, "I think I need more beads."

Little Thunder: (Laughs) Right.


Hawkins: My sons do, they come and they stay in the booth and they enjoy that part of it, also. My family really supports me in that. I'm fortunate.

Little Thunder: When did you start your website and how important has that been in marketing your work?

Hawkins: I started my website probably in 2011, I guess, 2012. I'd have people ask me, "Do you have a website?" I don't sell off my website. I worry about the commercialism that happens when you put too much out there as far as Native American designs, the copyright issues. Show a few things on there. The people that contact me ask if I could do this or that for them. Most of my opportunities seem to come from some of the art shows. I'll have people ask me 31:00if I could do this, do a presentation, teach a demonstration, those sort of things. It's good visibility. It at least shows people that I'm there, what I can do, what I can maybe help them with.

Little Thunder: Have you taught a lot of workshops?

Hawkins: I've taught a few, mostly grade-school level. Last year, I had the Choctaw-Nicoma Park Schools ask me if I'd come in and do a class on loom work.

Little Thunder: Wow.

Hawkins: They had a good turnout. There was probably twenty-five, thirty people there. Parents with their kids and stuff. We had at least a dozen looms. We worked with pony beads because, obviously, that's a little bit easier to handle--

Little Thunder: Right. (Laughs)

Hawkins: --and twine. You can teach those hand--I don't want to use the word 32:00"crafts" because I feel like crafts sometimes is an undervalued term. It's a shortened form of master craftsman. You have to learn in a simplified way to do that. That's what we did. I'll have an opportunity to teach in November at the History Center on gourd stitch. Those opportunities are there for me to take advantage of.

Little Thunder: What do you learn when you're teaching?

Hawkins: To be able to explain it in such a way that they can take that with them and continue. I don't want them to be frustrated because if you're frustrated with something, you're not going to want to do it and I want those people to learn. I think you can learn, you can learn how to do anything if you 33:00choose to.

Little Thunder: You mentioned you might be expanding your shows a bit. Have you gone to SEASAM [South Eastern Art Show and Market]?

Hawkins: Yes, I have.

Little Thunder: When was your first time?

Hawkins: Two years ago.

Little Thunder: Two years ago. What was that like?

Hawkins: That was a great show for me. I placed first in Beadwork. Then, last year I also placed first in Beadwork, also. Obviously, that's always at the top of my list of my good shows: when you place.

Little Thunder: Yes.

Hawkins: I also placed second in Drawing in their categories there. Good shows. I'm set to go again.

Little Thunder: Is there a show that you're looking at that you haven't done yet this year that you're considering?

Hawkins: I've been asked if I've done Santa Fe, and it's like, "No, I understand it's real hard to get on out there." It's probably on my list of something to 34:00look at. Been thinking maybe I need to expand beyond Oklahoma on doing that. I'm a planner. I don't have to rush into it. If the time is right, then that's when I need to do it. The opportunities are there. I just need to figure out the time to make sure I have things done. Beadwork takes a little while. That one bead at a time.

Little Thunder: You need that inventory.

Hawkins: Yeah, exactly. You've got to have inventory to go into a show. Plus, the competition side of it, you've got to have a good competition piece, too.

Little Thunder: You work in so many media, what is your favorite thing to make right now?

Hawkins: I still enjoy beadwork and I still enjoy drawing. I do like the clay. 35:00Talking with Chase, he was talking about the fact that the Caddos were well known for their baskets and fortunately, there was a class at the vo-tech, and it was like, "She's teaching basket making." This past spring and fall and winter, have been really busy with picking up the clay and picking up basket making, and then still trying to get ready for competition, and all the other things that I enjoy doing.

Little Thunder: That's amazing. The vo-tech here in Choctaw?

Hawkins: Yes. They actually offered a basket weaving class.

Little Thunder: Who taught it?

Hawkins: Her name was Julie, and I can't remember her last name now, but she's Cherokee. Wasn't anybody that I recognized seeing in any of the art markets. I think she picked it up by the fact that she just enjoys doing it. I learned how to make a double-walled basket and a Cherokee basket and just the basic little 36:00planter. It was good. Now it's like, "Okay, we worked with reeds. I've got to find cane river reeds, which is another indication of material availability not being there.

Little Thunder: I don't know if you've ever made moccasins that somebody was going to put in a picture box, but what is the difference for you in making items that people use and wear?

Hawkins: I have made Quapaw moccasins, and Sac and Fox, and Kiowa moccasins. Interesting enough, the lady that asked me to make Quapaw moccasins, she wanted to have them ready for when she passed away. I had to think long and hard on that one because generally you make those up when someone has passed away. I 37:00went to visit her and talk to her and her son. I said, "I have a hard time doing something like this for you because of the timeline. She goes, "But I want to have them to be ready." She laughed. She goes, "I'm not planning on going any place real soon" and I said, "Okay." I did make those up for that lady. Most of the moccasins that I make are for people that dance. A good friend of mine, she wanted Kiowa moccasins for her grandchildren for the July celebrations, the Ti-pah, and I made those up for her.

Another young lady with the Sac and Fox, her grandmother, she asked, she goes, "I'd like these moccasins. I want some. I need another pair. I'm wearing my grandmother's and they're wearing out." I said, "Let me take a look at them 38:00because the construction's different." The Sac and Fox, they're a Southeastern style. They're soft sole versus the Kiowa style which are hard sole. Looking at the construction, kind of laughed, "They've got bigger ears." I ended up making those for her. Fully beaded ears and stuff. I wished they hadn't been a commission piece because they would have been great for competition. They turned out beautiful. I like to make sure what I do is beautiful, so I was very proud of those.

Little Thunder: In terms of dance clothes, can you explain a little bit what makes the Caddo man's shirt a different from the traditional ribbon shirt?

Hawkins: A Caddo man's shirt has tucks and ribbons in the yoke. You shouldn't call it a yoke, but it's more of an inset piece. Actually, in the construction 39:00that's inset in there. Later, what I've seen in photographs and stuff, they have a collar which tells me that the collar is more modern than very old because most of the old shirts didn't have the collars. Because of that yoke and the tucks and stuff, that's what you can define as a Caddo men's shirt. Those are, those are kind of tough to make because you've got to make sure you get those tucks just right. That inset, the placket that goes in the middle there, too, if you cut it too wide for that opening, then you're going to have to start over.

Little Thunder: Wow.

Hawkins: You don't want to mess them up.

Little Thunder: I'll bet that makes it a little bit more difficult.

Hawkins: I started making those for my sons. Now they have the collarless versions because I wanted to make sure that when my sons Straight Danced, you 40:00could tell that they had Caddo shirts under their Straight Dance regalia and stuff.

Little Thunder: What do you think is the least understood aspect of Caddo culture?

Hawkins: I think that a lot of people don't realize that we still have as many dances as what we do, our own traditional dances. I make a difference between Caddo dances and powwows. Powwows are very intertribal. You have to know some of your tribal history of other tribes to know that there are certain aspects of powwows that come from different tribes. Caddo dances, we don't have head staff. We don't start early in the afternoon. We start late afternoon. Turkey dance has 41:00to end before sundown. We dance real late into the night. We used to dance, we have a morning dance. I remember as a young girl, doing morning dance and the sun was coming up after dancing all night.

Now we sing morning dance songs probably about three or four in the morning because people are tired and they're starting to go home. And our clothing, just the story about the little girl telling me my comb was on backwards. They don't realize that's a Caddo dress that you're wearing. Maybe it's confusing because of the full collar blouse being a Southeastern style. The Kickapoos, and the Shawnee, and the Delaware, all wear that full collar blouse. If we're wearing 42:00our one-piece dress, it's definitely what they call Prairie style, but it's still different than some of the other styles of clothing that you see other tribes wear.

Little Thunder: Let's talk a little bit more about your process and techniques for some other media. You're mostly exploring pencil and charcoal, I guess, and you're doing some painting.

Hawkins: Yes.

Little Thunder: In acrylics is that right?

Hawkins: Yes.

Little Thunder: Not any oils or anything?

Hawkins: I took the oil classes in art school at the university. Acrylics and painting oils, and watercolor. I remember watercolor and just like, "I'm trying to paint with acrylics." It wasn't as thin. I'd like to go back and try watercolor again. I'm always interested in trying to do something better.


Little Thunder: You like representing people. Do you have--do you take photographs?

Hawkins: Sometimes I do. I work with photographs that I've taken, or old photographs that I come across. I do animals. I do have illustrations of animals. I did an illustration of a wolf, and that was based on one of the Caddo creation stories. I was involved with the Caddo Museum Board, and at that time, we were getting ready to put in a Caddo section of the Native American Art Gallery in the Oklahoma History Center. The museum director asked me, she goes, "Why don't you illustrate one of the Caddo creation stories?" So I did. It happened to be the one about the wolf crying because when they came out of the earth, they were cautioned not to turn around, and Táhshah, Caddo for wolf, he 44:00turned around and the Earth closed up. That's why it's a wolf with tears in his eyes.

Little Thunder: I saw that on your website. That was a really powerful picture. How do you think your approach to drawing with pencil or charcoal has changed over the years?

Hawkins: I think--I think my skills has gotten better as far as thinking about what I'm representing, what's important to show in that. It's real hard to say, now that you put it that way. It's like my skill's always been there. I had that lapse where I didn't do any drawing or painting because of, you know, professional and raising a family. Then, all of a sudden, I start picking it up 45:00again. It was like twenty years before I picked up a paint brush or a pencil to actually draw again. I was pleased that the skill was still there. It's just a matter of what I was going to do with it.

Little Thunder: Right. What about your beadwork? How do you think that's changed? Maybe like your colors or--

Hawkins: I've always kind of liked the bright color. I always wanted to know that if someone looked at it that they would be able to say, "That's Yonavea's." I don't necessarily use real traditional-- Interesting enough, with beadwork, looking at being in Oklahoma, we have a lot of Plains tribes. You see some florals and doing some research, looking back at what they would have used for 46:00their inspiration, those nature elements are always around us. So those are the influence on the beadwork. I do have probably some Plains style in there, but I also try to keep some of that floral in there. It's real interesting when you look at beadwork, if you don't know, they use both. Both Plains and Southeastern have both combinations of geometrics and florals.

Little Thunder: Do you draw out your designs ever?

Hawkins: Yes, I do. I do draw out a lot of my designs. I graph them out. Use colored pencil. Not always in the colors that I'm going to actually bead. When I get started on a project, a beading project, the design changes. I don't always 47:00go off my design patterns that I've done. Working on bracelets, sometimes I'll just start up the design in colors. I've been doing it enough now that I don't always have to have that graph. And of course with beadwork, there's the loom work as well as the overlay and the two-needle applique work.

Little Thunder: Right.

Hawkins: I do both of those as well as gourd stitch, too.

Little Thunder: Right.

Hawkins: One worked into the other with the boys wanting to have dance clothes, it's, "I guess I have to make fans." I taught myself on how to gourd stitch. (Laughter) Then it's like, "Okay, the moccasins need to have the beadwork on the toes, so there came the applique work."

Little Thunder: Right, right.

Hawkins: You know, one leads to the other.

Little Thunder: I didn't notice if you do any finger weaving at all or not.


Hawkins: I have been wanting to learn. When I start that learning process of something new, I start gathering in research materials. You probably can tell, I have a lot of books. There's even more in my bedroom. I keep a lot of books and I look for old books, books that are out of print to look at those things that you don't see anymore. That's where I get my ideas of, it's like, "This used to be made this way." I have a collection of finger weaving books. I've sat down with Tyra [Shackleford] a few times--I got a chance to meet her about two years ago at Red Earth. She let me weave with her belts, one of the belts. She had one of her looms. It's like, "Okay, I've got the materials. I've got the yarn. I 49:00just need to find that time to get in there and do that." While doing research I noticed, that Caddo women had beaded belts on with yarn tassels. That's something you don't see anymore. For SEASAM this past year, I thought, "I'm going to do a beaded belt with yarn as being part of the loom work." So I did that. That was a good experience for me. It's my first belt, so it won't be for sale.

Little Thunder: You might have to bring back that.

Hawkins: Yes, I'm going to. I've worn it and I've started also wearing, buying finger weaving belts for myself because that's one of the style things that just kind of faded out.

Little Thunder: How many dush-toh (am I saying that right?) makers are there do 50:00you think? In the area?

Hawkins: Probably not very many. I would be surprised if there's a handful. Interesting enough with dush-tohs, they've changed over time because at one time, the way they would wear them, there was a bag at the bottom of that. It's kind of an hourglass or butterfly-shaped piece, if you want to term it that way, that they would gather their hair into [the bag] and that would secure their hair back. With time, you put a clip on there, a ribbon and tie it on or clip it on. Probably a handful. Interesting enough, they're really not that hard to make. It just takes the time of putting those colors together and making sure there are layers of ribbons. Material availability, it's real hard to find 51:00six-inch wide ribbon or silk or taffeta. Those materials are expensive to come by or they're hard to find. You learn how to put those ribbons together, so that they lay nice and flat and still give that flow, that flowing look that they have when the wind catches them.

Little Thunder: When you're shopping for supplies, do you prefer to order online or do you like to go do stuff, hands on?

Hawkins: All of them. If I find a source online, then I will order it. If I find a source that I can go in and look at, then I will do so. With beads, you kind of know the colors, so you can order those online. I order from all over. When I'm looking for beads, I found one company that would come to Red Earth. I liked 52:00their beads, so I'd buy a bunch of beads. They didn't come one year and I had an order for a particular color of beads, and it was like (Sigh). Then two years later I found another source for that same color of beads. I buy a lot of beads to make sure I can get through a couple of projects.

Little Thunder: I know that's where artist's profits go. (Laughs)

Hawkins: Yes, making sure you have an inventory of supplies.

Little Thunder: You sort of, I think, touched on this already, but do you think there is a difference between bead art and bead craft? And if there is, how would you define it?

Hawkins: You know, with the moccasins that I do and stuff, I've had people say those would be too pretty to wear, but because they're pretty, you want to wear 53:00them. Crafts, if it's just a simple project, then maybe I'd call it crafts, but crafts still take a skill to be able to do it well. I worked for a decorative painting publishing company. A lot of that's considered crafts. There's still a skill there to be able to handle a paintbrush, to be able to put those colors together in a pleasing manner. Crafts is always not a good word, but it just kind of comes in handy. Art, it's a matter, I think, of the eye of the beholder on what's considered art. Art's always considered drawing and painting. Doing 54:00beadwork, it's a skill to be able to put those things together and for people to appreciate it. It's an art form, it really is. To be able to do that, to make it pleasing, to make it look good.

Little Thunder: You mentioned in terms of research, the old books, a lot of times out- of-print books. What other things do you do?

Hawkins: Creatively or--

Little Thunder: For research maybe or to get--

Hawkins: I'm always curious of what's out there and learning more about my heritage. As a young person, I didn't ask and maybe it wasn't always explained. 55:00It was just assumed that you would know it and learn it. I've had to do more research because of being asked to give presentations, to be more knowledgeable about who I am, where I come from. Those things that make me Caddo, and Delaware, and Kickapoo. Knowing the, learning the language, and just all those things coming together puts a different perspective on what you need to know, and try to make sure that you present it as accurately as possible, as you can. We're all human and make mistakes and don't remember things as well as we should, but you've got to keep learning.

Little Thunder: When you're working full time and balancing your art work, how 56:00do you do that? Do you relegate certain times on the weekend? What's your creative routine?

Hawkins: I'm usually-- (and this is where my husband comes in being supportive) I don't cook anymore. He steps in and makes sure the house is cleaned up and does the grocery shopping and prepares meals. He makes sure I eat because sometimes I get busy and forget. (Laughter) He allows me that time in the evenings to be able to spend a couple hours, two or three hours in the evenings to work on what I do.

Weekends, the same way. I enjoy dancing and going to the art markets, and so I have to balance my schedule and my creative time. I've got to have time to 57:00create, but I also want to have that time to have some fun, too. I'm a cancer survivor and so that puts a different perspective on what's important. Having a clean house is not on the list of my priorities of things to do.

Little Thunder: Thank you for sharing that. What is your creative process from the time that you get an idea?

Hawkins: I'll be thinking about things, "Okay, I need to think about what I am going to do for a competition." The competition side of it is kind of important because you put that money out for a booth. You want to make sure that you have inventory for sales. If you do a competition piece, then it takes off the sales 58:00part of it. It kind of gives you a relief knowing, "Okay, I've covered my booth fees. I've covered my meals. I've covered my hotel expenses." I start thinking about, "What can I do that's going to be creative?" Sometimes with a competition piece, more than likely, it's something for myself. You're not supposed to sell commission pieces. It's got to be something you create.Sometimes my creative process, I'll be thinking about something when I'm driving to work or going some place. I will be thinking, "What do I need to do? What would be a good thing to do?" Then, once the concept is there, "What is it going to be? What are the elements of the design and the colors?" They just kind of roll around in my head 59:00sometimes, just at odd times. I don't wake up during the night like that. I've got to be awake, doing something else, and it'll just kind of pop, pop in my head. I was driving some place and a concept for a painting popped into my head. I still haven't put it down on a canvas or anything like that, but the concept's there. They get filed away until I get a chance to bring them out.

Little Thunder: Just mentally? You don't have to write them down?

Hawkins: No, no, no, they don't. It'll be a cool piece when I get ready to do it.

Little Thunder: You don't have to say what it is, but do you already know what you're going to do for Red Earth then?

Hawkins: Actually, I'm still kind of trying to get that nailed down. I do have an idea. It's a matter of starting to do the beadwork on it. When we're going on these out-of-town trips, my husband will drive, and I will be beading. He kind 60:00of laughs, and goes, "She's always beading in the car." I don't take my loom, but I can do gourd stitch and I can do the two-needle applique stitch in the car and not poke myself. On that trip, I'll be working on my Red Earth project.

Little Thunder: He's so supportive. Do you like to listen to music when you work, or TV?

Hawkins: I listen to TV and it can't be anything that I hadn't seen before because it's too distracting. The noise is there, but if it's something new, it's kind of like I've got to change it to something old. Don't mind the noise. I do like having music on when I'm working, also. I will put in anything from powwow CDs, to Caddo music, to language tapes, just whatever, and then I'm so absorbed in what I'm working on, that it's not even running anymore. I used to 61:00have my table toward the door and I've turned it around because my husband would come in there and say something to me and I would jump two feet in the air because I'm so absorbed in what I'm doing.

Little Thunder: (Laughter) I know you haven't been back in the circuit, the art circuit for all that long, but just looking back on this decade that you've been showing your artwork and winning prizes, what was a fork in the road when you could have gone one way but you decided to go another?

Hawkins: It goes back to when Jeri said to do the co-op. I could have not taken 62:00that step, and not participated because that's what started doing the art markets and being involved. When I said something about being a cancer survivor, at that time going through that whole process of not knowing whether you're going to live or die, a lot of reflection of what I would do with myself if I did live. Thinking back, it's like God was telling me, "There's things that you need to be doing. You've got these skills and these talents, you need to be using them." Because I had always put those things to the back. Going on from 63:00that point, knowing that once I regained my health and started feeling normal again, that there's things I need to be doing. That's where it comes from.

Little Thunder: Looking back on your career so far, what's been one of the high points?

Hawkins: I think, just being, just participating. Right now, I enjoy everything I do. Some of the things that have come from it, the opportunities. I would have never thought that I would be talking to people about what I do. It's fun. It's exciting. I'm thankful that I'm here to be able to do those sort of things. It's 64:00just opportunities that God's given me to take advantage of, to use.

Little Thunder: Looking back you career so far, what has been one of the low points?

Hawkins: I don't think there's ever really been a low point career-wise and stuff. Professionally, I've had a lot of opportunities to transition from being a commercial artist, graphic designer. I had some exciting projects when I did that. I've worked for publishing companies, gained experience from that. I've worked for advertising agencies, print buyer. Different parts of that have always lead me from one thing to another, just different opportunities. So I really can't say, professionally, or on my work experience versus my artist 65:00experience. I think I have always been blessed with a lot of high points.

Little Thunder: Is there anything else you would like to add or talk about before we take a look at your work?

Hawkins: I don't think so.

Little Thunder: All right. Let's look at your drawings and your clothing.

Hawkins: Okay.

Little Thunder: What would you like to tell us about this?

Hawkins: This picture is a charcoal drawing, and it is of my great-grandmother, Lizzie Williams. I had a Xerox copy of a black-and-white photo of her. It was probably about a five by seven. That's what I took this charcoal drawing of. For competition now, they always ask for the name of the piece. Sometimes, when I'm working on a piece, a name will come to me, sometimes it doesn't. This particular one, because it was important to me, the name didn't come. What I do, 66:00is I'll set a piece out in the dining room on the buffet table there, so I can walk past it and kind of keep it in mind that I want to name a piece. Also, when I'm driving, I come up with names of pieces, too.

This one, I noticed that her eyes, it's one of those pieces where the eyes follow you from left to right. Whichever side you're on, her eyes follow you, so I titled it Grandmother's Watching because of her eyes moving. I'm not for sure, but I think this picture was actually taken at Murrow Dance Ground, which is a very old Caddo Dance Ground. I think we've been dancing there a hundred years at least, somewhere pretty close in that mark. I may be off by a few years, but I think that's where this picture was taken.


Little Thunder: You can pick out the figures in the background.

Hawkins: Yes, so I know it was at a dance. You can tell it's like it's early '40s. You know, somewhere in that time frame there.

Little Thunder: That's really neat. If you want to talk just about your moccasins and your bag there...

Hawkins: These are Caddo moccasins, and I had titled these, Hasinai Princess, which means Caddo princess. I really liked the particular colors that I chose. These were the size nine, two-cut beads. They are not Czech beads, they're not size thirteens, and the reason why is because with dancing, you're seen across the arena, not up close and stuff. I just like those colors. Some of the Caddo designs, they kind of show, it's not quite a diamond pattern. This is more stylized, but I like the colors and doing the diamond pattern. One of my great 68:00aunts would carry a turtle purse, and I'd see them and I thought, "I'd like to do that." That's why I started doing turtle purses. It's a little bit more elaborate than probably what they did years ago. Caddo styles have kind of changed. They've gotten a lot brighter. That's why you have the brighter colors. I do keep in mind what is traditional. This is more, the ribbon work on the side is made from taffeta.

Little Thunder: Oh, okay.

Hawkins: Which is real hard to find, taffeta. Taffeta just folds differently than some of the other fabrics that you can work with and stuff. It's really pretty durable, too. This actually has velvet on the ears, too.

Little Thunder: It's beautiful.

Hawkins: I don't know if I will wear these or not.


Little Thunder: Yeah, they're just gorgeous.

Hawkins: I need to have something to display in my booth stuff, so I'll probably continue carrying them around for several more years until I think they've served their purpose for being on display and then, I'll start wearing them.

Little Thunder: Then you can start wearing them.

Hawkins: Yes.

Little Thunder: This is the belt that you are going to bring back, we hope?

Hawkins: Yes. Beaded belts. Like I said, I'd seen old photographs that some of the Caddo women were wearing beaded belts. With that in mind, I had to think about building my beading loom longer to accommodate that yarn you need for the tassel part of it. I do make my own looms for all my beadwork. I don't use commercial looms. I learned that process from Martin Weryackwe, Junior 70:00Weryackwe. He was a bead maker and he encouraged me and he actually showed me how--

Little Thunder: He was an influence?

Hawkins: Yeah, he actually showed me how on his looms, showed me his looms and I found them to be better than commercial looms. With that in mind, I could make a loom big enough to accommodate this style belt. It's not size thirteen beads, it's size eleven cut beads because of the yarn. I had to look for really thin yarn so that wouldn't hide the beads. That was a learning process in itself, but I look forward to making more of these. This one actually took me about eighty hours to do.

Little Thunder: Oh, wow. Those are some neat designs, unique combinations.

Hawkins: My first beaded belt that I made for myself, now I'm talking about a commercial belt, a commercial belt and then the beadwork that they sew onto. 71:00This is my first beadwork design. It's kind of like my personal design.

Little Thunder: Okay, so here we have your Caddo clothing.

Hawkins: Yes, this dress is a two-piece Caddo dress. It has a full collar. On the full collar dresses, they had lots of washer broaches, so it's got some washer broaches on it. As time goes by, I'll add more. It just takes a little time to accumulate that many washer broaches to go around the collar of a Caddo dress. They have a full skirt. Caddos also wear a one piece. It doesn't have the full collar. One of the things we also wear with our two piece dresses is a beaded collar. Of course, I don't have one right here with it. One of the other things that makes it distinctive for Caddo women is that we have a dush-toh and 72:00that is a headdress that you wear on the back of your head.

When I'd seen some earlier museum examples, they had a row of silver washers going down the center of them. They're layers of ribbons that are stacked. Nowadays, it's hard to find the wider ribbon. Silk ribbon, of course, is even harder to find, so I've used layers of ribbons (and narrower) and have to combine those together to have that effect. Part of the things about the dush-toh is that a long time ago they used to have a bag at the bottom of them and they would tuck their hair inside that bag and then, it was tied on with their hair enclosed. Nowadays, they put a ribbon on there, or a hair clip on the back of the dush-toh and put it onto their hair that way instead of gathering it into a bag.

Little Thunder: Right. It's a beautiful dush-toh. Okay, we're looking at this 73:00last piece of artwork, which is a pencil drawing, I guess.

Hawkins: Yes, this one is pencil. I came across an old photograph of a Kickapoo man and you can tell that he's young. He's young, but he also has two feathers, two eagle feathers, so I titled this one, Kickapoo Warrior. He's got a beautiful eagle fan. I really liked the expression on his face and just some of the detail I could see in that photo of his clothing. I like the way that the beadwork was done on that eagle wing. It gave me some thought, too. Caddo women carried turkey feathers. We'll use the wings and I thought, I might do that for a turkey 74:00fan for the wing, emulate that the way that beadwork was done. That's another example, how do they do that? I have got to figure out how.

Little Thunder: Right, and your signature is in there. It's very subtle.

Hawkins: Yeah, I'm kind of discreet on my signature. I sign it with my first name, just Yonavea because I feel and know that Yonavea is a very unique name. In my college days, because my maiden name was Gunn, I would do kind of a stylized gun. Then I got married and I didn't really want to get into doing a hawk for a short form of Hawkins, so I just kept it to Yonavea.

Little Thunder: Well, it's just a beautiful drawing. I thank you very much for your time today.

Hawkins: Thank you very much for asking me.


------- End of interview -------