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Velma's Work
Valiantly Velma - Page 12


Dehlia Franklin Castor - Gentle Leader

All the refinement of good taste was exhibited with Georgeannís needle work. Rich colors in the Osage ribbon work were so strong there could only be respect shown by the comfortably large group of women who were in attendance at the Mansion on Grand Avenue that day. The method looked so intricate but was made easy, by her teaching the secrets of its design. Georgeann worked at every phase of the dance regalia and maybe for the first time non-Indians were made hungry for the beauty of that dress. Her sharing of those tiny mystical ways of turning the fabric into a geometric pattern became a reality and a possibility to sew.

Dehlia Franklin Castor was a curator of the museum at the time. Her intelligence, coming from a long line of educators, was already established. Who knows how far back this quality was in her family culture. Her own father, Dr. W.W. Franklin, was a retired superintendent of schools.

It was in and around this time Maude Chessewalla was teaching the relatively lost art of finger weaving at the Osage Museum. Dehlia quickly picked up the most difficult art and taught it to anyone who would sit down long enough to learn. So many of the belts that were up to that time, only museum pieces could suddenly be created, again. Maude not only practiced the highly involved and intricate craft, she made illustrations, drawing of the patterns along with instructions so anyone with a desire to learn could do so.

It was from these diagrams Dehlia took her instructions and taught herself. At one time the Ponca as well as the Osage created strong belts not only for traditional ceremonies but for binding their swaddled babies onto boards and for holding a load to a horse. The chevron designs of different colors were certainly beautiful enough to wear with dance regalia.

When the women of all races saw the lovely work, without fail, they themselves wanted to reproduce it. In Oklahoma most all people have Indian blood and if it is only a whisper or a drop, still it is powerful and its influence upon the mind is inevitable. There are often latent, hidden wishes for understanding and of belonging to a deeper part of their being that maybe they only felt but didnít know existed.

Today, there is a place remaining in the hearts of Osages who remember the work of Maude Chessawalla. She and her husband were viciously murdered by an intruder into their ranch home. Gossip and stories were told of how the men tore the paneling off the walls, pulled up the carpet to generally destroy their home while Maude and her husband were bound. She was in her night clothes. It will never be known how great the loss of Maude Chessawalla has been to this community. The beauty of her life was cut short but not before she inspired so many people to return to the precious and rare crafts of their ancestors.

Velma, too, restored these aspirations of pride in womenís crafts, creating a new era of understanding and appreciation that continues today.


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