Films And Videos

The potters have also participated in the making of films. Around i930, Frank G. Speck made a film of the Catawba at work and at play (Speck ca. 1930). Allen Stout, of the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, North Carolina, made a second film in i978. It shows Doris Blue making a snake effigy pot. In i989 it was transferred to video format, and a script has been written for incorporation so it can be used as a teaching tool (Stout 1979).

Since the early 1970s, the Catawba have demonstrated before video cameras. The first video was probably made by South Carolina Educational Television in cooperation with the York County Nature Museum (now the Museum of York County). It features the work of Arzada Sanders and Sarah Lee Ayers (York County Nature Museum ca. 1950, Catawba video). In 1976 this video was part of the Museum's educational Catawba program. Visitors to the Catawba gallery viewed a monitor and learned something about the Indians and their pottery. In i976 a television news team visited the reservation to do a short commentary on the pottery classes conducted that year. Denise Nichols recalls her anxiety: "When the people came from the news, I got so nervous that I rubbed right through the pot I was working on" (Denise Nichols, interview, i March i977, BC). Since this time, video teams have visited the reservation frequently. The potters have been interviewed for talk shows, news spots, and straight-out pottery-making demonstrations. In 1993, Cinebar Productions of Newport News, Virginia, began a major video effort with Earl Robbins and his family ("The People of the Clay"), a project sponsored by the Schiele Museum that resulted in a half-hour educational video.

While the Indians have long been willing to show outsiders how they fashion their wares, they have always been careful to avoid turning their demonstrations into pottery-making lessons. It has been, however, difficult to maintain a fine line between demonstrations and out-and-out classes.

Fred Sanders and his wife, Judy Leaming, founded the Catawba Cultural Preservation Project (CCPP) in 1987. One of its first projects was the initiation of the filming of an educational video ("Catawba: The River People," 1987; Yap Ye Iswa, 1994). The immediate goal was to help preserve the Nation's rich cultural heritage, including the pottery tradition. The Project immediately became a focal point for those wishing information on the Catawba. In 1993 the CCPP was awarded the Governor's Folk Heritage Advocacy Award for the outstanding work it had done during its short tenure. Its major accomplishment is the annual Yap Ye Iswa or Day of the Catawba Festival. The first CCPP-sponsored Festival was held in 1991 under the direction of Wenonah George Haire. Fifty years had passed since the last Catawba Fair in 1941. The annual Catawba Festival gave the potters an opportunity to offer their wares at home in a festive atmosphere where Catawba culture and history dominate the scene.

Hopefully the Catawba tradition will not be compromised as the Indians move into a new century of working the Indian circuit. The Indians may be assured that little incentive exists for non-Indians to counterfeit Catawba pottery. Today such an act is against federal law (Public Law 101-644). Contemporary potters, while they are drawn to learn about the Catawba tradition, find it too restrictive. Although the Catawba have been signing their pottery as a response to customer demands for the last 25 years, the individual is largely suppressed. The pottery is a tribal possession and does not belong to any one potter. This is true, no matter how acclaimed that person might be. Also, modern technology, indeed all non-Indian technology, is shunned. The Indians avoid commercial clays, the potters' wheel, glazes, and the kiln, for these things are not Indian. They are not Catawba. Those who study Catawba pottery from outside the tradition, outside the tribe, come from a culture where originality is the dominating force. The Catawba remain firmly married to the concept of producing pottery like that of the old Indians in both appearance and workmanship.

During the last century, the Catawba potters adjusted well to new audiences. Where they were once curiosities reluctantly permitted to inhabit the state fair grounds, they are now sought by film and video makers. Today, when a Catawba potter participates in a television effort, millions have an opportunity to learn of this ancient tradition. The potters are well aware of the value of such promotion.

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