Northern Emmet County, Michigan
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Because Yvonne Walker-Keshick was born in the autumn of 1946, her tribal name is Falling Leaf. One of the five children of Levi and Josephine Walker, she is the descendant of a long line of excellent quillworkers. Her grandmother, Mary Anne Kiogima, was reputedly one of the finest quillworkers of the early twentieth century. Quillworkers embroider designs on birchbark containers with natural and dyed porcupine quills. Walker-Keshick began making porcupine quill boxes in 1968 with her aunt and teacher, Susan Shagonaby.
Historically, porcupine quill designs were passed from one generation to the next. Families sometimes owned the rights to certain designs. The quillworkers in Walker-Keshick's family are known for creating quilled designs of wildlife with exquisite realism. Their animals bristle with life; their floral designs reflect the intricate delicacy of the plants themselves. Walker-Keshick learned many of Shagonaby's designs and also draws on nature for her own motifs. She has designed boxes with fish at the start of trout season and lightning bolts after a severe rainstorm. Walker-Keshick does not usually dye the porcupine quills she uses because she does not like the way the color fades after a few years.
Walker-Keshick became a full-time quillworker and teacher in 1980. Since then, she has generously shared her skills with her family and community. She has written a manuscript on quillwork that provides technical instruction and describes the cultural meanings related to this tradition. She is adamant about the responsibility of the old to teach the young: "I believe it is truly our responsibility to teach others all of the best things of our culture. Teaching! This is what our elders did for us and it is what we as elders have to do for our young people."
Walker-Keshick is one of the finest quillworkers in North America and a dominant force in preserving the cultural heritage of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa. In 1992 she received a Michigan Heritage Award in recognition of her commitment to Odawa heritage, her willingness to train others, and her many artistic accomplishments.
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