Caddo Collar

Chester R. Cowen

Chester Cowen spent much of his adult life sorting and cataloguing the photographic archives of the Oklahoma Historical Society in the Wiley Post Building, the new home of the Oklahoma Judicial Center.

Cowen learned beading as a Boy Scout in Chickasha, Oklahoma in 1957, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when he began to pursue it seriously. “I recognized it as a beautiful art form and I hope to support its resurgence.”

Cowen is of Choctaw and Chickasaw descent and has created a number of net beading pieces based on those traditions. The net beading tradition among American Indians became popular in the 1880s and has since been used by tribes located between California and Florida and north to Oklahoma.

The collar on display in the Oklahoma Judicial Center is inspired by a Caddo collar created by Mrs. Weller that is on display in the Southern Plains Indian Museum in Anadarko.

Cowen has made some subtle changes to the design: an extra row for stability at the neck, and larger beads on the bottom edge. Some changes stem from practicality, while others are purely artistic. “It is a stronger impact using the larger beads on the edge.” The pink beads are a color that would have been widely popular on the Plains when the original collar was made during the first half of the twentieth century. The blue beads represent feathers in the design. Cowen hopes working with the Caddo tribe he can discover more of the symbolism woven into the intricate design.

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