- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
There is a framed photograph on the wall of Marian Hansson’s home in Indian Head of first lady Michelle Obama glowingly wearing a pink Native American shawl.
The shawl, Hansson’s own, had been for sale in the Indian Craft Shop at the United States Department of the Interior. That department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs presented it to the first lady as a gift in 2009.
“That picture has had 57,000 hits on the Internet,” Hansson said.
A Kiowa Indian born and raised in Oklahoma, Hansson is both self-taught and college educated.
“I have a master’s degree in anthropology/ethnology, focusing on North American cultures,” she said.
Most of Hansson’s education in matters of art came from watching her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother in Oklahoma. She learned that different Indian tribes used unique designs on their clothing and other art as a means of identifying who they were.
“Each tribe had their own identification through their designs,” Hansson said.
Hansson’s shawls will be on display at the Department of the Interior Nov. 16-17. “The exhibit will focus on my shawls,” she said. “I also make ribbon shirts and dresses.
“My mother made our clothes,” she said. “Partly that was due to economics, because we had to make do with little. The other side of that is, my mother is a creative person and she knows how to put colors together. She had different colors for each of us [Hansson had six sisters and two brothers]. She always knew what colors looked best on us.”
Her mother, Christine Two Hatchet Kaulaity, grandmother Eugenia Hummingbird and great-grandmother Lottie Tenadoah taught her beadwork — which in much of her art is a dominant feature. “I learned by watching,” she said.
Much of her works are “one of a kind” pieces. She has designed Southwestern American Indian art applications of furniture, clothing, porcelain and woolen blankets. She has painted and designed everything from fabrics to buffalo skulls and hides and woodwork. Her work has been featured in Mademoiselle fashion magazine.
There have been instances in her life, she said, when art helped pull her through some tough times.
“My knowledge and skills have carried me through and helped pay bills when I was in-between jobs and seeking employment,” she said.
Hansson worked with the federal government for 22 years, including the Department of the Interior, where she was curator and director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, managing the largest contemporary collection of Native American and Alaskan art. As a part of the Indian Heritage month program, the shawls will be on display and for sale Nov. 16-17 at the Indian Craft Shop at the Department of Interior, 1849 C St., NW, Washington, D.C.