Native American


Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Arapaho
Place: Plains, United States
Media: Beads and buckskin
Dims: 3.25 x 5.75 x 1 in. (8.2 x 14.6 x 2.54 cm).
Date: n.d.
RTC No: NA1054
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011



This fully beaded coin purse was purchased at the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. in Cherokee, North Carolina. It has a beautiful white background and a bright red beaded rose design in the middle that is complemented by its green leaf. When caught in the right light a lovely shimmer ignites.


Upon choosing this coin purse, it wasn’t until after further examining it that I began to feel a sense of nostalgia. I see this coin purse most days when I am at work, and it has become one of my favorite purses in the collection. I don’t think I ever opened it, nor really spent time with it until recently. After a few minutes of handling and admiring the buckskin lining, it became clear to me what it made me nostalgic for: powwows.


Normally, powwows are hosted all over the United States during this time of year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns over large gatherings, the powwow trail has been canceled.


First off, I’m not a dancer. I didn’t grow up going to powwows. It wasn’t until I met my boyfriend that I started going—he is a part of the Chicken Dance Society from Browning, Montana. We would usually be attending a local powwow in New Mexico around this time of the year, and we sure miss it along with so many other dancers and spectators involved in the powwow scene.


What the beaded purse reminded me of was seeing the older women dancers. I can imagine them in their beautiful regalia at the food stands or at an artist booth holding their wallet just like this one. I also realized this coin purse will be included in the 2020 Hands-On Student virtual exhibition, and you know what the title of their exhibit is? (I’m Nostalgic For) Memories I’ve Never Lived Before. This piece definitely gives me a sense of longing for those days of gathering with community, song, dance, and bringing out your best purse, or backpack if you’re a guy.



Based in Cherokee, North Carolina, the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc. was founded in 1946, with the goal of promoting authentic Cherokee arts and crafts with the majority of the work coming from Eastern Band of Cherokee members. Visitors will find top-quality, handmade Cherokee craft-baskets, pottery, woodcarving, beadwork, jewelry, masks, dolls, and other items of Cherokee traditional art.

Qualla Arts and Crafts is one of the oldest Native American cooperatives in the United States that provides a place for Cherokee artists to market their creations. It also encourages the preservation of the many craft traditions and promotes traditional artists and their work. The “co-op” attracts collectors from all over the world. When items are sold, they are tagged with a certificate of authenticity, which this coin purse has.

—Samantha Tracy, Collections Manager at the Coe Center, July 2020.

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