Online Exhibition

Artist’s Statement: Iakonikonriiosta

Inspired by part of the Haudenosaunee Creation Story, this quilt illustrates the moment the spiritual Water Birds and Water Animals watched as the Sky Woman, heavy with child, gave thanks and placed primordial soil filled with life onto the Great Turtle’s shell.

In a spiritual time before light and land existed, the Sky Woman fell from the sky world, heavy with child. She was welcomed by the Water Birds and the Water Animals who prepared a place for her to land on a world covered in water.

The Water Birds flew up to greet her and hold her on their united wings while the Water Animals planned how they would find a place for her to land. The Great Turtle offered his shell as a place that could hold her and support a place she needed to survive. After the Birds placed her on the shell of the Great Turtle, the Water Animals found a way to make her comfortable.

The Water Animals were familiar with the soil that laid below the water and decided they would gather soil and bring it up to put on the Great Turtle’s shell. The soil would make a more comfortable place for the Sky Woman to sit.

Although several Animals tried to retrieve the soil from below the sea, it was the Muskrat that was successful in diving deep enough to grasp soil in her claws. The Muskrat lost her breath in the effort and her lifeless body surfaced. The Beaver retrieved the soil from the Muskrat claws and gave the soil to the Sky Woman.

The Sky Woman thanked the Water Birds and Water Animals for helping her by singing a beautiful song. She placed the soil on the Great Turtle’s shell and she sang as she danced in a growing counter clockwise circle. The Great Turtle’s shell and the soil grew larger and larger as she danced in a bigger and bigger circle. Her beautiful song beaconed a new world. The land they created is known by the people as Turtle Island.

The “One Dish One Spoon” wampum belt is depicted in the middle of the quilt to remind us that all of Earth’s resources are to be shared by all life, not to be hoarded, not to be fought over, and not to be over used. One takes what is needed and no more, always ensuring that there are resources left for those that follow. 

 

About the Artist

Iakonikonriiosta is a mother and grandmother of a large family. She currently works at the Akwesasne Museum and quilts as an expression of love and life. She uses her quilts to share her insights, often speaking to gatherings of people interested in art, quilts, or indigenous culture. She grew up in Syracuse, New York, and moved to Akwesasne as a young woman to support the Mohawk Nation in the ongoing struggle to maintain a strong presence in the north country.

Iakonikonriiosta was one of the many founding teachers of the Akwesasne Freedom School and continues to support the school as a grandmother. She lives with her husband in Akwesasne. He supports her artwork by adding depth to the designs she brings to life. They both love watching their family grow.