Purified clay needed!

SRS supports indigenous music reconstruction project

three people by a tree holding musical instruments
From left to right, Chuck Walker, Paul Hamel, and Emile Gardiner. Walker and Gardiner are holding some of the instruments created through this project. Photo courtesy of Paul Hamel.

Chase Earles, an award-winning Oklahoma potter, needed clay. The clay could not come from Winterville Mounds but needed to come from somewhere in Washington County, Mississippi.

Winterville Mounds is a massive and pivotally important Pre-Columbian Native American site located in Washington County. Clay could not be dug from the mounds, as they are an archaeological site managed by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Retired USDA Forest Service scientist Paul Hamel found suitable clay – at the bottom of the hole bored for the flagpole at the Delta Village Mobile Home Community, courtesy of co-owner Ron Rasmussen and property manager Lisa Herren.

Hamel brought the clay to Emile Gardiner and Chuck Walker, of the Center for Bottomland Hardwoods, who purified it. Thanks to their expertise and the collaboration of so many people, Hamel was able to deliver high quality clay to Earles.

Pressley Byington playing one of the Winterville flutes. Photo courtesy of Paul Hamel.

The clay was part of a music project. Earles used the clay to make a slip to cover the drums he made; the color of the finished drum is from that clay. Earles’ traditional name is Kahwinhut, and he is a member of the Caddo Nation. Pottery with the Caddo style has been found at the mounds.

Rasps, rattles, and flutes were also part of the project. Pressley Byington, a noted Choctaw flute-maker, constructed flutes out of rivercane that grew at Winterville Mounds. All the instruments were based on traditional and archaeologically derived designs.

Timothy Archambault, an acclaimed Kichesipirini Algonquin flutist and composer, used these instruments to compose, arrange, play, and record music based upon traditional songs of Notchie and Muscogee Creek tribes as relayed through members of Cherokee Nation.

The Notchie, or Natchez Nation, likely descend from the original people of Winterville Mounds.

The project was a collaboration between the Winterville Mounds Association, a non-profit that champions the Winterville Mounds, and the King’s Daughters and Sons Circle Number 2, a local Greenville philanthropy.

Watch a video about the Winterville Music Project.

For more information, email Paul Hamel at phamel.phamel@gmail.com.

Learn more about how SRS works with Native American Nations.