Ancestral Women

honoring our ancestors through handwoven jacquard portraits


January 2016

Tinker Schuman

Tinker Schuman

The fifth weaving is of Tinker Schuman, an elder in the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe. Tinker is also known as “Eagle Woman.” She’s a pipe carrier, a healer, a poet, an artist, and someone deeply respected with the Ojibwe Nation of Lac du Flambeau.

The weaving incorporates Tinker’s eagle staff, which is made of bald eagle feathers. She is also holding an eagle fan. Mary added an eagle flying out of the sun to represent Tinker’s spirit.

There’s much more to tell of Tinker’s story – she has told us a great deal, but we failed to take notes! We hope to sit down again with her soon and be better recorders.

Mary Tuckwob George

Mary Tuckwob George1 weaving

Mary’s fourth weaving is of Mary Tuckwob George, a Potawatomi Indian from the Crandon, WI, area. Mary was the grandmother of Mike Alloway Sr., the director of the Forest County Potawatomi Cultural Center. We’ll add more information as we talk further with Mike!

Here’s a close-up of the weaving of Mary Tuckwob George’s beaded bandolier bag:

flower closeup Mary2

Potawatomi women created gorgeous strapped beaded bandolier bags . Here’s a further  close-up of how Mary Burns took elements from the pattern of the bandolier bag and its straps, enlarged them, and then placed them on the left margin of the weaving:

flower closeup Mary

Polly Moore DeGroat


The third weaving is of Polly DeGroat, a woman many Brothertown Indians trace their lineage to, though the photo used for her weaving describes her as a Munsee-Delaware Indian. For Polly’s weaving, Mary started with a washed-out photograph of her and redrew the image, placing her within a forest with sunlight streaming down on her. Mary tried to make her a little more ethereal, as if she had less substance and more sky within her. Because the Brothertown faced several removals from the east coast and eventually were located in Wisconsin, Mary also decided to include a map of their removals at the base of the weaving.

The final size is similar to the other pieces – 31” x 42”. The Brothertown Indian Nation is still struggling to get their tribal federal status reestablished, so Polly’s portrait is particularly important and moving.

Background Info:

Polly married Joseph Degroat and had 8 children. Polly was born in New York on 1/1/1794. Joseph was born in Bergen, New Jersey on 1/1/1785. She passed away on 1/1/1871 in East Bayham, Elgin, Ontario, Canada. He passed away on 1/1/1840 in Stockbridge, Madison, New York.

Polly Moore was known as a medicine woman.

polly moore ,,mother of john degroat




Bernice Davids Miller Pigeon


The second piece Mary wove was based on a more contemporary woman from the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians. Bernice Davids Miller Pigeon was the woman the community selected for the woven portrait. She was born in 1918, died in 2005, and was very involved in collecting tribal history. Bernice was the tribal historian and was instrumental in starting the tribal historical library and museum.

For Bernice’s portrait, Mary drew and redrew the design, sampling as she went along. The final design is a portrait of Bernice bordered by a drawing of the tribe’s “Many Trails” symbol, which represents Endurance, Strength and Hope. Also in the border is a drawing of a turtle, which represents Bernice’s clan. In the portrait, she is wearing necklaces with these symbols.

This weaving is primarily woven in shaded satins, and is framed the same as the first portrait at  approximately 31” x 42.” When Mary showed this weaving at a central Wisconsin art festival in September, she was surprised and delighted to have two different people tell her they had known Bernice and what a wonderful person she was.

Bernice’s native name, Nutkasqua, meant “the gatherer.”

Some background information on Bernice:

Bernice was born on September 1, 1918 in the Town of Red Springs, the eldest of a family of ten to Elmer L. and Eureka (Jordan) Davids. Bernice grew up on the family farm near Big Lake. Her parents had 9 cows, 400 chickens, a huge family garden, and strawberry, boysenberry and raspberry patches. She married Arvid E. Miller on April 28, 1935. Together they raised twelve children. Arvid passed on in January of 1968. In March of 1979 she married Oscar Pigeon of Wittenberg; he preceded her in death in 2002. Bernice and her first husband, Arvid E. Miller, a Quinney descendant, conceived of the Stockbridge-Munsee Historical Library and Museum, which she founded after his death in 1968 and which was named the Arvid E. Miller Memorial Historical Library Museum. At the time of her death, Bernice had 56 grandchildren, 115 great-grandchildren, 39 great great-grandchildren, and many, many nieces and nephews

Her story is, of course, far richer than this very short biography. We will be honored to present more about her as we gain further insights.

Emma Pettibone

The Ancestral Women project began several years ago when Mary Burns contacted the Wisconsin Historical Society concerning using images from their collections as inspiration for her weavings. She narrowed down her choices, eventually deciding on an image of a Ho-Chunk woman taken by H.H. Bennett, a well-known photographer in the Wisconsin Dells area. Bennett was one of the best landscape photographers of the 19th century, but also had a good relationship with the Ho-Chunk tribe of central and southern Wisconsin, taking portraits of tribal members and recording how the Ho-Chunk people lived.

Bennett took three photographs of the woman that Mary chose to weave. She is not named except to say she is “Pete Pettibone’s sister.” There is no date on the image, but it would likely be from the early 1900’s. Mary since discovered her real name – Emma Pettibone.

Mary purchased the one-time rights to that image and began to work on the image, as well as to do research on the Ho-Chunk people. She didn’t want to weave the image as a direct depiction of the photograph – she wanted the weaving to be “more.” She loved the textiles that the woman is wearing and holding, and discovered the shawl she is carrying was most likely done in silk appliqué. She loved its patterning and drew out the geometric design from the shawl, placing it vertically in the weaving design. So, the pattern of the shawl is emphasized in the weaving, drawing the eye to the textile within the textile.

Blog at

Up ↑