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Press Release

Release Date: May 20, 2019

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office



  • Nationally-renowned Chickasaw jeweler Kristen Dorsey shows off a few pieces from her new Oklhili' Hashi' (Night Sun) Collection while holding the collection’s inspiration: Brynn Oklhili' Hashi'. Dorsey’s journey into motherhood has deeply influenced her creativity.

  • The panther hunts its prey while bathed in moonlight with this Kristen Dorsey piece. These studs feature hand carved panthers crouching over luminous rainbow moonstones surrounded by southeastern design work representing rays of light.

  • Kristen Dorsey hand-sculpted this pendant from the Oklhili' Hashi' (Night Sun) Collection. It depicts two panthers guarding a precious gemstone. Crowning the panthers is a star carving set with a white sapphire, representing how light from the moon and stars illuminate our paths through darkness.

SULPHUR, Okla. -- -- Nationally-renowned adornments crafted by Chickasaw jeweler Kristen Dorsey will be available Memorial Day weekend at the Artesian Arts Festival May 25.

Throughout the festival, the California-based artisan will discuss her work, which draws from her Chickasaw heritage, life experiences and personal style.

Her art incorporates traditional Chickasaw materials and techniques, and encompasses rings, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, earrings and gorgets.

This time around, Dorsey will also be bringing along a new little booth buddy, her firstborn child, Brynn Oklhili' Hashi'.

Dorsey’s journey into motherhood has deeply influenced many aspects of her life. It was bound to influence her creativity, as evidenced by the new Oklhili' Hashi' (Night Sun) Collection.

Oklhili' Hashi'

“I began this collection shortly after the birth of my daughter, who is my Oklhili' Hashi',” Dorsey said. It is the Chickasaw phrase for moon and, for Dorsey, a symbol of the transformative new strength motherhood brings.

“This experience of giving and nurturing new life has been one of the most challenging, yet one of the most transformative times of my life,” she said. “The pieces in this collection honor those moments of life changing transformation -- when challenging times might break you down, yet you emerge a stronger, more radiant version of yourself.”

These pieces required months of intricate wax carvings that were then transformed into precious metals via the lost wax casting method. Once the metal was cast, they were hand-sanded, polished and set with the stones.

As a motif, the pieces of this collection feature panthers, a Chickasaw clan animal prevalent in some of Dorsey’s previous creations.

Members of the Iksa' Kowishto' Losa' (Panther Clan) were hunters who lived in hills or mountains, close to water. They owned plenty of property and horses. When holding a great feast, members of the Panther Clan invited all their neighbors.

“Panthers hunt at night in the Chickasaw Homeland of the southeast and, to me, symbolize power and courage,” Dorsey said.

Tiny stars set with white sapphires accompany the panthers in this collection.

Visitors of Dorsey’s Artesian Arts Festival booth can look forward to an assortment of panther moon studs, as well as starlight panther drop pendants and earrings.

Dorsey will also be sharing pieces from several other collections during the festival, including “Hatchet Women,” “Of Earth and Place,” “Panther Woman” and “Shokmalli’.”

Hatchet Women

“Hatchet Women” features argentium silver accented with natural gemstones, such as labradorite and tourmaline.

Dorsey looks to her own heritage and sees examples of powerful women. The “Hatchet Women” collection is a shining representation of them.

“I have always been drawn to stories of heroines, women throughout history who display an unrelenting resilience and perseverance,” she said.

Dorsey said Chickasaw women have always protected and defended their lands from invaders. She pointed to the reputation the Chickasaws garnered in the 1700s with the French, who saw them as formidable adversaries whose villages were nearly impossible to attack.

“This was due in part to iron hatchet-wielding Chickasaw women,” Dorsey said. “The French were surprised to see women could become warriors and that women were as essential to war as they were to peace.”

She said today’s Chickasaw women wield knowledge instead of hatchets, but are no less fierce than their mothers and grandmothers, and will pass this gift of strength to their daughters and granddaughters.

Panther Woman

Dorsey dedicated her “Panther Woman” collection to the ongoing tradition of female leadership and strength in the Chickasaw Nation.

According to oral tradition, the Panther Woman is a heroine whose leadership defended her village. She was a communicator, strategist and woman warrior.

Pieces in this collection are inspired by ancient shell carvings of the panther, which is a top predator in the Chickasaw Homeland, scattered across the forests, mountains and prairies that later became parts of southwestern Kentucky, western Tennessee, northern Mississippi and northwestern Alabama.

Jewelry associated with this collection includes detailed panthers and shield shapes accented with twinkling diamonds to represent the night sky alongside iridescent moonstone and labradorite, symbolizing the magic and mystery of the panther’s lair.

Dorsey views her “Panther Woman” collection as a type of jeweled armor fit for today’s female warriors while honoring the warriors of the past.

It’s a legacy she personally carries forward with her efforts in protecting the environment and defending water rights.

“Defending our lands remains critical to this day. We need clean water, clean air, a healthy ecosystem, fish in the ocean, bees to pollinate. Our survival is dependent on nature, what is around us,” she said.

Of Earth and Place

“My art is all about my Chickasaw heritage and my deep love of the natural world,” Dorsey explained.

The collection, “Of Earth and Place,” honors the plants cultivated by her ancestors to provide nourishment and medicine. It features materials enjoyed by Chickasaws for hundreds of years.

“Our Chickasaw ancestors loved pearls, shell and copper for their adornments. Today, I also incorporate contemporary materials to reference the older adornments such as rose gold to symbolize our ancient copper working traditions,” she said.

Dorsey researched the plant life found in the Chickasaw Homeland and how it played a prominent role in the culture and daily lives of Chickasaws.

She said reconnecting with the land and traditional knowledge is a healing process for her. If she isn’t traveling east to reconnect, she’s taking in the ever-changing beaches of the Pacific Ocean, which she explored as a youth.

“It’s about being present in the place you are, observing the land and objects around you, being inspired by it. The mindset where you can see clearly, be present and be creative,” she said.

Artesian Arts Festival

With the Artesian Arts Festival on the horizon, Dorsey looks forward to visiting what she calls her second home of Oklahoma. If she had a favorite room in her second home, it would be the festival’s hosting town, Sulphur.

The festival will be open to the public at no charge 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Artesian Plaza in Sulphur, located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa, 1001 W. First Street.

Musical entertainment, tribal dance demonstrations and food vendors are also planned, as well as a special area for children’s activities and a senior citizens’ arts and crafts booth.

Beginning at 10:30 a.m., livestreaming of the complete artist talks may be viewed online at Chickasaw.Net/ArtesianFest. Featured Chickasaw artists Mike Larson, Daniel Worcester and Jack Pettigrew can be viewed at Facebook.com/TheChickasawNation at 10:30 a.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.

For more information about the Artesian Arts Festival, contact the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts & Humanities at 580-272-5520 or visit Chickasaw.net/ArtesianFest.

Dorsey maintains an online presence to showcase her collections and tell her stories at KristenDorseyDesigns.com. She keeps a blog on the website where she makes announcements, gives behind-the-scenes glimpses into her current creations and writes historical art essays. Video features covering Dorsey can be found at Chickasaw.tv.