News > Press Releases > Press Release

Press Release

Release Date: January 10, 2019

by Gene Lehmann

  • A gadwall decoy with tribal symbolism proved a hit with officials at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City. It was specifically made by Hinson for his exhibition at the museum in July 2018.

  • Chickasaw Citizen Joshua Hinson holds a wigeon decoy he made specifically for a 40th birthday duck and goose hunt in Manitoba, Canada, in 2018.

ADA, Okla. – Waterfowl decoys crowd shelves, a table and work desk in the office of Joshua Hinson, Chickasaw citizen and director of the Chickasaw Nation Language Department.

Until 2015, his office d├ęcor merely included a mounted deer trophy, a buffalo skull and various items of Native American origin. The idea of hunting any animal smaller than deer made little sense to ;him.

“There was a big duck hunting enthusiast I attended church with years ago. I gave him a hard time about it. I’d say ‘Why would you get up that early for six little ducks? If I am going to go hunting and suffer all day long, I want a deer,’” Hinson said, recalling the conversation.

A few years passed and a Muscogee (Creek) church congregant invited Hinson to duck hunt a slough near Ada.

Surprisingly, Hinson agreed.

“It sounded like fun. The only shotgun I had was a police-issue, straight cylinder 870. I had sold my only (sporting) shotgun to get my car’s transmission fixed,” Hinson remembered laughing. The tactical weapon was worthless as a sporting gun, so Hinson borrowed a Remington 1100 semi-automatic for the hunt.

“We had a few decoys. There was a cold north wind. We were dressed in deer hunting attire lying under a tarp on the dam. At shooting time, a group of gadwalls made about three passes over the decoys. It was awesome! That was it!” Hinson exclaimed shrugging his shoulders. “I was hooked.”

“We went again the next morning before church. I was like ‘How did I not know about this? Why did it take me so long to learn?’

“After that, all my money, all my time, all of my brain has been focused on hunting ducks and geese,” Hinson said shaking his head in disbelief at his new “hobby.”

Diving In

Hinson’s first duck hunting experience launched more than a quest to put fowl on the family dinner table. It sparked an interest in collecting decoys and building his own to honor ancient Chickasaw hunters.

“We know through archeological digs, Chickasaw hunters stalked ducks and particularly swans. Our ancestors used swan feathers ceremonially. Waterfowl bones have been discovered in the digs,” he said. “Without modern weaponry, we theorize they were caught with nets, but we can’t really be certain.”

Decoys carved in the 1880s up to the 1950s and ‘60s accentuate Hinson’s office. He knows the makers. He knows their “signature” skills. He understands how they were made, the wood used to build them, and if they were used in hunting rigs or made for collectors.

One decoy on display is full of lead shot pellets proving hunters used it in an active decoy spread.

“As I became more interested in decoys I thought to myself ‘I’m handy. I’m an artist. I can do this,’” he said. Since this epiphany, Hinson estimates he has carved approximately three dozen decoys, including miniatures. He uses full-sized decoys at several area hunting sites, including Kullihoma, an expanse of land east of Ada where Chickasaws lived and hunted following Removal in the 1830s.

“There is something very special about hunting on tribal ground,” he intoned emotionally. “There is a connectedness, a bond, if you will. Taking in the sunrise or watching the moon slowly descend and disappear are experiences I share with my sons.”

The Big Apple

Kullihoma is a long way from New York City, but Hinson found himself there in July 2018 at the invitation of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). He would display and teach decoy artwork during a four-day exhibition.

Hinson carved a decoy using symbols from an ancestral wood duck bowl discovered in Moundville, Alabama, an ancient settlement of Native Americans of Muskogean heritage.

“I was experimenting as an artist about how to incorporate Chickasaw symbolism, because decoys are not Chickasaw at all. Our ancestors would hunt with flame torches at night, which forced the birds to raft up in a bunch. They were probably netted. Bigger birds, geese and swan, were probably clubbed,” he said.

Bird effigies, especially on pottery and stone carvings, adorn ancient Chickasaw artifacts in the ancestral Homeland of Mississippi and Alabama, Hinson pointed out.

For the NMAI exhibit, Hinson crafted an oversized, hollow gadwall decoy. “I put tribal designs from Moundville on the wing patches along with designs from a shell gorget. I echoed that pattern on the pupils. I normally don’t do eyes on decoys, but my tribal decoys seem to need them for some reason. I think it is to balance the interest.

“Designs on a decoy should flow. You never want an admirer’s eyes to stop moving up and down. You have to balance the designs so there is a forked eye and a little gorget pattern, accompanied with a wing pattern echoing color hues. It just makes the decoy aesthetically more pleasing,” Hinson said.

NMAI officials were so taken with it, the museum purchased the decoy for its permanent collection.

New Admirers

After the New York workshop, Hinson was contacted by admirers wishing to purchase a Lokosh-branded decoy. Lokosh is Hinson’s Chickasaw moniker.

Then people began commissioning Lokosh decoys. It did not take Hinson and his wife, Mika, long to understand a trip to Core Sound, North Carolina, would help trim the couple’s impending income tax burden.

Hinson patterns his decoys after ones crafted for hunting at Core Sound, a large and shallow body of water in far eastern North Carolina between the mainland of Carteret County and Core Banks. It is part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina and is a Mecca for waterfowl hunters and decoy carvers.

The first weekend in December, decoy carvers gather at Harkers Island Elementary School to show their work at Core Sound Decoy Carvers Guild. The premiere carver in 2017 was James Lewis, who became friends with Hinson via the internet through their mutual love of crafting decoys. In September, Hurricane Florence flooded the home of Lewis’ son. He offered Hinson his display table at the show because Lewis did not have decoys to show. He was too busy assisting his son with home repairs.

Hinson did not have decoys to display either, but that did not stop him from accepting the invitation.

“I had to make a bunch of decoys. I had nothing to show or sell. I took some from my hunting rig. I really wasn’t looking to sell them. I was going to show them and enter them in the contest. I made three Core Sound decoys – just straight gunner decoys – and I had two mergansers that were styled with tribal symbols. The mergansers were a commission, so they were already sold,” Hinson said through sheepish grins about preparations for the show.

“By happenstance, knowing people, a hurricane … I got a table in the gymnasium which is where you want to be … with all the heavy hitters, you know, all these famous decoy carvers.

“I sold out,” he said and, with a quick smile, added “and would have broke even had I not acquired a Mitchell Fulcher goose decoy.”