Saturday, June 20, 2009

Richard Chrisjohn, my grampa

I tell people all the time, my grandfather was a renown woodcarver. I say it, and think, perhaps people don't believe it. Maybe it's my own skeptical nature which makes me wonder if they don't believe me? Truly, he was more then just a wood carver, he was a visionary, an educator, a mentor, an activist, an artist, our Oneida Chief and more importantly my family's patriarch.

Sometimes I forget who he was in the eyes of the world, because to me he was just Gramp. I remember seeing his "followers" come up to him at pow wows and watching him carve or listening to him talk. Everyone seemed to know him. He was interesting, and the more I think about it, I realize, he deserved the accolades.

You may ask, what brought on my ramblings about my grandfather?

I visited the NYS museum today with my parents and my niece and nephew. We walked through the museum. My nephew ooo'ed and my niece repeatedly asked to go to the carousel (completely my fault, I should have never told her there was one there). Finally, we made it to the Native Peoples of New York. The kids really loved it, especially the long house. As, we walked down the little ramp there against the wall was my grandfather's water drum and Condolence Cane! How special it was to see my grandfather's woodwork there in the museum, where thousands of people will see it, to be able to turn to a stranger and say "My grampa made that."?

photo curtesy of the Iroquois Museum

Gramp instilled in his children, the desire and importance to perpetuate the Iroquois culture. By his example we all strive to educate ourselves, our children and everyone who is interested that our rich cultural heritage is thriving and will continue to do so beyond the seventh generation. Sure he may have profited by selling his art to museums and collectors, but his carvings, jewelry and other artwork will be on display for ever.

He will forever be an inspiration for me and my family to continue in his footsteps.


  1. The Shako:wi Cultural center was named after my grandfather. Shakwo:wi is his Oneida name, which means "he gives". He spelled his name Sagowhe,and it still bugs me to this day, the Nation spelled it the way they wanted on his gravestone. There is a nice article they wrote about him at:

  2. I'm so glad to see your blog.It is a good way to make it known worldwide.Will visit again! Are you into natural healing and empowerment - that's what my blog is about.