We are Proud to present the John Knifechief collection of hand made Native American art.
Mr. Knifechief is a full blood Pawnee Indian who has mastered the craft of knife and bow making. He has lived a very interesting life and has had to turn to his native roots to survive. "Elders say the veins in the arrowhead speak of the journey you've taken in your life," Knifechief said. "My elders in my tribe say if I would've been alive 100 to 200 years ago, when they had war- when they had arrow and bow makers and different people that did different things in the tribes - then I would've have been one of the main guys that they would've kept alive. Nothing would've happened to me." he said.
As life goes, John's life has had a lot of ups and downs just like the many relief-like rises and valleys on the surface of his arrowheads.
"My Dad was a farmer in Pawnee, Oklahoma, and when he would plow the fields, I would pick up the arrowheads and flint and watch him make bows and arrows" he stated. Knifechief would hunt as a boy with a fiberglass bow, then his father showed him how to make a traditional bow from a bodark tree. Since that time John has mastered the craft and is the only bow and arrow maker in his tribe, knapping arrowheads from chert, jasper, flint, and obsidian and securing them with deer or calf sinew on dogwood shafts. The late Dennis Charles Knifechief, who everyone called "Gala" for his gentle and generous nature, taught his sons as he had been taught by his elders the craft of bow and arrow making.
As a teenager, John enjoyed art and often sold his drawings, paintings or bows and arrows to help the family with "diapers and milk". When Gala's sons got a bit older they would help with cutting firewood to sell and harvesting pecans. After the death of his dad in 1983 of Rocky Mountain tick fever, John found himself changed, avoiding powwows and dances, things that Gala had loved and taught John.
Several years passed before Knifechief went back to his art. By that time, he had two sons of his own and was a Pawnee Fire Scout. He joined the volunteer Wildland Firefighters through the Scouts and began battling blazes throughout the country.
"Being among firefighters means family", he said. "It's just like having a regular brother and sister, you get a stronger bond, I think, whenever you put your lives on the line. People are different. They look at things different," Knifechief said.
"When my third son, Charles came into my life, my entire life changed for the better."
When Charles was just an infant, Knifechief's career as a firefighter came to a sudden end. He was driving his motorcycle when he was hit head-on by a driver that had swerved into his lane. Knifechief remembers flipping though the air and his helmet coming off. "When that person hit me, I was laying there, and it was like that out of body experience you always hear on TV," he said. While laying there he thought of his infant son, Charles, his father and many other things. He also thought about what it meant to appreciate life. Due to this he made further changes to his life. The accident was disabling for John due to his foot having to be reattached with surgery. He stayed with his brother, Charles, while he rehabilitated his foot and leg. "When the accident happened, I went back to my dad's old teachings. That's how I pay the bills and raise my son," stated Knifechief.
John Knifechief has full custody of Charles, and never thought he would find himself raising a child on his own. Unable to work to this day, John has created his art and gone to various locations around the region to sell his masterpieces, in order to pay the bills and secure a future for him and his son, Charles. John is not able to travel farther from home and still keep Charles grounded and well rounded in their home town and local school activities. Due to this, John Knifechief is turning to the internet to help reach more people with his "one of a kind" Native American art and support his son.
When Charles was twelve, he talked to his father, John about dancing at the Powwows. John was surprised and honored that his son wanted to dance with him in the tradition of their ancestors. So after 33 years, Knifechief created regalia for both of them to wear while dancing. They are Straight dancers which recounts the story of hunting or war parties searching for the enemy. The attire of the dancers presents a formal and prestigious form and the slow proud movement of the dance style matches the attire. This is a "Gentlemen's" dance, which tells the story of a hunting or war party on the trail of an animal or an enemy. This is replicated in the regalia that is worn by the Knifechiefs, in addition to the normal attire for Straight Dancers they wear "Warrior's Bundles", that consist of bows, arrows, quivers, tomahawks, war clubs, buffalo spears, skinning knives, medicine pouches all that have been hand created by Knifechief. The art of Straight Dancing is in the little, sometimes unnoticed things, both in the movement and the outfit. Smoothness, precision with the song, knowledge of dance etiquette, and a powerful sense of pride mark the outstanding straight dancer that Knifechief is. If you ever attend a powwow or Native American dance in Oklahoma, you just might see this father and son team dancing proudly to their native heritage.
Not only has John gone back to the powwows and dances that his father "Gala" loved, but he has also acquired the gentle, loving and generous nature of his father. Knifechief not only dances to honor the veterans past and present, but he also recognizes veterans, firefighters, and law enforcement where ever he goes and thanks them for the trials they go through to keep this country safe.
John Knifechief enjoys teaching his art to others including his son, Charles. "I'm the only one left in my tribe to carry on the handmade tradition of bows and arrows," he says. "I get to honor my father. I think this is a dying art, and I'm happy and honored to carry on the tradition of bow and arrow making."
Buyers of this "one of a kind" art do not realize that they are fulfilling two needs: rent payment and tradition. Knifechief separates them as ideals, but understands how they merge to his family's benefit. He's not it in for the money, but his son's welfare depends on it.
John uses the phrase "Chaticks-si-Chaticks" on his business cards. "It means, 'men of men' or 'people of people'," he said. In other words, everyone is connected and worth knowing. John makes his introduction through his art. Many people want to meet this man who has devoted his life to his native traditions in order to take care of his son, Charles. If you are in the area of Patchwork Pup in Claremore, Oklahoma, drop on by and you just might get to meet this humble man.
His work has been featured in USA Today, Native American Times, Oklahoma Magazine and Oklahoma Native Artists Oral History Project at the OSU Library. Future features will be presented in various Pawnee tribe magazines and other well known magazines.
NOTICE: EACH ITEM PRESENTED ON THIS WEBSITE IS A "ONE OF A KIND" HANDMADE BY JOHN KNIFECHIEF. ONCE AN ITEM IS PURCHASED IT WILL BE TAKEN OFF OF THE WEBSITE. EACH ITEM IS "FIRST COME - FIRST SERVED". THERE MAYBE SIMILAR ITEMS BUT THEY ARE NEVER THE SAME. THIS HELPS TO MAKE YOUR PURCHASE EVEN MORE VALUABLE.