This rare example of Arkansas Made needlework is the earliest documented Native American-made sampler known to exist anywhere in the United States.
Nancy Grave’s Cherokee name was Ku-To-Yi, and she was 11 years old when she made this sampler. She was one of dozens of young Cherokee girls who attended the Presbyterian school known as Dwight Mission, located on the banks of the Arkansas River near present-day Russellville. There they learned the three “R’s” and the various aspects of domestic economy, which included needlework, and the making of samplers. Most samplers are constructed with three major components—the alphabet, numbers and verse. As a result, the student was taught to sew, spell, read and count.
The school was established in 1820 by the Reverend Cephas Washburn. One of its stated purposes was to serve as a school to educate and Christianize the Cherokee moving west with their families from their homes in Tennessee and Georgia. Ultimately, the “Americanization” of Native Americans in this country resulted in the wholesale loss of language and culture for tens of thousands of American Indians.