International Iroquois Beadwork Conference

The "International Iroquois Beadwork Conference" (IIBC) brings together scholars who have studied different aspects of raised beading. The annual conferences provide a different experience focused on the history and culture of the Iroquois Tribes and how Iroquois Raised Beadwork is a part of it.

This year, the IIBB conference will be held on Sept 16, 17 & 18th, 2016, in the Oneida Community Education Center, 2632 South Packerland Drive, Green Bay, WI 54313. The IIBC coordinator is Dolores Elliott (contact her at 607-729-0016, email The IIBC conference website and links are found here:

Home Page: 2016 International Iroquois Beadwork Conference

Registration: IIBC Registration Form

Beadwork Contest: Raised Beadwork Entry Form

In New York and Canada, where the IIRB Conference is generally held, are where you find the largest collections of Raised Beadwork. Delores Elliott (conference coordinator) has about 1000 pieces of Iroquois Raised Beadwork, and she shows a portion of it at each conference. There are also collections of Iroquois Raised Beadwork in the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown NY, the Royal Ontario Museum, and many more.

The Oneida people in Wisconsin have beaders who did flat beading, as compared to raised beading where the beads are laid down in “hills.” So, the final design almost has a 3-D look to it. Because the Iroquois Raised Beadwork began around the mid-19th century with the Iroquois Tribes in New York state, the Oneida people living in Wisconsin missed the advent of raised beadwork since they had moved from New York by 1824. tourist in park

In upstate New York, the Tuscarora people developed the distinctive Iroquois Raised Beadwork styles in response to a Victorian tourist demand in the early 1800's. They developed techniques of beadwork where beaded elements are raised more than one layer of beads above the fabric surface of the piece.

The Tuscaroras specialized in creating pincushions in many shapes such as Victorian shaped boots, hearts, and six-pointed stars," (retrieved from "Learing Longhouse: Beadwork," published by the the Iroquois Indian Museum!beadwork/cbk6).

The Tuscarora sold their beadwork in Niagara Falls parks and public events. "According to Tuscarora oral tradition, Tuscarora men served and protected U.S. General Peter B. Porter during the War of 1812. ... General Porter's family, which privately owned all land adjacent to Niagara Falls, gave Tuscarora women the right to sell their beadwork along the Niagara rapids in perpetuity, " (retrieved from Bead Society of Greater New York newsletter at

At the height of Iroquois Raised Beadwork sales, tens of thousands of pieces were sold to tourists, from 1890 to 1920, in the state parks, fairs, and other events across the country. Making Raised Beadwork and selling souvenir products became a lucrative business for Iroquois families in New York.

"With clever marketing and the power of the Victorian romanticism of the ‘Savage Indian’ – Iroquoian Beadwork suddenly became an accessible solution to bringing home some money for several families," (retrieved from "The history of raised Iroquoian beadwork," published by Two Row Times: The Spirit of All Nations, ).

beading class In July of 1998, the Oneida Nation Arts Program (ONAP) presented Sam Thomas and Lorna Hill (both Cayuga) to Oneida to teach their style of raised beadwork. They have returned for a number of years to teach more classes on several projects including the glengarry hat, feather case, picture frames, coin purses, moccasins, and many more.

“I love Iroquois Raised Beadwork,” says Karen Ann Hoffman. “My teachers are Samuel Thomas and Lorna Hill from Niagara Falls, Ontario. I first met them in a raised beadwork workshop when they came to Oneida, Wisconsin in the late 1990's.” She beaded before then, but “no one in Wisconsin was doing raised beadwork in those days.” ("Karen Ann Hoffman, Turtle Clan," retrieved from Gerry Biron, ).

There are several Oneida men and women who have become highly skilled in created Iroquois Raised Beadwork. Since the first Iroquois Raised Beadwork class offered by ONAP, in 1998, dozens of Oneida people have taken raised beadwork classes from Sam Thomas, Rosemary Hill, Judith L. Jourdan, Loretta Webster, Christine Klimmek, and others, and the interest in more classes has not subsided.

In 2000, ONAP awarded a Dollars for Art Program (DAP) grant to Rosemary Hill (Tuscarora) to conduct a workshop on Iroquois Raised Beadwork in Oneida, WI. She coordinated the design, beadwork, and creation of the Iroquois Raised Beaded Cape. Since that time, Rosemary Hill has returned to Oneida, WI, to teach more Iroquois Raised Beadwork projects, styles, and pattern making.

Cape front Cape back

The rapid rise of raised beadwork artists in Oneida, WI, occurred because there already are many excellent beaders in the community. They learned different types of stitches from their early childhood. After attending Raised Beading classes, they began adding new raised beadwork stitches to their beading designs toolbox.

A number of Oneida beaders became committed to doing the raised beadwork style to the exclusion of flat beadwork. Some of them gained national prominence when they began winning awards at art shows. A few of the recent award winners include: Judith L. Jourdan, Sandy Gauthier, Betty Willems, Loretta Webster, Karen Hoffman and others.

The Oneida community is honored by Delores Elliott's choice to bring the 2016 International Raised Beadwork Conference to Oneida, WI. For more info about the dates and time, contact Delores at:

Online resources:

200 Years of Tuscarora Beadwork at Niagara Falls: the War of 1812 to Present
Tuscarora & Friends Gallery 2013 | Presented by Lewiston Council on the Arts

"Museum displays exquisite examples of Iroquois beadwork," in the Daily Gazette News, May, 25, 2012.

by Ruth B. Phillips, Department of Art History, Carletcn University, Ottawa

For more info, call ONAP (920) 490-3833. Contributing writer: Loretta Webster.

floral scroll


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