© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Meet a Mohawk beader in the Adirondacks who's sharing her culture through art

Jocelyn Jock, whose Mohawk name is Teiekariios, shows off her beadwork alongside beaded necklaces made by her mother.
Emily Russell

Jocelyn Jock was driving through the Adirondacks recently when she spotted a dead porcupine on the side of the road. So she pulled over and started plucking out its quills.

“At first I was just pulling handfuls out of it, just thanking the creator," she explained.

“I went to get into my car to drive away and I was like, ‘I can’t just leave it there,’ so I threw it in the back and I drove home.”

At her home in Bloomingdale, Jock keeps those quills in a little clear box. They’re about two inches long, are a pale white color with brown tips, and are extremely sharp. It took her five days to harvest the quills from the porcupine she found.

“Every porcupine has about 30,000 quills on it and you have to pluck them individually by hand, you have to wash them individually, you have to boil them, you have to dry them and then you have to trim them.”

“I wasn’t white enough to fit in with the white kids and I wasn’t Native enough to fit in with the Native kids," Jock said.

Eventually, she left Akwesasne and moved to the Adirondacks for college when she was 18 years old. She started going back home to see family, which is when Jock really began beading on a regular basis.

Beaded pieces made by Jock's mom, who lives in Akwesasne.
Emily Russell
Beaded pieces made by Jock's mom, who lives in Akwesasne.

She watched tutorials on YouTube and found beadwork patterns on Pinterest. Jock is 22 years old now and has been beading for years, though she still describes herself as a beginner.

She picks up a piece of felt and threads a needle with two tiny beads.

“I am just going to bring the beads down to the string and then I will pierce the fabric with the needle," Jock explained, "pull it all the way through and then I will go back through with the two beads. And that is one stitch.”

One stitch takes her about 30 seconds, so intricately beaded earrings can take anywhere from 4 to 40 hours to make. She beads either on her lunch break or when she’s not working at Nori’s, a natural food store in Saranac Lake. Right now she sells her earrings on commission.

“Almost all my coworkers on the cafe side have them," Jock said. "Almost everyone at Nori’s has a pair of my earrings.”

Jock’s older sister, Presley Ransom chimes in to confirm. Ransom, whose Mohawk name is Kanentaha:wi, works with Jock at Nori's.

They also live together, along with their other sister Keeley Jock, whose Mohawk name is Kawerarenniiohstha, and Ransom’s husband. Like Jock, Ransom bounced between Native and white cultures as a kid, never feeling like she fit in anywhere, which left a mark on her.

“I really suppressed my culture," Ransom said. "I never learned how to bead, I never learned how to dance and I never learned how to cook our traditional foods, so to watch her really embrace our culture has been phenomenal."

Ransom has been a kind of guinea pig for Jock’s earrings. She and her husband also helped Jock connect with a ski company out in Utah– Vishnu Freeski, which commissioned a beaded piece by Jock that took her 600 hours to make.

A photo of that piece is now the design on a pair of downhill skis. Jock said the piece tells a story of family, of Mohawk culture, and of a time when Native children were forcibly taken from their homes and stripped of that culture.

Presley Ransom and her younger sister, Jocelyn Jock, with the pair of skis Jock designed for Vishnu Freeski.
Emily Russell
Presley Ransom and her younger sister, Jocelyn Jock, with the pair of skis Jock designed for Vishnu Freeski.

“The orange colors are for the residential schools and for all those that didn’t make it home, the strawberries that are there– there’s three of them– it’s representing my and my sisters, and strawberries are really good medicine.”

There are also rows of pink and red for the missing and murdered indigenous women. Jock said it’s important for her to not only embrace her culture but to share it with others. Both the beauty and the pain.

She also hopes that sharing and selling her work on Instagram inspires others to do the same.

“I hope that other younger native artists see it and go, ‘oh I can do that too,’ and they just try their hand at anything and they just post about it and try to find their voice," Jock said.

Jock found her voice through her beaded jewelry and by embracing her Mohawk culture. She hopes one day she can bead full-time and make a real living doing what she really loves.