U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's Purse

Title: Untitled Cherokee purse commissioned by the University of Kansas School of Law, a gift to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Artist: Martha Berry, registered tribal citizen, Cherokee Nation

Materials: Glass beads on wool stroud; linen; silk ribbon; handmade, period authentic brass closure. To the extent possible, all materials are authentic to those used in Cherokee beadwork between 1800 and 1840.

Size: Approx. 9½" H x 10" W x 1" D (excluding strap)

Completed: February 27, 2010

The primary motif of this purse is the design in the center of the pouch. This iconic representation of the sun and fire dates back to Cherokee art prior to contact with European culture.

Many variations of equilateral crosses represent the sun and fire in the pottery and shell carvings of the great mound building cultures of what is now the southeastern United States.

Symbols such as these evolved into early 19th century Cherokee beadwork, making beaded art a blending of ancient Cherokee design with then state-of-the-art European materials. When the arms of an equilateral cross are elongated and curled, the symbol also represents the four winds.

The secondary motifs on this piece are the curling lines surrounding the sun/fire symbol. These lines represent smoke curling up from the fire, carrying our thoughts and prayers to the Upper World and the Creator.