By Beverlee Pettit and Sallie Cotter Andrews
Mary V. Bearskin was born in 1874. At this time it is not clear who her parents were. In January 1896, at the age of 22, the Secretary of Interior’s records show that she was working as an Assistant Seamstress at the Pawnee Boarding School in Pawnee, Oklahoma. On June 30, 1898, Mary was listed on the 1898 Seneca census that was taken by the Quapaw Agency which served the tribes in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma. At that time Mary was 24 years of age.
The Secretary of Interior’s records show that in October 1898 Mary was employed as a Baker at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School. The school was located in Gotebo, Oklahoma, and was an Indian school for the Kiowa nation. The Rainy Mountain Boarding School opened in 1893 south of Gotebo which is located 39 miles southeast of Clinton and 51 miles northwest of Lawton. Another Wyandotte citizen, Joel Anthony Cotter, also worked at the Rainy Mountain Boarding School during that same time period. He was a Blacksmith and Assistant Industrial Teacher, trades he learned at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Joel’s son, Clarence Ray Cotter, Sr., was born at Mountain View near Rainy Mountain. Clarence recalled that his family road in a wagon from Rainy Mountain to Lawton where they caught a train that took them home to Wyandotte.
“Moccasin-makers drew their inspiration from a rich treasury of traditional motifs and symbols. After the Europeans arrived, beads replaced traditional porcupine quills and moosehair as decorative materials. However, the basic structure of the moccasin did not change. Made from a single piece of tanned, smoked hide, with the heel seam sewn and the toe seam notched and gathered, the moccasin protected the feet of our people. These moccasins were made for a precious baby’s feet,” explains Beverlee Pettit, citizen of the Wyandotte Nation and founder of the Longhouse Women group.