Shan Goshorn, Sealed Fate: Treaty of New Echota Protest Basket

Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee), Sealed Fate: Treaty of New Echota Protest Basket, 2010, Arches watercolor paper and computer printer ink (Epson Ultrachrome inks), 55.9 cm x 33 cm, 27.9 cm high (Gilcrease Museum)


Shan Goshorn, Protest Basket

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Key Points

  • Shan Goshorn (Eastern Band Cherokee) produced baskets that innovatively blend traditional Cherokee techniques with storytelling and diverse materials to engage viewers with difficult history and topics. As an activist artist, Goshorn used the familiar form of baskets to teach about the trauma and impact of topics such as Indian removal, representation, and marginalization. Through her work, she also contributed to the longstanding history of female basket weaving, and the broader resilience and adaptability of the Cherokee people.    
  • Sealed Fate specifically addresses the history of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, which precipitated the displacement of sixteen thousand Cherokee citizens from their homelands east of the Mississippi River to what was known as Indian Territory in Oklahoma. During this journey west, known as the Trail of Tears, one quarter of the relocated Cherokee people died. Goshorn created Sealed Fate from splints, or thin strips of material, made from reproductions of the treaty and the resulting protest documents submitted by over thirteen thousand Cherokee citizens.  

Go Deeper

This work at the Gilcrease Museum.

Explore the resources related to the 2021 exhibition, Weaving History into Art: The Enduring Legacy of Shan Goshorn (Gilcrease Museum). 

Learn more about Shan Goshorn’s baskets and her work as an activist.

Read about Shan Goshorn’s baskets that address the lasting impact of Indian Boarding Schools (from American Indian, the magazine of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian).

Analyze the petition against the Treaty of New Echota (DocsTeach, National Archives).

Read the Treaty of New Echota (Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian).

More to Think About

Goshorn uses archival documents as the building blocks of this and other baskets. For Sealed Fate, the documents bear the handwriting of both government officials and Cherokee citizens who were engaged in a struggle for power and sovereignty. Look closely at the handwriting on the two different documents (the treaty and the protest letter) and how Goshorn has embedded them into the structure of the basket. What do you notice about the writing? What new questions and ideas does the handwriting—and its use in the basket’s design—pose for you about this part of history? Can you think of other instances where the visible hand of the artist or of a participant in a historical event impacts your perception and understanding of the situation?

Explore the diverse history of the United States through its art. Seeing America is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Alice L. Walton Foundation.