MVSKOKE RESERVATION- Mvskoke citizen Jack Stafford has found that hobbies can turn into something more. The former home builder has kept busy crafting cedar boxes since retirement, yet recently his woodworking skills have carved out an interesting niche. They will be used as storage boxes for the archival pipestem collections at Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota.
Stafford and his wife, Nanette, run Cedar Creations by Jack, an Etsy store where they sell a variety of cedar boxes and craftwork. It began when he made a box for his wife’s feather fan, once her friends saw it they wanted one too. Nanette recalled, “He made the first one for me. Most of my friends are Osage, and when they saw the box he made for me they all wanted one. And that’s how it got started.”
Jack believes that is how Pipestone found out about his work. “We got a call one day and it was this lady from Pipestone National Monument. She asked if we could make 100 cedar boxes.”
Stafford’s shop keeps a few stock boxes in different sizes at the ready. He can also create boxes to the customer’s specifications, but nothing like what the archive needed. They requested 100 boxes in sizes from 20 inches to three feet. The boxes were also to be made without nails or screws, the only hardware being latches and hinges. Stafford has finished up the first 50 boxes of the order. He and Nanette will be delivering them to the archive in person.
The soft red stone found at Pipestone National Monument has been quarried for over 3,000 years by Indigenous people for pipes. The site contains a still-used quarry, a grassland prairie, and a visitor’s center and archive.
Stafford stated, “I am honored to have been chosen to make these cedar boxes that will be storing these ancestral ceremonial pipes for generations to come. There has been a lot of work and a lot of prayer placed into each box. I am excited to be able to deliver them to the Pipestone National Monument in Minnesota.”
Stafford has also recently been working with the University of Tennessee and the Osage Nation on a repatriation burial project. He was contacted by the university to make boxes specifically for the repatriation of burial remains unearthed during archeological research.
The project is especially humbling for Stafford who designed the boxes to particular standards in consultation with the Osage Nation. “The cedar box was made without any hardware at all, including the hinges and latches, but needed to be able to be sealed once the remains were placed inside. I was able to make the lid fit into the top of the box with the use of wooden pegs. The Osage Nation had requested the box be made without the velvet on the flooring or without the protective oil on the outside.”
Stafford shared, “I was honored to make the cedar box that would allow the ancestral remains to be returned to Osage Nation for reburial in the land from where they were taken. The university and Osage Nation were pleased the box was made by an enrolled member of a tribal nation and by a veteran.”
To shop for original boxes and other items made by Jack, visit the Stafford’s online store at etsy.com/shop/CeadarCreationsByJack.
Learn more about Pipestone National Monument and the quarries’ cultural significance here, Exhibit Short Films.