Margaret Roach Wheeler

Portraits in Chickasaw Strength and Resilience

When Chickasaw textile artist and fashion designer Margaret Roach Wheeler sat down at a loom as an undergraduate in college, she felt an instant connection to her mother and grandmother, who taught her how to weave as a child. Although she began her college studies painting and sculpting, she knew she had to transfer to textiles, a career she has been following ever since. "I knew this was something that I had a passion for, and I feel like it went back to my grandmother and my mother in that they were always working in textiles in our home," she says. "But I'd never considered that my art. It was just, like, home things that they did, but as I progressed along I saw where textiles were an artform and this could be my career."

Today, Margaret honors the strong women in her family by carrying on the legacy of creating beautiful handwoven Mississippian-based designs. "Mahota is my great, great, great grandmother," she explains. "She is from Mississippi. She had lands there, and in 1844 at Removal, she came to Oklahoma. And that's who I've named my businesses after." She also teaches the next generation of American Indian weavers and feels pride in passing down an artistic skill that is so close to her heart. "Teaching in the studio has given me a group of women who are passionate about textiles. I feel like I'm turning it over to the next generation to continue, and that's been my whole dream, is to try to mentor, try to teach so that this continues on, and the name of Mahota continues on."