Author: Zoe van Buren
Butch Goings, a wood and stone carver, and Louise Goings, a white oak basketmaker, are artisans from the Qualla Boundary (Cherokee). They are recipients of the 2023 North Carolina Heritage Awards, an honor given to our state’s most eminent traditional artists and practitioners.
Butch and Louise Goings share a life of dedication to craft and community. Together they are known for their mastery and teaching of the carving and basketmaking traditions of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and for their steady, humble, commitment to service in their community.
Butch and Louise each learned their craft from among the most renowned artisans on the Qualla Boundary, the land of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains. Louise learned to harvest white oak, forage for plant dyes, and weave exquisite baskets from her mother, Emma Taylor. Butch learned to carve from Amanda Crowe alongside his friend and fellow sculptor Virgil Ledford, carrying their influence in his depictions of the animal world.
Butch and Louise were both raised in families in which generations of women had relied on basket making for a livelihood. When they married, they often accompanied Louise’s mother into the woods to hunt for her basket materials. She taught them how to harvest and prepare oak for weaving, and where to find dye plants and wild edibles. To be a basket maker rather than a basket weaver requires that one harvests and processes all of their materials. This requires a tremendous amount of work, so the Goingses use their efforts to support each other and share with other artists in the community.
The Goings’ contributions to Cherokee culture and community life extend beyond their own craftsmanship. Since the late 1950s, Butch has served on and been continually re-elected as president of the board of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, an artist cooperative established in 1946 to promote and sustain Cherokee craftspeople. He has also served on the Eastern Band Tribal Council and the Birdtown Community Club, and spent two decades as a member of the Birdtown Gadugi (Free Labor Group), providing free work for those in need. Louise is also a central figure at ceremonial Stomp Dances, and head cook for the Stomp grounds.
For more than twenty years, the Goingses have taught basket making and wood and soapstone carving to grade school students in a Culture Summer School, to ensure that young people have access to their culture. They are known for leading lives of example, teaching Cherokee values not only as craftspeople and community leaders but through their own day-to-day demonstrations of compassion, good humor, and readiness to support and share with others.