Nya:Weh Sgano: My name is Ken Williams Jr (Aka “Critter”). I am the son of the late well known Corn Soup maker Ken Williams Sr (Cattaraugus Seneca) and Toni Williams (Northern Arapaho) and from the large Williams family from Jonegada:gas- Burning Springs Road in which I am the grandson of the late Russell Williams and the late Hazel Pierce Williams. The late Richard and Lillian Kane of Cattaraugus Territory also took me in as an adopted grandson. I also descend from the large Spoonhunter family on my mother’s Northern Arapaho side.
Growing up on Cattaraugus Territory as a child and teenager holds many memories for me, and inspirations in my work to this day. I remember my father always being interested in aspects of the past and we would always visit elders such as the late Alberta Austin (Catt), the late Calvin Kettle(Catt) and the late Myrtle Peterson(Allegany). I always loved “Visiting” and seeing objects of our culture in their homes. Also as a child my fond memories were visiting and always bugging “Pottery Pete Jones” and how patient he was with all my questions. These things of my past still inspire me and hold dear things to this day.
I am a beadworker. I was born into this artistic tradition and I have had the benefit of generations worth of knowledge and experience passed onto me. Beadwork is something I grew up with. It is both familiar and comforting. For these things I am very grateful. I am mostly self-taught; I began observing and experimenting with beadwork when I was five years old. While residing on my father’s reservation, the Cattaraugus Seneca Indian Territory in Western New York, my older brother and I would experiment with beading and we learned the techniques mostly through trial and error. I started with basic necklaces and earrings, along with smaller miniature pouches, which I sold locally to much success.
I continued to work with these types of projects until I was about 13. As a teenager, I moved to Utah and began to spend more time with my mother’s family at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. My family there, the Spoonhunters, have long been regarded as master beadworkers. Their influence and guidance came at a pivotal point for me, such that their support and inspiration spurred me to start bigger projects like dolls, bags, cradleboards, and moccasins. Today my pieces tell stories and build memories, not only for myself and my family, but also for those newly attracted to my work. I look toward the future and I’m proud that my beadwork will continue to evolve, just as the traditions before me have done.