Debra Shan Goshorn, 61, passed on December 1, 2018 surrounded by her loving family and friends after a valiant fight against cancer. While her time on earth ended too soon, Shan lived a prolific and abundant personal and professional life. She wove together deeply committed relationships with family and friends and a robust career dedicated to activism. As an Eastern Band Cherokee Indian artist, her multi-media artwork brought light to human rights issues, particularly those that affect Native American people today. She also cared deeply for animals, with a special love for birds, and was a federally certified wildlife rehabilitator.
Shan leaves her loving husband of 33 years, Tom Pendergraft of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Her immediate family includes daughters Neosha Pendergraft, Natalee Pendergraft (Erika Hardin), Carolee Pendergraft (fiancé Jason Ashmann), Sommer Pendergraft, and son Loma Pendergraft. She also leaves behind three grandchildren including Madison Pendergraft, Tanner Pratt and Gavin Bertrand. She is survived by her mother Edna Saunooke Goshorn and sisters Diane Goshorn and Donna Goshorn Beck of Cherokee, NC and nephew Brandon Beck of Sylva, NC. She was preceded in death by her father John Goshorn, Jr. and grandparents Stacy and Anderson Saunooke and John Goshorn, Sr.
Shan was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 3, 1957 and grew up in nearby Bel Air. She spent summers on tribal land in North Carolina learning about her culture and observing traditional Cherokee craftwork. Shan demonstrated artistic talent from a young age. After graduating from Bel Air High School, she attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, transferring for her final year of formal education to the Atlanta College of Art. She moved to Tulsa, OK in 1981 where she lived the remainder of her life. Shan utilized many mediums in her career including hand-tinted photography, paint and metalwork, however, she became most widely known for her basketry. Woven in traditional Cherokee style, her baskets were constructed with contemporary materials such as images, documents, treaties and maps to tell the story of Native people.
Shan has achieved international impact with her work. Her archival materials were requested by and donated to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian for future scholarly research. She was also identified by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian as the 14th living Cherokee able to create baskets utilizing the difficult double-weave technique.
Her work belongs to over twenty museum collections worldwide and her baskets have traveled extensively carrying Native stories, both traumatic and celebratory, with them.
Shan felt that her work was guided by the ancestors. Now, we will be guided by her. Shan’s legacy will not only be the message of her art but the deep kindness, empathy and respect she demonstrated to those around her.
A memorial service will be held on December 29, 2018 at the Gilcrease Museum, 1:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in honor of Shan to the Institute of American Indian Arts (www.iaia.edu), Porta Caeli House end of life care (www.portacaeli.org), Gilcrease Museum (www.gilcrease.org), and Wing It (www.tulsaaudubon.org/wing-it).
The Cherokee language has no word for goodbye.
I tsv go hv ya…We will see you again.