by Suzanne Labry
Gloria Dux Klutzke, a quilter from Lafayette, Indiana, began thinking about how to commemorate her home state’s 200th birthday five years prior to Indiana’s bicentennial year in 2016.
Indiana became the 19th state of the Union on December 11, 1816. Its name means “Land of the Indians,” which reflects its history as the traditional home of numerous native tribes, including the Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and Shawnee, to name a few.
Located in the Midwestern and Great Lakes regions of North America, Indiana’s central location and the fact that it is criscrossed by both natural and manmade ways of traversing its boundaries have given rise to one of the state’s slogans: Crossroads of America. It was these characteristics—the state’s Indian heritage, its geographic location, and its many rivers and railroads that allow convenient passage—that Gloria finally decided to showcase in the bicentennial quilt she calls “Migrations Over the Crossroads of America.”
Gloria Klutzke stands with her quilt, Migrations Over the Crossroads of America, while it was displayed at the Indiana State Library during the Indiana Bicentennial.
“I love maps and enjoy history, so I thought it would be fun to fuse both in a way that would have meaning for everyone in our state,” she says. “Also, I hoped to portray a sense of honor to those who resided in Indiana before us and in memory of all who have traversed this state in search of home and safety. I conferred with local historians on several aspects of the quilt because I wanted to portray the history accurately.”
She also wanted to depict people and animals migrating through Indiana via the Trail of Death, the Underground Railroad, the Monon Railroad and major rivers in the state. “I wanted to show the movement of the Native Americans as they lost land, the journey of slaves as they trekked north to freedom, and the animals who took flight as more settlers disturbed their habitats, as well as the rivers and railroads, which have been a means of travel in migrations,” she adds.
Once she settled on a theme, Gloria found that just about everything related to this quilt seemed to come together in an unusually serendipitous way. A piece of hand-dyed fabric that she had purchased some years earlier without a specific purpose in mind laid perfectly over the uncopyrighted state map that she had enlarged to serve as the basis for her quilt.
"When I was ready to begin this project I remembered this piece of fabric and, upon examining it, was elated at how much it resembled the topography of our state. It was almost magical," Gloria recalls. "One area of the fabric is dark green, which was perfect for the national forest in the lower part of Indiana. There’s yellow to the west, where natural prairie grasslands are, and the browns work with glacial moraines throughout the north and the bedrock in the southern part of state.” After pinning the fabric to the map, Gloria drew boundary lines, and included all the state counties, each county seat, and the major rivers.
Detail of Migrations Over the Crossroads of AmericaGloria knew that she wanted an Indian to figure prominently on the quilt, and she decided to do so in outline form. “I felt guided by the Spirit of this Indian throughout this project,” she said.
Railroads are also integral to the quilt, as they are in real life to the state, and Gloria chose to depict the Monon Railroad because “Monon” is a word derived from the Potawatomi Indians meaning “swift running.” “I tell people I laid 492 railroad ties in two days,” Gloria laughs. “The railroad may want to hire me.”
Indiana has a rich history of Underground Railroad operations and Gloria included aspects of that on the quilt. She also added animals, some forts, and areas of early French influence, along with state symbols such as the flag, seal, bird, flower and tree.
Gloria completed her 38” x 55" quilt in March of 2016, and
for the remainder of the bicentennial year, she shared it with
as many people as possible. Migrations Over the Crossroads of America was unveiled at
the Indiana State House (the state capitol building) and remained on display there for several weeks.
It was also featured at the Indiana State Fair, and has been exhibited at public libraries and quilt shows. To accompany the quilt, Gloria developed a presentation that she has given to school groups, civic clubs, churches, arts organizations, and quilt guilds. She has yet to decide where the quilt will ultimately reside. “I’d like for it to be in a place where people can see it, hopefully learn something new, and gain a deeper appreciation for the rich history of Indiana,” she sums up.