Nemadji History


The book, The Myth and Magic of Nemadji “Indian” Pottery; History, Identification and Value Guide, grew out of a passion for collecting a Minnesota-made pottery.

The first piece of Nemadji found its way into my home in 1983, the year I moved to Moose Lake, Minnesota. I stumbled across the pot in the bottom of a cardboard box at a Saturday morning garage sale. It was made of red clay and had a rainbow of earthen colors splashed around it.

On a whim, I picked up the little pot and carried it, along with a pair of cross-stitched dresser scarves to the checkout line. Waiting in line to pay for my treasures, I took a closer look at the pot. Turning it in my hand I began to wonder about its interesting coloring. It had a sliver of black run- ning along a meandering ribbon of robin’s egg blue. A touch of yellow and a dab of red paint had been artfully swirled alongside them. On the bottom of the little red clay pot was a stamp mark, made in black ink. It read, “Hand Made Nemadji Indian Pottery (From Native Clay).”

I wondered if this little pot had indeed been made by Indians. What a find that would be, I thought. The more I examined it, the more questions I had. When had it been made? To what tribe of Indians did it belong? How did the potter manage to paint the swirls so perfectly? After a minute or two I shook my head in disbelief. Had this little treasure somehow cast a spell upon me? I wondered. There I was, about to buy something that didn’t even have a price tag on it. When it was my turn to pay for my purchases I asked the seller what she knew about the pot.

“Oh that?” she asked. “That’s a piece of that Nemadji crap.” “Nemadji,” I slowly repeated.
“Yah,” she replied. “They used to make it around here.” “How much?” I asked, holding my breath.

“Give me a dime.”

The woman’s effort to defame the little red pot failed and my discovery sparked the start of a long love affair with Nemadji Pottery. It also sparked a lengthy and continuing effort to unearth every nugget of information I can find about this mystery pottery. Those nuggets have been put together for you in The Myth and Magic of Nemadji “Indian” Pottery; History, Identification and Value Guide.

I’m calling this a first edition because I have learned there is always one more thing to learn about Nemadji Pottery. I have no doubt “that one more thing” will be included in a second edition.


12 responses to “Nemadji History

  1. I own a piece of Nemadji pottery, and like you became interested in it and it’s history.


  2. I just purchased my first piece for $1.00. I love mine too.


  3. Sylvia Carden

    I have a Nemadji water pitcher, 10″ tall, with the swirls in orange, green, brown, It is a beautiful piece my husband and I got on one of our “out west” trips about 30 years age.


  4. I have a question I have what looks like it would be a big planter pretty good size. It has the mark on the bottom. Is glazed on the inside. The outside has green ugly paint. But it doesn’t seem to have any swirls period underwear the paint is peeling. Can you give me any information on it


  5. Hi, I too love the Nemadji pottery and have a few pieces, but my friend has a large, native head, sculpture, marked on the bottom (Nemadji), and done in the same clay. It stands about 14″ high and is very heavy…not a hollow piece. He has had it for about 35 years and before that it belongs to his father. He would love to find out a value for it, as my search for information on it failed. Not long ago there was one on Ebay for $2,000 + and I don’t know where that one ended up or I would have contacted that person. Anything you can offer me in information is greatly appreciated! Thank You!


    • Hello, I have never seen a native head sculpture from the Nemadji Plant. I am wondering if this was made by the late Cliff Letty who made many concept pieces for the plant between 1970-1980. He has passed. I would love to see a photo.


  6. Patricia H Enomoto

    I have a charming gray, black white piece signed by Bruce A. ?, 7/21/98, would love to have the full name of the potter.


  7. William rodriguez

    I to stumbled upon this pottery about 20yrs ago.Now i 37 pieces,from 3inches to 15inches.


  8. I just bought a 5 inch tall piece at an antique store, in a basement booth, marked $19 but 75% off, so got it for $4.75. I couldn’t see the mark on the bottom in the dim light there. I bought it because it reminded me of the paint design on the Ozark Roadside tourist pottery I love and had been unsuccessfully hunting for. The mark on the bottom has the Indian chief head with USA under it. Above his head says Nemadji and below USA it says Pottery. The mark is very faded which is why I didn’t see it till I got home in my bright kitchen light. I scrubbed it with a soft brush and dishwashing liquid and the mark was more legible.


  9. Richard D Wahlstrom

    I bought 3 pieces at Goodwill today.They were 2.95 ea .I love them.


  10. I worked at Nemadji Earth Pottery from 1985-1987. It was actually located in Kettle River, Minnesota not Moose Lake, about 4-5 miles away. I enjoyed it and have several pieces of it. It was interesting to see how each piece was made and they were each painted individually to create a one of a kind paint job.


  11. Can you tell me the years that the “Indian Head” mark was used?


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