Dr. Will Goins dedicated his life to preserving Native American music traditions, beadwork, and storytelling. His artistic inclinations were passed down by family members, matriarchs, and those who continued the traditions in his large extended family. The son of Cherokee artist Elsie Taylor Goins, Goins traced his musical heritage back to the ancient chants of the indigenous cultures of the Southeast. As a teenager, Goins taught younger children a wide variety of Cherokee art forms. His young students made rattles and worked with many natural materials including shells, seeds, beads, and clay.
Goins continued the beadwork tradition of his great aunt Corrie Sisney, utilizing Cherokee woodland floral patterns. In the beadwork tradition, each piece is functional and individually woven, dyed, carved, beaded and molded, with no two pieces exactly alike. Largely replacing bone, shell, and wood, the bead was a prized trade item that Native Americans used to adorn and decorate their attire. While some artists have had success beading with a loom, many still string and stitch by hand. Natural corn beads, pony beads, and glass seed beads are strung in colorful designs and patterns like the “lazy” stitch and the “lightning” design. Corn beads, also known as “Job’s Tears” were historically worn for medicinal purposes, but today beads are mostly used to adorn jewelry and for ceremonial dances. Goins had no formal training in art, only the passion and inspiration that drew from his Cherokee mentors and fellow tribal members. Goins passed away in 2017.
In addition to song, storytelling, and beadwork, Goins also led the Cultural Arts Ensemble, a dance troupe that travels the region to perform Native American ceremonial dances, including the “Stomp” and “Round” dances. Goins worked with Native American people, organizations, and agencies for over thirty years and had an integral role with the Eastern Cherokee, Southern Iroquois, and United Tribes of South Carolina, Inc. This non-profit organization is “dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of South Carolina Native American history, culture, and heritage.” For years, he was passionately involved with the American Indian Educational Program, working specifically with K-12 students. Goins was an active part of the South Carolina Humanities Speaker's Bureau and served as the president of the South Carolina Traditional Arts Network. Goins received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2008.