Feds collect dead eagles to help Native traditions

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/05/2010 07:40 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The bald eagle may be America's emblem, but the birds are susceptible to the same dangers as the average crow. Each year, thousands of bald eagles are hit by cars, electrocuted and accidentally poisoned.

But unlike crows or any other bird in America, the U.S. government takes a special interest in what happens to these birds after they die.

This is where Steve Smith, maybe the only person in Alaska legally allowed to keep a freezer full of dead bald eagles, comes in.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife officer is in charge of a salvage effort to collect dead bald and golden eagles and send them to an obscure federal agency called the National Eagle Repository.

On this morning, the freezer, housed in a Fish and Wildlife facility near the Anchorage airport, contains one half-dozen bald eagles wrapped carefully in black garbage bags. One is from the Kenai Peninsula town of Soldotna, another from the Aleutian fishing outpost of Dutch Harbor. Smith will prepare them in airtight packaging to be sent to the Colorado repository. He takes his duty to the national bird seriously.

"Living or dead, I treat them with great respect and care," he says.

Since the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has quietly collected, processed and distributed dead eagles via the repository in an effort to balance conservation efforts with helping Native American tribes continue traditional practices.

At the Commerce City, Colo., agency birds are processed and then distributed to members of federally-recognized tribes who have applied for whole birds, parts or feathers for use in religious and cultural ceremonies. Some tribes have criticized the repository, saying it takes too long to get the birds. The wait for the most requested item, a whole bald eagle, can take up to three years. The average wait for feathers is more than one year.

The Fish and Wildlife's salvage operations take place in every state where bald eagles are found. But maybe nowhere is busier than Alaska — the only U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated region that's made up of a single state.

During the 2008-2009 year, Alaska contributed 163 salvaged bald eagles to the repository. By contrast, a region made up of the Rocky Mountain States plus the Dakotas, Utah, Nebraska and Kansas contributed 162 birds.

Alaska has the largest concentration of bald eagles in the country — almost half the total population. In the southeastern Alaska town of Haines, up to 3,000-4,000 eagles gather along the Chilkat River's salmon run during October to December, when the town holds its annual "Bald Eagle Festival."

Smith gets calls almost every day about eagles — both dead and injured — that are coming in to Anchorage. On this sunny late winter day, he's on his way to a regional air carrier's cargo offices to pick up a few birds.

"We take them no matter what condition they're in — if they're on the side of the road for a while, if some animal has been chewing on it, we take all of them," he says. Many of the birds salvaged by Smith are flown in (all the state's air carriers allow injured eagles to fly for free; dead eagles are shipped as paid cargo) from remote areas.

More and more, Smith also receives injured eagles, who are rushed to a local bird rescue nonprofit for treatment and rehabilitation. Since starting the job in October, 40 injured eagles have been sent to Anchorage, but not all survived.

The birds usually come in one at a time — struck by cars, electrocuted — but occasionally arrive after a massive incident. A few years ago an Ocean Beauty Seafoods truck in Kodiak pulled out of a parking lot carrying an uncovered load of fish slime. In seconds, 50 nearby eagles dove in, attracted to the smell. Around 20 drowned in the goo; the rest flooded into Anchorage's Bird TLC emergency room for treatment.

"They just started pulling eagles out and sorting them into piles of living and dead," says Cindy Palmatier, who runs avian rehabilitation services at the Anchorage nonprofit.

Another mass bald eagle death occurred last winter, when an avalanche at the Dutch Harbor city dump killed 12 eagles. One survivor was sent to Anchorage and quickly worked her way into the heart of Smith, who calls the convalescing bird "Avalanche Girl."

Dealing with dead eagles every day can be grim, Smith says, but increasingly successful — rescues and the knowledge that dead birds' parts and feathers are going to be used comfort him.

On weekends, when Smith disappears into the valleys and hiking trails around Anchorage he occasionally spots a bald eagle from afar.

"I'm always happy when I see them in the wild and they're healthy and happy," he says. "I watch them and think, don't screw this up."

Multimedia

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/18/2017 12:45 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Heritage Center visitors had the chance to get a glimpse into the CHC’s permanent archive collections with the “Preserving Cherokee Culture: Holding the Past for the Future” exhibit that was set to run Aug. 14-19. “We want to just feature things that people don’t get to see very often. On average only about 1 percent of a museums holdings are on display at any given time, so this will give people a little inside look into more of the items that we have,” Callie Chunestudy, CHC curator, said. Nearly 60 historical artifacts were selected for the exhibit, including Gen. Stand Waite’s bowie knife, a hand-written first draft of the Articles of Agreement between the Cherokee Nation and U.S. governments in 1866, photographs and more. Chunestudy said the goal is to find a way to create a new archives and collections building. “We are in need of a new archives and collections building, so we want to feature some of the rare and special items that we do hold so the people can understand that we really need updated housing for these,” she said. “We’ve outgrown our space immensely, and it’s time for an up-to-date archives and collections building that we’re hoping to raise money for.” All the archives and collections are stored in the CHC basement, which Chunestudy said doesn’t allow for proper preservation techniques. “It’s a little difficult to climate control and things like that just because of the structure of the building, and so we’re looking at building a new facility that will be up-to-date and in line for best practices for housing these items,” she said. “Without a new archives and collections building the items that are currently housed in the basement of the (Cherokee) Heritage Center are in danger of becoming damaged. It’s a secure space, but it’s not up to best practices for archives and collections so our goal is to bring that up to par.” CHC Director Charles Gourd said those at the CHC have a “responsibility” to preserve and protect the tribe’s history. “One of the primary functions and purposes of the Cherokee National Historical Society, and then now the (Cherokee) Heritage Center, is the preservation of our material culture. Those objects of cultural patrimony and things that are important to our history,” he said. “In the (19)95 Constitution, we were mandated and specifically designated as the repository. Now, we’re the designated repository as an act of the (Tribal) Council in 1985 to back that up. So we have a responsibility to preserve and protect all of these objects that are important to Cherokee history, government and the Cherokee people.” According to a CHC press release, the Cherokee National Archives has more than 40,000 items in collections and 200,000 items in archives dating back to pre-European contact. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For more information, call 918-456-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
08/16/2017 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For more than 40 years, Cherokee National Treasure and Cherokee/Muscogee (Creek) artist Knokovtee Scott has transformed local purple mussel shells into jewelry. To keep the art form alive, he now teaches it at the Cherokee Arts Center. “My goal is to establish a foundation of students that will get this type of jewelry to grow, and eventually it will be as well recognized as any jewelry from any region of the country,” he said. The Rose native comes from an artistic family that enriched his life in Cherokee and Muscogee arts at an early age, which made him strive for an art career. In 1972, while studying Southwest jewelry at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he said he realized that people’s perspective of Native American jewelry was turquoise and silver. “If you asked anybody there, ‘what was Indian jewelry?’ they’d say turquoise and silver. But what I was always wondering is how come people don’t have anything from the Southeast. Why isn’t our artwork as recognized as the Southwest?” Scott said. He began searching for an artistic direction that would lead to his Cherokee roots. He said it wasn’t until he visited a medicine man that he found the art form. “A cousin of mine said ‘we need to go talk to a medicine man so you can find a direction to follow for today.’ So we went, took medicine, went through the sweat lodge ceremony, and when we got back to his house and I asked him, ‘can you help me find a direction to go in my art career today?’ and he said, ‘if you look in the past you’ll find your direction today. Our people made jewelry out of shell.’ And from that moment on I started working with shell,” he said. Recognized for his shell art, Scott is described as the “Southeast shell revivalist” for resurrecting the art after 400 years. He said by teaching students he can ensure it’s not lost again. “I need to pass this on because this was one of the most advanced, highly elaborate, most decorated type of artwork that came out of the Southeast,” he said. “Most say it’s the finest design north of Mesoamerica that the Cherokees once did.” During his classes, students learn the art’s history, how and where to find the mussel shells as well as how to cut, carve and buff them into jewelry. CN citizen Candice Byrd said she fell into Scott’s class by an accident but was quickly intrigued. “Just listening to Knokovtee and learning about the Southeastern iconography, pre-Mississippian shell carving and learning to work with the organic materials, I fell in love with it,” she said. “I didn’t realize it would take hold so strongly, but you start to develop a real love for the piece and for the art.” Scott said the art comes from the Mississippian period, stretching from 800-1500 A.D. “I was always interested in a type of art that didn’t have any outside influences, so I was looking for an art form that came from the traditional people, and the Cherokees were a part of the culture,” he said. “All the archeological evidence shows the Cherokee people were part of the Mississippian period. They used shell in ceremonial usage, but they also made shell jewelry and shell utensils.” However, he doesn’t use just any mussel shell he finds to make the jewelry. He uses the purple mussel shell, also known as the Mankiller Pearl shell. The Tribal Council renamed the shell that can be found in local rivers, lakes and creeks the Mankiller Pearl shell in 1988 in honor of then-Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller. However, being in poor health, Scott said he isn’t sure how much longer he will offer classes. But his goal is to teach as many students as he can. “I want every one of my students to learn this art form well enough to teach another person to continue it on. That is my main goal.” For more information, visit www.cherokeeartcenter.com or call 918-453-5728.
BY LINDSEY BARK
News Writer
08/09/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Keli Gonzales found joy in art as a child from watching her father and cousins draw and paint. As she grew, she developed her modernized art style using Cherokee culture. Gonzales recently opened an online store called Keladi, her Cherokee name, to sell prints, original paintings and buttons that are affordable and “accessible” after realizing people wanted to buy her designs. She said people who know Cherokee culture are intrigued by her drawings because they identify with it. “I think that a lot of people like to see the syllabary on stuff, and they like to own things that…(are) Cherokee-specific items.” Gonzales incorporates Cherokee syllabary, stories, animals and sports into her art. Her drawing “Anejodi” portrays stickball players vying for a stickball in the air. “In (the) stickball drawing, I was told that there’s a story about a guy; he cheated in stickball because he picked the ball up with his hands; and you’re not supposed to do that. And he threw the stickball really hard, and it got stuck in the sky and it became the moon. That’s like a reminder to not cheat. So in that drawing, it’s got little…moon bursts because of that story,” Gonzales said. Gonzales said she doesn’t like to be “overt” in her drawings and uses hints of Cherokee culture to leave it open for interpretation. “I like things that don’t look like real things, if that makes sense. It’s like an interpretation of a real thing instead of copying it. I like to interpret.” Her painting “Digvyaluyv” (Pieces) features body parts such as an arm and a leg that she said are a “comment on how fragmented our culture is” and that “hopefully one day we can unite all the pieces.” Gonzales also has an affinity for comic-style illustrations with characters speaking in Cherokee. She does not translate the syllabary because the viewer should translate the language and learn in the process. Her drawing “Nigohilv” (Constant) is a comic about a pair of skeletons caught in a conversation with the dialogue in the Cherokee language. To her, it represents being constant. To others, she has heard it meant the language being constant or someone not growing up being a second-language learner. Gonzales said her style is influenced by her love of cartoons such as The Simpsons, using graphite and ink as a medium. Many of her drawings include bold lines and bright colors. “I love colorful things because of The Simpsons or just cartoons in general. I love defined lines around things…(cartoons) influenced my style quite a bit, bright colors and bold lines,” she said. Gonzales also draws inspiration from Cherokee artists such as Dan HorseChief, Roy Boney Jr. and Joseph Erb because their art features more “modern spins.” “In my head I always thought of Native art as being something very specific…like dreamcatchers,” she said. “I always promised myself I would never do a Trail of Tears painting because we’re doing more now. That’s not what I want to focus on is this horrible thing that happened, and it did happen, but we made it through. We went across and finished. We’re stronger because of it. I like to show that we’re innovative and that we’re doing more and we’re doing better.” Gonzales earned a fine arts degree from Northeastern State University and hopes to expand her art by entering more shows, attending art markets and learning more about screen-printing to start selling her designs on T-shirts.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/08/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Language Program is teaming up with the Cherokee Phoenix to offer readers a look at some of the first stories printed in the Cherokee language when the newspaper began publishing in 1828. “A lot of people, when they talk about the Cherokee Phoenix they say that it was printed in English and Cherokee, but a lot of people don’t realize that it wasn’t a straight translation,” Roy Boney, Language Program manager, said. “So what was in English wasn’t in Cherokee. It was different content for different readers. So most of that stuff hasn’t ever been translated, or if it has, it’s been a real long time since anyone has ever actually read what it was.” The idea stemmed from Translator David Crawler reading some of the paper’s old articles. “At times when we’re not doing so much translations, I read them and thought, ‘these are real interesting,’” he said. “Well, some of the stories in there I thought was kind of funny, and then some of them were kind of serious talk. And I thought, ‘there’s nobody living today that’s actually read this piece,’ and I thought it would be good to maybe put that back into the Phoenix today so people would know what was going on back then.” Brandon Scott, Cherokee Phoenix executive editor, said when he was approached about the project he “didn’t hesitate” to say yes. “I really think it’s important to reflect on our history, and look at things through the eyes of our ancestors,” he said. “To some these may be old forgotten tidbits of information that carry no real historical value, but to others these are a glimpse of days gone by, things that would otherwise be forgotten. I, for one, think those little things can be just as important as the big things.” Boney said Crawler is the translator for the project, and by doing this it brings back history “that was kind of lost along the way.” “So we have all the Cherokee syllabary from the original Cherokee Phoenix. We have a copy of it. So David’s been going through it and finding little bits and pieces of things that are interesting, and he’s going to translate some of it and we’ll have it in the Phoenix,” he said. Boney said the project is “still in the works,” but the intent is for it to run in the Cherokee Phoenix’s monthly publication. “So there will be bits and pieces in each issue,” he said. “It will have an image of the original text with the translation in it and kind of talking about what issue it came from and all those kind of things.” Boney said some of the pieces are longer format stories while others are short. “I remember one was like a notice of a man looking for his wife or something. So you get a little slice of life back then with what was going on,” he said. Boney said Crawler typically translates stories for the paper, so in a way the work the translators are doing now is a “continuation” of how it was done before. “I just like the idea of the Cherokee Phoenix is still being published today in Cherokee and in English, and David’s one of the translators that does the stories for the paper, so it’s a continuation to kind of what happened before,” he said. “Even though now they’re translating stories straight from English into Cherokee. The difference here is these other articles in the original run of the Phoenix were written in Cherokee. They were specifically Cherokee stories, so seeing that connection, the differences and the similarities there are pretty interesting.”
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
08/04/2017 08:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center hosted its first on-site print action and gallery tour on July 29, using artists who have work in the traveling “Return from Exile” Native American contemporary art exhibit, which opened May 13 at the CHC and ends Aug. 11. “A print action is an event that you can attend where artists are screen-printing live,” CHC Curator Callie Chunestudy. “So you can bring items such as shirts or tote bags and they’ll print on those for you or we’ll be giving out paper prints of the images they’ve designed for us today.” Participating artists were Bobby C. Martin (Muscogee Creek), Tony Tiger (Sac and Fox/Seminole), Margaret Roach Wheeler (Chickasaw/Choctaw), as well as Cherokee artists Toneh Chuleewah, Demos Glass and Roy Boney. “It’s a chance for patrons to come out and meet the artists of the exhibit whose works they’ve seen over the summer. We’re also giving out free prints so it’s an opportunity for free art and to learn more about contemporary Native American art,” Chunestudy added. Boney said he was proud to be a part of the traveling exhibit. “The ‘Return from Exile’ show has traveled across the country and features contemporary art of Southeastern tribal artists.” As for the print action, Boney said it gives those in attendance a new perspective. “I think when people see and think of Native American art, it’s usually very static. It’s something hanging on a wall or behind a case and that kind of thing. So for this show having people come out and actually see artists make art before their eyes is a really good experience.” The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on upcoming events and attractions, call 918-456-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
08/02/2017 09:00 AM
SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. – From a young age in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation citizen Tana Washington always had a passion for art. “I’ve been interested in art all my life. My dad was really good friends with Cherokee artists, so I remember being around that art all the time,” she said. “I also took art classes in school and entered art shows when I was kid, but I really just did it for fun.” When Washington fell on hard times with her son’s death and an injury to her back that prevented her from working, art became her refuge. “I lost my son in 2000, so I started drawing then for therapy. I probably didn’t take it seriously until four years ago though. I hurt my back, and I wasn’t able to work anymore, so I had the time to sit down and start creating,” she said. With that free time, Washington wanted to stay productive. Her sister challenged her to create a piece of art every day as part of what she called “25 days of Christmas.” “It pushed my creativity because I wasn’t doing the same thing every night,” she said. “I was doing paint, ink, pencil and charcoal drawings. Then I started to add small scissor cuts, and then I just started combining them into a style. I didn’t mean to create a style, but I did.” After the month-long session, Washington found her style was unlike any Cherokee artist. Her style is known as “scissor cuts,” most commonly found in Japanese culture, but Washington added a traditional Cherokee twist to the medium. “I’m probably the only Cherokee artist making scissor cuts. There are only 250 scissor-cut artists in the U.S., but what makes me different is I make it my own with a traditional twist. I make it Cherokee,” she said. “It’s pretty nerve racking though. You have to do a lot of thinking and design because it all has to connect. One wrong cut and it’s over.” Although she most identifies herself with scissor-cut artwork, she loves different art techniques and media. Currently, her favorite is the smoke technique, which she enjoyed while creating the “25 days of Christmas” pieces. “The smoke technique is laying down carbon from fuel on paper. So I played around with that for a while and really liked the contrast of light and dark and shadows it creates,” she said. “But I found I really like combining the smoke and paint with the scissor cuts because of the effects it gives. Someone told me ‘you know in art school they teach you to not combine mediums,’ but this really works, so I think it’s very well received.” To some, Washington’s style cannot be identified to one medium. Instead it’s an array of styles incorporated into one piece. “One of the guys who bought some of my first pieces of art said, ‘what I really like about your art is you can see 10 different pieces and think it’s 10 different artists,’ and that made me feel good. I didn’t think I had a style, but that is my style,” she said. Although she’s hit rough patches in her life, she said she owes getting past them to art. “I’ve had a lot of hard times. I lost a job, lost a loved one, sometimes bad things happen, but art is really what kept me going,” she said. “I think it’s a perfect example of how life teaches you that you can turn a negative situation into a positive one. It just goes to show that with a little encouragement and passion for something you love, people can do anything.” Washington said she would have a vendor’s booth during the Cherokee National Holiday at the Cherokee Heritage Center. To reach Washington, call 479-220-9256 or email <a href="mailto: scissorcutart@hotmail.com">scissorcutart@hotmail.com</a>. She also recently donated two pieces to the Cherokee Phoenix for its third-quarter giveaway. The drawing is set for Oct. 2. The works are a clay mask with Cherokee Phoenix-inspired detail and a scissor-cut piece inspired by the pipeline fight at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Giveaway entries are acquired by donating to the Phoenix’s elder/veteran subscription fund or buying a print subscription or Phoenix merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent. For more information regarding the giveaway, call Samantha Cochran at 918-207-3825 or Justin Smith at 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto: Samantha-cochran@cherokee.org">Samantha-cochran@cherokee.org </a> or <a href="mailto: Justin-smith@cherokee.org">Justin-smith@cherokee.org</a>.