Feds collect dead eagles to help Native traditions
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."
PARK HILL, Okla. – Family and friends of Cherokee National Treasure and potter Anna Mitchell recently attended a reception for a Cherokee Heritage Center exhibit celebrating her life and legacy as a Cherokee potter.
The “Anna Mitchell Legacy” will be on display through April 1 and includes pottery Mitchell made during four decades.
Anna Belle Sixkiller Mitchell was born Oct. 16, 1926, to Oo-loo-tsa and Houston Sixkiller in Delaware County and died March 3, 2012, at age 86. The CHC and Mitchell’s family wanted to showcase her life’s work and contributions.
Mitchell’s daughter, Victoria Mitchell Vazquez, said for her mother’s exhibit she located collectors who agreed to loan pottery items made by her mother for the exhibit. She said it was her idea to recreate her mother’s studio for the exhibit, complete with original pottery tools her mother worked with, her original worktable, examples of clay and some in-the-works pieces. Her mother’s worktable came from her sister’s cellar and still has clay on it.
“I love the way it has all been put together. Jane Osti (a Mitchell student) helped a lot,” she said. “I love the panels that have all the descriptions and stories of mother. I like the easy flow of being able to go in a circle and you see some of her best work, and as you go around you see her work, her students’ work and their students’ work.”
She said while the exhibit captures much of who her mother was it doesn’t capture all of her mother’s essence. How important Mitchell was for bringing back pottery making to the Cherokee people is not fully captured, she said.
Mitchell was instrumental in bringing back Southeastern-style pottery to Cherokee people in Oklahoma. No one had been able to continue the tribe’s pottery tradition after it was moved to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, in the early 1800s.
Cherokee potter Crystal Hanna studied pottery under Mitchell. She met her after seeing Mitchell’s photo in a brochure for the annual Red Earth festival in Oklahoma City. Hanna said she contacted Red Earth representatives to get in touch with Mitchell because she felt she was someone she should get to know. Mitchell later called her and invited her to her house in Vinita.
“That was in October of 1998, and she asked me if I was interested in doing an apprenticeship. I hadn’t really thought about it then. I was so excited to meet her to see what she did,” Hanna said. “She invited me to come back in March, that’s when she started working (making pottery) for Indian Market in Santa Fe (New Mexico).”
Hanna said she returned to Vinita in March 1999 for a three-month apprenticeship with Mitchell. Mitchell loaned her books about Southeastern-style pottery and told Hanna she wanted her to study her “ancient culture and history before she put her hands in the clay.”
One of Hanna’s tasks was sifting dried clay pieces for hours and rehydrating the clay for use.
“After I did that all afternoon, she said, ‘oh, I just wanted to let you know how our ancestors did it.’ There’s an easier way. You can take the hand-dug clay and put it in little pebbles, soak it and then put it through a screen,” she said. “We went through every step – grinding the clay, processing it, the hand coiling, the burnishing, the slip painting.”
She said after her apprenticeship Mitchell was always available to answer pottery questions.
“We definitely bonded. She kind of reminded me of my mom. She was amazing, really amazing, and I loved her,” Hanna said.
Vazquez learned pottery making from her mother after her father, Bob, died in 1997. After his death she moved home to Vinita from Houston where she had worked.
“I came back to stay with mom for a couple of weeks, and I decided I need to stay here to support her but also really get serious about making pottery back in Oklahoma because you couldn’t do it in an apartment in Houston,” she said.
Vazquez is known for making effigy pottery with human and animal faces.
“I like pots, but I always wanted to do something different. I’ve always been drawn to animal or human effigies,” she said.
Mitchell’s youngest daughter, Julie McPeek, never took up her mother’s craft, but she appreciated what her mother and father created as a team. She said her father was her mother’s support system and encouraged her constantly.
McPeek said by the time she finished college and began raising her family, her mother was too busy with making pottery for art markets and customers that she no longer had time to teach.
“And then it just seemed there was not opportunities after that,” she said.
She said based on taking a pottery class with Victoria, she now understands that one just can’t “take a lesson or two” to really learn how to make great pottery. One has to learn “from the ground up” and study the culture behind Southeastern-style pottery making, she said.
“I was here when they were getting things put in (for the exhibit), and it has such a presence of Mom here. I’m just overwhelmed,” McPeek said. “I love the way it flows from her work and then on around to students that she has taught and then students that her students have taught.”
PARK HILL, Okla. – More than 1,800 school-age children from surrounding schools attended the annual Cherokee Heritage Festival on Nov. 3-4 at the Cherokee Heritage Center.
CHC Interim Director Tonia Weavel said 371 students visited the first day and 1,449 students visited the second day.
“We have schools today from Tulsa, McAlester, Roland, Marietta, Dahlonegah, Muskogee and others.” Weavel said. “The Cherokee Heritage Festival is a fantastic fall event where we’ve invited children to come and learn about the Cherokee culture.”
Weavel said students who attended received “hands on and up close” lessons on Cherokee culture and history. “So we’re glad they’re here. It’s going to be a good day.”
ROLAND, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Businesses is preserving and promoting Cherokee culture at each of its properties by utilizing themes and technology to immerse guests in tribal art, language and history.
The tribe’s newest gaming and hospitality property, Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland, highlights the company’s ability to enhance the entertainment experience by embracing technology and sharing the tribe’s history and culture. The venue’s design represents earth, wind, water and fire and is evident throughout the casino.
“Our Cherokee heritage is unique and beautiful,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Adorning our entertainment properties with cultural elements, brilliant works of Cherokee art and even subtle design motifs allows us to preserve and share our tribal culture while creating memorable impressions that invite visitors to return time and again.”
More than 25 years ago, the Cherokee Nation opened its first gaming operation, a bingo hall, on the same property as the current casino resort. At that time, much of the technology used today was nonexistent.
The technological advances in gaming, security and surveillance have transformed Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland into the region’s leading entertainment destination.
The tribe’s business arm used new methods to match the property’s increased focus on technology and art, including an animated TV wall featuring art with moving elements and audio across three monitors and a mosaic TV wall displaying the casino and hotel’s entire art collection.
Holographic greeters offer patrons a quick and factual education in Cherokee culture and language while also depicting the tribe’s history within Sequoyah County. The greeters feature the appearances and voices of actual employees who work at the property.
“It’s an honor as both an employee and as a Cherokee Nation citizen to work in an environment that expresses so much of our tribal history and culture through numerous displays,” Chad McReynolds, general manager of Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland, said. “Our guests appreciate the art and are interested in hearing the stories behind each piece. The art team really did a wonderful job with this project."
Cherokee culture is represented throughout CNB and CNE properties by using historical and modern media. The Roland location features the works of 28 Cherokee artists, including eight Cherokee National Treasures: Bill Glass Jr., David Scott, Donald Vann, Jane Osti, Luther Toby Hughes, Noel Grayson, Shawna Morton Cain and William Cabbagehead.
The property boasts 3-D works ranging from basketry to ceramics by Cain, Osti and Scott, photos by Cherokee photographer Jeremy Charles and a ceiling centerpiece reflecting the four directions on earth created by Bill and Demos Glass.
Honeysuckle baskets, woven and hand-built pottery, a historic sugar bowl and handmade hunting and fishing tools used before European contact, as well as 8-foot-tall panels displaying Ron Mitchell’s piece “Art of the People” are also on display.
“It is very important that we continue to preserve our culture and support Cherokee artists,” Gina Olaya, CNB director of cultural art and design, said. “Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland exemplifies the many ways modern technology helps us share and enjoy Cherokee history, language and art, while simultaneously creating an entertainment experience unlike anything else in the area.”
The CN and its businesses rely on Cherokee artists and their works to bring authenticity to all of the tribe’s properties. A catalogue of the tribe’s collection is accessible through an online art database at <a href="http://cnart.pastperfect-online.com" target="_blank">http://cnart.pastperfect-online.com</a>.
INDIANAPOLIS – Western paintings and Native American artifacts collected by former NFL Tennessee Titans owner Kenneth S. “Bud” Adams go on exhibit Nov. 12 at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
The “Titan of the West: The Adams Collection of Western and Native American Art” exhibition includes items from a multimillion-dollar collection bequeathed by Adams to the museum when he died in 2013 at age 90. It is one of the largest and most historically important bequests the museum ever has received.
Visitors will see paintings by Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, Thomas Moran and other artists who shaped the image of the Old West. They also will see Native American artifacts, including beaded and quilled clothing from Plains tribes, pottery and weavings from the Southwest, Cherokee basketry and a variety of horse gear, smoking pipes and moccasins all gifted to the museum by the late Adams in his will.
“Bud Adams and his wife Nancy Adams assembled an impressive personal art collection at their Houston home and business inspired by Bud’s dual heritage as an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation and descendant of pioneers. While football fans knew Bud Adams as the owner of the Tennessee Titans, we at the Eiteljorg Museum also came to know him as a tremendous enthusiast for the history of the West. The Adams’ collection is one of national importance, and we were thunderstruck with gratitude when Bud entrusted this collection to the Eiteljorg for the public’s enjoyment and appreciation,” said Eiteljorg Museum President and CEO John Vanausdall.
A wealthy Houston businessman and rancher, Adams was prominent in the oil and gas industry as CEO of Adams Resources & Energy. Adams also was a central figure in the history of modern professional football. He was co-founder of the American Football League, which later merged with the NFL, and he was owner of the former Houston Oilers franchise that later became the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
Many direct ancestors of Adams were among the Cherokee forced to leave Tennessee on the Trail of Tears. The Tiana Rogers family traveled with a party that took 189 days to reach Indian Territory (in what is now Oklahoma) in 1839. In 1841, daughter Martha married Hilliard Fields. She was Bud Adams’ great-great-grandmother. W.W. “Bill” Keeler was the brother of Adams’ mother and was president of Phillips Petroleum. Keeler became principal chief of the CN first appointed by President Harry Truman and holding the office until 1975.
Adams was a supporter of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma, and in 2000 received “the highest honor awarded by the Cherokee National Historical Society for his support and dedication to the preservation and promotion of Cherokee culture.”
Curators and collection experts at the Eiteljorg have spent nearly three years preparing for the display of 60 paintings and nearly 90 Native American artifacts Adams collected, which together will fill an exhibition room. A full-color 300-page book authored by the curatorial staff accompanies the exhibition.
“The Eiteljorg Museum is one of the premier museums of Native American artifacts and Western art in North America, and it is appropriate that these priceless treasures will be housed at the Eiteljorg permanently,” said Amy Adams Strunk, daughter of Bud Adams and controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans. “This collection was very special to my father, and our family hopes that those who view these items on display will walk away with the same sense of wonder and appreciation for the culture and heritage that these unique artifacts and works of art represent.”
The “Titan of the West” exhibition continues through Feb. 5 and is included with regular museum admission.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau Thanksgiving will be held Thursday November 10, 2016 from 12:30 - 4pm. We will meet in the Community Ballroom that is located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. If you want to bring a side dish or a dessert, feel free to bring it. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship. For further information about the event, please contact: Edna Jones at (918) 453-5151; John Ross at (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney, Jr. (918) 453-5487
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After reconnecting with her pre-school teacher, Cherokee Nation citizen Talisha Lewallen learned how to make Cherokee double-wall baskets from basket weaver Regina Thompson.
This led her to share the skill with co-worker Joshua Cooper, and they in turn began teaching children they helped while working with CN’s Indian Child Welfare.
“We both work for Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare, and we started realizing that when we’re teaching kids to do it, it really helps them to be able to talk to us more. It kind of gives them a way to relax around us. It takes their mind kind of off what they’re really telling us and helps, I think, all of us feel a little more comfortable in some situations,” she said. “It also helps them reconnect with their heritage and realize that they’re apart of something bigger and they’re not just out there by themselves.”
Cooper, a CN citizen, said the children kept what they made but he and Lewallen noticed they had an excess of baskets. He said this prompted them to start TooNooWee Baskets about a year ago.
“From doing that we had all of these baskets left over and never had much to do with it so I was like, ‘might as well start selling them,’” he said.
Cooper said they have sold baskets and spread Cherokee culture to people all over the world.
“I’ve sent some to Australia. I’ve sent some to England and France and Austria. So we kind of share it (Cherokee culture) that way,” he said. “We also share it with our personal family and also people here in Oklahoma.”
Lewallen said they also sold all of their baskets at their booth during the 64th annual Cherokee National Holiday. “Our booth did very well.”
Cooper said he believes creating baskets helps him, Lewallen and the children they teach connect with their culture.
“These baskets are from the western Cherokee, after the removal. It’s kind of the style that kind of came about because they didn’t have the same materials,” he said. “It kind of keeps us connected to the sacrifices they made and understand how far we’ve come and continue it. I want to be able to teach my kids. Also, we know that the basket kind of holds it’s all self together, there’s nothing added in to it so it’s kind of like the way the Cherokee people kind of work. We kind of hold ourselves together and keep moving forward.”
Lewallen said as for her baskets she recently began entering art shows and competitions and is interested in entering more.
“I’ve already won two awards from the two art shows I’ve entered so I’m pretty excited about that,” she said.
She said she won Judges’ Choice at the 11th annual Cherokee Holiday Art Show and first place at the 2016 Tulsa State Fair Competitive Exhibits.
Cooper said the duo also offer basket-weaving classes.
“We’ve only done it a few times but it’s something that we really enjoy,” he said. “We’ve actually taught all of ICW for Cherokee Nation. We had a class of probably about 100 something people.”
To purchase baskets, request a custom basket or set up a class, visit <a href="http://www.etsy.com/shop/TooNooWeeBaskets" target="_blank">www.etsy.com/shop/TooNooWeeBaskets</a>
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