Principal Chief Chad Smith addresses attendants of the tribe’s dedication ofthe Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum on April 7 in Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Will Chavez)
Video: Tribe dedicates Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – More than 100 people attended the Cherokee Nation’s April 7 dedication of the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum after several months of renovations to the historic brick building.
“Originally built in 1844, (we) completely restored it to act as a museum,” Travis Owens, senior project manager for Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, said. “Right now, we’re here outside the museum for our grand opening to invite the public out to see the museum for the first time.”
The courthouse was built in 1844 on the town square’s southeastern corner by James S. Pierce to house the tribe’s Supreme Court. However, both the Supreme and District courts held sessions there. The structure also housed the printing press of the Cherokee Advocate, which was the CN’s official publication and the first newspaper in Oklahoma.
According to Cultural Tourism’s Web site, the Supreme Court Museum is the oldest government building in the state.
“There are three themes in this museum. The first theme is about Cherokee Nation government,” Owens said. “Our government exercises sovereignty by utilizing our court system. The second theme is the Cherokee papers – the Advocate and the Cherokee Phoenix papers. The Advocate was printed here for quite some time.”
He said the third theme centers around the Cherokee language and how it is being preserved and used within the Cherokee Phoenix, CN institutions and the CN immersion program.
The museum also includes a gift shop with items for sale that are related to Cherokee history and culture such as art, basketry and books.
The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Admission prices are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students and children under 5 are free. A group rate is available at $3 per person for 10 or more individuals.
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the dedication was a way to acknowledge the value of memorials and monuments.
“Monuments are symbols that remind us,” he said. “In this instance they remind us of our past and our two great passions, self-governance and education.”
Smith said the historic building was the first building the tribe built after the infamous Trail of Tears.
“This showed that passion and self-governance was real and viable and enduring,” he said. “Today we stand in its shadow, having survived episode after episode of trial and tribulation, still a sovereign nation.”
Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn, who attended the dedication, said the building represents the Cherokee people’s resiliency to survive and prosper.
“It’s appropriate we’re here today to celebrate Cherokee history, the sprit of Oklahoma and what makes Oklahoma unique,” he said. “The fact that this building was built at all is significant because that represents the spirit of self-determination, a commitment to the rule of law and establishing a sense of law in society that goes all the way back to clan law among the Cherokees.”
Owens said the significance of the museum is not only for Cherokee people, but all people to understand what the Cherokee Nation is and what it stands for.
“(For them) to recognize that we were a government that exercised our sovereignty and that we used tools like our paper, printing of our Cherokee Advocate to get our message out to the Cherokee people,” Owens said. “We want everyone to come out to see the museum to get a good grasp on Cherokee history by seeing the exhibits we have displayed inside.”
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center’s archives for 2-D and 3-D collections are in dire need of a new storage location, CHC officials said.
At a March 26 Tribal Council meeting, CHC Director Candessa Tehee said the archives located at the center have four threats working against them: temperature, humidity, light and pests.
Unfortunately, temperature is a threat that CHC Curator Mikel Yantz and the center’s interim archivist cannot currently control, Tehee said.
Yantz, who runs the permanent collections as well as the temporary and permanent exhibits in the museum, said the museum’s basement houses the archives and collections.
“We have two separate areas downstairs. One is for archives, which is where we have our two-dimensional objects – so newspapers, letters and photographs,” he said. “We also have a separate area for collections, and that’s our three-dimensional objects – so pottery, basketry and stickball sticks. Anything that need to be put on larger shelves.”
He said temperature control is the biggest concern when trying to preserve and maintain the archives and collections.
“The building that we have wasn’t created four decades ago to sustain the temperature and humidity, so we’re looking forward to trying to fix that by possibly having a new building,” Yantz said. “If you have a higher temperature and higher humidity, it’s very susceptible to fabric or porous materials like wood and especially paper because what it will do is it will increase the moisture, and so it will start growing mold and start deteriorating those much faster than if it was a cooler temperature.”
The average temperature for the basement is about 70 degrees, which Yantz says is too high. He said the humidity is OK in the winter, but in the summer as the humidity climbs so does the possibility of damage to the archives and collections. He said the ideal temperature is 60 degrees with 40 percent humidity.
“And sometimes it fluctuates here in the building with the temperature outside,” Yantz said. “And as we know in Oklahoma, the temperature ranges from 20 to 120 (degrees) sometimes. And for us to sustain that year-round isn’t possible with what we have.”
Yantz said space is another issue facing the CHC archives and collections.
“We’re looking to create is around 7,000 square feet, which would double our size, but we’re also going to make sure that building is expandable so when we grow that room and building can grow with us,” he said. “The building will be right next to this museum. So if we need to transfer anything from that building to our exhibit area – because we do display a lot of our archives and collections – we’ll be able to do that and keep the document safe.”
Tehee said there have been two recommendations. One is to refurbish the interior of the basement with the other being to build and on-site, metal-fabricated building that would be double the size of the basement.
Yantz said the Cherokee National Historical Society board, which governs the CHC, is raising money through granting agencies and possibly the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses with hopes of creating a new storage area.
Yantz said the CHC’s mission is to preserve, promote and teach the Cherokee history and culture.
“And the documents and objects that we have here and that we preserve at the museum support that mission. It’s vital to make sure that these last for generations,” he added.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism and Preservation Oklahoma are partnering to teach people how to restore historical remains etched in stone.
Professional gravestone and masonry conservator Jonathan Appell, member of the Preservation Trades Network, will lead the gravestone conservation workshop from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on May 7-8 at the Tahlequah Public Cemetery.
An expert in cemetery preservation planning, Appell will lead the interactive training while covering topics on how to reset stones, repair fragmented stones, repoint and clean masonry and use infill material and appropriate repair materials. Tools and most materials will be provided for the workshops. Attendees are encouraged to bring a folding chair for comfort.
Appell has performed gravestone preservation and planning projects on historic cemeteries throughout the U.S., including the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.; The Granary in Boston; Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York; The First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Greensboro, North Carolina; and The New Haven Crypt in New Haven, Connecticut.
Lunch will be provided and the cost to attend is $45. The workshop is limited to 25 people on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve space or get more information, go to <a href="http://www.preservationOK.org" target="_blank">www.preservationOK.org</a>.
WICHITA, Kan. – Meredith Radke-Gannon, a Cherokee artist and high school art teacher in Wichita, is taking part in a public-art project called “Keepers on Parade” that will place 10-foot tall fiberglass sculptures throughout the city.
The sculptures are inspired by the “Keeper of the Plains” sculpture in downtown Wichita. Kiowa artist Blackbear Bosin created the sculpture, and the group “Together Wichita,” made up of businesses and organizations, has recruited artists to paint the sculptures to showcase the city’s qualities.
Radke-Gannon is completing a second painted sculpture, which is part of 50 to 75 sculptures city officials hope to place in the next year. “Keeper” sculptures are decorated with Native American themes or Kansas-themed paintings. Radke-Gannon chose to use Native American themes.
She said the sculpture’s design could symbolize reaching toward the sky, sending prayers up to the heavens with smoke, a star symbol or even a sunflower facing its top toward the sun.
Radke-Gannon grew up in McPherson, but her family originated in Chelsea, Oklahoma. She may have grown up in Kansas, but she said her interest in Native art began in Oklahoma.
“A moment that really began my journey in Native American art was when I was 8 years old. My grandparents took me on an art adventure trip to the Cherokee Heritage Center, and I’ll never forget the artwork that was portrayed there and the Willard Stone wood-carved sculpture entitled ‘Exodus,’” she said. “After viewing the artwork, they drove me to Mr. Stone’s home and art studio. It was a moment I’ll never forget that really inspired me to explore art. He worked in a number of mediums and showed us the wood-carved sculpture project he was working on at the time. His warm spirit and creativity blessed me and inspired me to keep learning more about Native arts and culture.”
She attended Kansas State University for art education before studying textile weaving and printing at the Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I was first drawn to weaving and textiles because of the process and colors that could be achieved but also because of the textile traditions in Cherokee culture,” she said.
Later she did commercial weaving and weaving for her artwork before having children and staying home to raise them.
Eight years ago she began teaching art, first as an elementary art education teacher and then as an art teacher at Northeast Magnet High School. She has also started taking oil-painting classes.
“That was a year and a half ago and ever since then I’ve been painting non stop. I do some wood sculptures, too. As a weaver it’s so labor intensive. Like when I’d weave it would be an inch an hour or half an inch an hour. It was so time consuming that it was really hard to get out what was in my head onto fabric, so that’s why I’ve gone really crazy with painting because it’s a lot faster and it gets out what I’m wanting to portray in each piece,” she said. “And then the (“Keepers on Parade”) project came along, and I submitted designs for that.”
She was among the first eight artists chosen to create designs and decorate the initial “Keepers on Parade” sculptures. Her first design was based on designs from the Wichita tribe. Her design for the second sculpture is based on the Kansas state flag and its symbols.
The “Keepers on Parade” project is similar to a project in Cherokee, North Carolina, where bear sculptures were painted and placed throughout the town or the project in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where artists painted guitar sculptures.
“They are trying to bring community pride together, something that will make a lasting impression. They are really trying to focus now on the town’s symbol with the ‘Keeper of the Plains.’ It is one of the most visited places in town,” she said.
She entered a painting in the 2014 Trail of Tears Art Show at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma, and entered a painting and two wooden sculptures for this year’s show, which was slated to open on April 18.
“I really want to do more entries and keep showing. That’s my goal,” she said. “I think as a teacher, I think students are really interested in what I’m doing because I’m creating along with them; I’m not just teaching them something. I’m also showing them art is a such viable medium, and I can express deep meaning things related to my culture.”
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will hold its spring meeting from 10 a.m. to noon on April 11 at the Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs.
The public is invited to attend the meeting to listen to keynote speaker Jay Hannah speak about how Cherokee people coped and survived following their removal to Indian Territory from their eastern homelands.
Hannah is a Cherokee Nation citizen who grew up in Adair County. His family traveled on the Trail of Tears in 1839 and settled 20 miles from where he grew up in Peavine. Hannah holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. He is also the executive vice president of financial services for BancFirst Corporation in Oklahoma City.
This year’s “Remember the Removal” bicycle riders will also be guests at the meeting.
At 2:30 p.m. on April 18 the Oklahoma Chapter of TOTA will hold a marking and honoring ceremony for three Cherokee people who survived the Trail of Tears but later died in Indian Territory. The ceremony will be held at the Round Springs Cemetery in Eucha in Delaware County.
Removal survivors Charlotte Chopper, Chief Charles Thompson and Anderson Springston will be honored and TOTA plaques will be attached to their graves.
WASHINGTON –Without actually being in attendance, individuals will be able to enjoy “Cherokee Days” via live webcasts and numerous amounts of information that Cherokee Nation will be sharing on their social media accounts.
“Cherokee Days” events begin on April 10 at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington. “Cherokee Days” consist of the partnering of the CN, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band to share the Cherokee story.
“By partnering with the Smithsonian to stream the sessions on Cherokee history, genealogy and culture, we open the experience of Cherokee Days to a much broader audience,” CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We encourage everyone interested to log on and participate in this unique gathering of tribal historians, artisans and cultural experts. The information collectively shared by the three tribes will be educational as well as entertaining. It’s important we make this experience accessible to the world.”
On April 10, Robert Lewis will tell traditional Cherokee stories, Cherokee National Treasure Tommy Wildcat will preform with his flute, the Cherokee National Youth Choir will preform and there will be traditional dances.
On April 11, John Ross Jr. will give those interested an opportunity to learn more about the Cherokee language; Catherine Foreman Gray will present a lecture about the Trial of Tears; Roy Hamilton will speak about Cherokee genealogy; EBCI speakers will speak about the importance of natural resources; and Ernestine Berry will help people learn more about the history of the UKB.
The performances start at 10:30 a.m. (EDT) on April 10 and presentations start at 10 a.m. (EDT) on April 11 and can be viewed online via live webcast at <a href="http://nmai.si.edu/multimedia/webcasts/" target="_blank">http://nmai.si.edu/multimedia/webcasts/</a>.
According to a CN press release, the public educational program is April 10-12 and includes an exhibit showcasing the history and culture of the three tribes, live cultural art demonstrations, and scheduled cultural performances. Among the activities is a make-and-take experience, which allows children to create traditional Cherokee items.
CN officials will continually provide an inside look of the three-day event through its Tumblr page at <a href="http://www.CherokeeNationNews.tumblr.com" target="_blank">www.CherokeeNationNews.tumblr.com</a>. There will also be updates on the CN’s Facebook pages and Twitter accounts.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.AmericanIndian.si.edu" target="_blank">www.AmericanIndian.si.edu</a>.
CAVE SPRING, Ga. – The Cave Spring Historical Society invites the public to join the Cave Spring community for a workday to unveil the 1810 Vann Cherokee Cabin on April 11.
A local citizen discovered the Vann Cherokee Cabin beneath the dilapidated structure of the Green Hotel five years ago. Hotel rooms had been added to the cabin obscuring the original structure. After extensive research, it was verified a Cherokee man named Avery Vann built the two-story, hand-hewed log cabin in 1810.
“The cabin needs a lot of work, but is in relatively good shape,” Michael Burton, president of the Cave Spring Historical Society, said. “We are excited to unveil the historic cabin and hope to raise enough funds to restore the structure and open it to the public by next June.”
The society’s goal is to fundraise $50,000 for building restorations.
The National Park Service officially recognizes the structure as a historic place. Additionally, the Trail of Tears Association officially recognizes the cabin as being located on the Trail of Tears.
Volunteers are asked to meet at 8 a.m. on Broad Street at the Cave Spring Square. Volunteers should wear gloves and bring hand tools for the demolition of the dilapidated structure outside the cabin.
The Cave Spring Historical Society was originally formed to save and restore historical buildings in Cave Spring’s Rolater Park. The society and local citizens continue to work together to protect and preserve historical buildings in Cave Spring.
For more information, call Burton at 770-748-8542 or email <a href="mailto: aBurtonMik@mac.com">aBurtonMik@mac.com</a>.