Today, there are an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 fluent Cherokee speakers, and many others who are conversational second-language learners of Cherokee. While we have elders who are fluent and the emerging youth who will be, there was a void in the development of young adults.
That is why, two years ago, we launched the Cherokee Language Master-Apprentice Program. The goal of this program is to create new adult Cherokee language teachers. We selected four young adults to be the first class, and I am proud to say two of the students recently graduated and one of them will soon be teaching at the Immersion School.
When the selected students came into the program, they had little to no knowledge of the Cherokee language. However, upon graduating two years later, they have achieved high conversational levels. That is truly amazing.
The Master-Apprentice Program is an everyday effort. The students perform general, everyday activities but speak nothing but Cherokee. No English is spoken all day. They cook, look for wild onions and mushrooms and have general daily conversations in Cherokee. The approach is to do the everyday things, simple activities that are second nature to speak about in English, but do so only in Cherokee. The Cherokee language immersion environment is eight hours each day, five days per week.
The Cherokee language is one of the most vital elements of our tribal culture. We have invested in preservation efforts and youth education endeavors, including the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, which is a renowned global example for developing youth speakers.
This current lawsuit is about holding the federal government accountable; it is about making sure there is an accurate accounting of the vast Cherokee trust fund, the money and natural resources, including the land, coal, timber, water, grazing, and oil and gas, that the federal government agreed to hold in trust for the benefit of the Cherokee Nation.
As a trustee, the federal government managed the Cherokee trust fund, handling the money earned off the land and resources. The federal government’s reports state that Indian trust funds were handled with a “pitchfork.” As a result, many of the recorded transactions are lost or scattered across the country in epically disorganized accounting books. Our hope and desire are to address the information and management gap at the core of the federal government’s mishandling.
At different times throughout history, Cherokee lands in Indian Territory were taken, sold or leased by the federal government, the most powerful and sophisticated government in the world. Yet, because of the federal government’s management, we cannot get an accurate accounting of what it did with the revenue from our natural resources. The resources relate to the treaty lands of the Cherokee Nation, including the current 14-county jurisdiction of our tribe.
The federal government can’t tell us what it did with our trust fund resources; it can’t tell us what profit was realized from the sale of those resources; it can’t tell us where the money went or whether it was fairly and justly allocated to the tribe as negotiated and agreed upon. We believe the United States government should live up to its word, and we think most Americans feel the same way.
The Cherokee Nation recently filed a lawsuit against the federal government to uncover details about how the United States throughout history managed the tribe’s trust fund, which includes money, property and other resources. The claim was filed in federal court in the Western District of Oklahoma on the 231st anniversary of the Treaty of Hopewell, the first treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the United States government. In the Treaty of Hopewell, the United States agreed its actions would be for “the benefit and comfort” of the Cherokee Nation. Sadly, the United States violated this treaty and every other treaty signed with the Cherokee Nation’s government.
Recently, Cherokee Nation finalized the purchase of Sequoyah’s Cabin, near Sallisaw, from the state. We are so proud to assume ownership and management of the historical site and have the opportunity to give it the respect and reverence it deserves.
It’s unimaginable that sites, like Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello or George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, would be operated by anyone other than the United States government. Likewise, it is only fitting that Sequoyah’s Cabin site, which is a vital part of our story, would be operated by the Cherokee Nation.
In our tribe’s long and unique history, Sequoyah made an everlasting impact and truly changed the way our people communicate, share ideas and preserve history. He was a genius who advanced the Cherokee Nation and our rich culture. Sequoyah is one of our most well-known statesmen and historical figures, and his contributions to the Cherokee Nation are immeasurable. The Cherokee syllabary is the single most important contributor to the advancement of the Cherokee people and Cherokee society.
He reshaped the future of Cherokees and all Native people, not just seven generations but infinite generations.
Cherokee Nation was the first tribe to adopt a written language, and the impact the syllabary has had on our people and the advancements of our tribe continue still today. Sequoyah, also known as George Gist, gave us one of the most significant gifts in our history. Sequoyah’s invention of the syllabary had an immeasurable impact on us as a tribe.
The Cherokee Nation owns about 4,000 acres of agricultural pastureland around the site of the former Chilocco Indian boarding school near Newkirk in Kay County in north central Oklahoma. After more than 10 years of studying the feasibility and environmental impact of such a project, the Tribal Council approved a lease of that tribal trust land to wind farm developer PNE Wind to develop a wind farm and help lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.
A wind farm isn’t just good for the environment and for the United States as a whole. It will come at a great benefit to Cherokee people by bringing in a considerable amount of new revenue for the Cherokee Nation. Our ground lease agreement with PNE Wind will generate about $1 million per year, on average, for tribal programs and services over the life of the lease. This is a much-needed boost for our tribal programs, as we always try to stretch every dollar as far as it will go to help Cherokee Nation citizens.
The development of a wind farm is a great step toward advancing clean energy and moving away from coal-fired power. This is what it means to be stewards of our land. Wind energy is pollution free, doesn’t require fuel or water, and the land beneath the wind farm will still be used for agricultural purposes. Currently, we collect lease payments from farmers and ranchers who run cattle on that pastureland, so this project will help us collect lease payments for both operations. PNE Wind is also obligated to restore the land to its present condition should the company ever cease operations.
Chilocco Indian School operated from 1884 to 1980. The Cherokee Nation and several other tribes have owned parcels of land in the area since the 1980s, and there has been much discussion over the years about how to best utilize those parcels. After careful thought and consideration about the environmental impacts, and what is best for the Cherokee Nation operationally, the current agreement is by far the best scenario. This agreement brings us in line with other tribes in the area to develop a project that is profitable for all involved, while maintaining the integrity of the land.
At Cherokee National Holiday this year, I spoke of a renewed effort for Cherokees to become stewards of our land. To advance that effort, I appointed the first ever secretary of natural resources. We also established the Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association. Now, we’ve expanded that effort into another arena: clean energy.
Recently, the tribe’s career services department hosted a job fair for the Macy’s fulfillment center in Owasso. While Macy’s has announced some of its U.S. stores will close due to increasing online sales, more Americans shopping online is actually good news for the fulfillment center. The center has the capacity to stock, pack and ship as many as 250,000 packages a day for shoppers all over the United States during the peak holiday shopping season, and they’ve asked our staff to help find more than 3,500 workers to meet that increased demand. That’s up from the 2,500 employees we helped recruit last holiday season. Those new jobs are in addition to the 1,000 full-time positions created when Macy’s opened its 2.1 million-square-foot facility last year.
The company has made hiring Cherokees a priority, which is why we worked so hard to recruit Macy’s to Oklahoma. This success story was the result of a partnership between Cherokee Nation, the city of Owasso, Tulsa County and the state of Oklahoma. Without Cherokee Nation at the negotiating table, the deal would not have worked out and the center may have gone to Texas. It speaks volumes that a respected 100-year-old retailer has come to understand the value of working with a Native American tribe and has put faith in us that we’ll deliver. The Macy’s partnership has been transformative for Oklahoma, our communities and our families.
We recently announced similar good news in Nowata County. With the help of Cherokee Nation, 260 new jobs will soon be coming to South Coffeyville.
Star Pipe Products, a Texas-based company that specializes in manufacturing, casting, machining, metal fabrication, assembly and production of customized cast iron and ductile iron products, will grow its workforce from its current staff of 88 current workers to nearly 350.The company’s direct investment will be more than $40 million into the local community, and we will play our role in ensuring their new staff is trained and prepared to fulfill the opportunity.
Creating jobs and economic opportunities for our citizens in northeast Oklahoma is critical to Cherokee Nation’s continued success. We are creating Cherokee Nation jobs as we expand our businesses and reach into new markets and new industries. But equally important is our growing tendency to partner with the Oklahoma governor’s office and department of commerce to position the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation as an ideal place to grow, expand and relocate.
When shopping at farmers markets, you are showing support as a community to your local farmers. Farmers often tend to grow these things for a living and only want to provide you with the best products that they have available. With the products that farmers are providing you, you will get the best, freshest and tastiest produce available because those products are sold to you directly from the farm. However, if you purchased it from a big-chain supermarket, those products are shipped from hundreds and maybe even thousands of miles away. It’s always a positive thing to you and your body to know where and how these products are coming from, and purchasing locally is always a great way to support your community. A fun fact is that with the local farmers, they would be happy to explain where their produce came from. You may even get a good story out of it.
Another good reason to shop at your local farmers market is because it allows you to enjoy the produce that is in season. For example, during the summer you will more than likely not see farmers selling pumpkins. That will be in the fall, which is the peak of pumpkin season. Also, did you know that your local farmers have some delicious recipes? For the produce that is being sold by your local farmers, they usually will have an idea of what you can do to incorporate their products in a meal. For example, zucchini is a great vegetable to grill in the summertime, but did you also know that you can make lasagna with zucchini? All you have to do is replace the noodles with thin slices of zucchini and it makes a delicious (and healthy) meal.
Did you know that if you qualify and are approved for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program you could be eligible to purchase goods with those benefits at the farmers markets? Different states have different requirements for eligibility for this, and luckily Oklahoma does participate in this as long as the state offers equipment that will process those SNAP transactions and the market participates in it. However, if the farmers or the market don’t have the equipment to process these payments, you can also request for manual vouchers from your EBT processor to use at local farmers markets as long as they accept them. With this process and the exception that the farmers market does take manual vouchers, you as the customer would have to sign the voucher for the purchase amount and then the market would then have to mail it in to the EBT processor for reimbursement. So technically you’re able to trade some of your EBT benefits for vouchers to support and shop at your local farmers markets.
There are many great reasons to shop at your local farmers markets. Not only will you be provided with great service, you’ll be able to nourish your bodies with great produce that these farmers work hard to provide for you.
With summer in season, Saturday mornings are quite popular for local farmers to come to the community and sell their produce. Oftentimes foods that are likely to be found at local farmers markets are vegetables and fruits. At this point, you may be thinking “what’s the difference between buying it at the farmers market versus a big chain supermarket?” There are many benefits and here are the reasons why.
As we come together this year, we celebrate the accomplishments of our tribal government and our bright future. We share our Cherokee traditions and values. The first Cherokee National Holiday was held in 1953 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution.
This year’s Cherokee National Holiday theme, “Stewards of our Land,” is a reminder that Cherokee people have, since time immemorial, protected our earth and safeguarded our precious natural resources. Cherokee people were among the first conservationists in this country’s history, and today that spirit lives on in our important work.
We proudly celebrate the natural world and strive to keep our land clean, our water safe and our air pristine. Every decision we make is deliberate and with our natural resources in mind. One of the things we achieved in the past year is establishing a secretary of Natural Resources, who’s responsible for shaping a policy to preserve our land, water and air. We also secured a historic hunting and fishing compact with the state and a portion of those earmarked funds go specifically to statewide conservation efforts. We have an inherent responsibility to the next seven generations of Cherokees to leave the world a better place.
The 2016 Cherokee National Holiday design, which was created by Cherokee National Treasure Dan Mink, is simply beautiful and ties so many of concepts together in one piece of art. It will be exceptional on a shirt or a poster. At the center is a deer sugar skull decorated with elements of predator and prey. Inside the skull are snakeskin, fish scales and patterns associated with Southeast Woodland design, native to the Cherokee people. The cape feathers directly under the deer embrace the tribe’s 14 counties. The blue background is the horizon over Lake Tenkiller, marked with the seven-pointed star. The circle is encompassed by three patterns, including deer tracks to embody a successful hunt, stylized turkey feathers and scales. The three patterns represent the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. Lastly, the seven Buffalo Carp fish under the circle honor the seven Cherokee clans.
It is my favorite weekend of the year. Labor Day weekend always means it is time for Cherokee National Holiday. The 64th annual event, which runs Sept. 2-4 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, will again draw a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors to our capital city. I invite anyone who has never experienced Cherokee National Holiday to join us for fellowship and fun as we celebrate the history, heritage and hospitality of the Cherokee Nation. And, of course, we always look forward to seeing the thousands of friends that return every year, while meeting new friends this homecoming weekend.
Sadly, there are more than 1,800 Cherokee children in foster care, with 1,100 of those children living right here in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, we are at a crossroad, with more children in custody than Cherokee foster homes available. The importance of placing Cherokee children in Cherokee foster homes is vital. Not only do our children deserve the right to grow up in a safe, loving environment, but they deserve the right to maintain their tribal ties to Cherokee values and culture.
Removal of our people from our homelands more than 175 years ago is one of the saddest parts of not just Cherokee history, but one of the darkest chapters in all of American history. The Trail of Tears created a long-lasting trauma for generations of Cherokee people, and we are still seeing the effects of it today. One of the most gut-wrenching ways is the trauma of a child in need of family.
Since those dark days of removal, foster care has been a sad but necessary reality, and although it may look different than our tragic historic event, removal is still happening to our Cherokee children when they are plucked from unsafe environments. Unfortunately, there are times when our children are in unsafe situations and need an extra measure of support. Sometimes abuse and neglect can be repeated without interruption across several generations. When this happens, it is necessary to remove children for their well-being in order to facilitate a healing process, with the hope of family reunification.
Temporary foster care is critical in the process. It literally saves kids and families, and without intervention there is little chance for family healing.
The work of our Cherokee foster parents, child welfare workers and advocates is near and dear to my heart. It is an issue that deserves our daily attention. Cherokee people have always believed our children are sacred and their care is a shared responsibility. Each and every Cherokee child is precious and ensures our collective continued existence.
We recently launched a website www.cherokeesatlarge.org dedicated exclusively to connecting Cherokee Nation citizens residing beyond the tribe’s 14 counties with information on federal and tribal programs and services. The new site features unique information for Cherokee Nation citizens on home loans and IHS health care options. There are details about higher education scholarships available to any Cherokee no matter where you live.
It’s a good way for Cherokees to interact, participate and remain connected to our government. I believe our bond as Cherokee people can never be broken, whether you live inside or outside the jurisdictional boundaries. It is important that all citizens be informed of what is happening with the Cherokee Nation. We all share similar values, Cherokee values: a commitment to family and community and a respect for preserving our heritage and culture.
Many of our at-large citizens are involved with the nearly two dozen at-large Cherokee community organizations across the country. These groups make up the Cherokee Nation Community Association and are coordinated through the tribe’s Community and Cultural Outreach department. The new website provides vital information on Cherokee community gatherings near you. These are the community groups we visit regularly to share news updates, photo ID cards and voter registration information.
In Oklahoma alone there are more than 90,000 Cherokee Nation citizens who reside outside our 14-county tribal boundary. Through our negotiated state compacts, all Cherokee Nation citizens in Oklahoma are eligible for a Cherokee Nation Hunting and Fishing license and Cherokee vehicle tags. The new website has information on both of these opportunities.
Cherokee Nation citizens in at-large communities across Oklahoma and the United States are a vital part of our tribal government and are critical to our success. The Cherokee Nation has more than 330,000 citizens, and almost 205,000 of our enrolled citizenry live outside the tribe’s northeast Oklahoma jurisdiction. It is important we keep all our citizens as informed and up to date as we can.
LONGMONT, Colo. – First Nations Development Institute, a national Native American nonprofit organization that works to improve Native economies and communities, on Feb. 2 announced it has received a $2.7 million grant for a three-year Native arts project.
This award will position First Nations to expand its Native Arts Initiative, formerly known as the “Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative,” into 2019.
Launched in early 2014, the purpose of the Native Arts Initiative is to support the perpetuation and proliferation of Native American arts, cultures and traditions as integral to Native community life. It does this by providing organizational and programmatic resources to Native-led organizations and tribal government programs that have existing programs in place that support Native artists and traditional arts in their communities.
Since 2014, First Nations has awarded more than $600,000 in grant funds to various eligible Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to bolster the sustainability of their organizational and programmatic infrastructure as well as the professional development of their staff and leadership.
Under the expansion, First Nations will continue to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. First Nations will begin to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in two new regions – the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest, including Washington and Oregon.
First Nations expects to release a request for proposals in the coming days and will award approximately 45 Supporting Native Arts Grants of up to $32,000 each over the next three years to eligible Native-led nonprofits and tribal government programs in these regions.
NAI recipient organizations and programs will utilize their grants to strengthen their organizational and programmatic infrastructure and sustainability, which will reinforce their support of the field of Native American artists as culture bearers and traditional arts in their communities. In addition to financial support, the NAI will offer individualized training and technical assistance opportunities for grantees as well as competitive professional development opportunities for staff members of eligible Native-led organizations and tribal programs.
For a list of current and former NAI grantees, visit http://www.firstnations.org
WARNER, Okla. – In August, Connors State College opened the doors to its Native American Success and Cultural Center that features Native American art, a computer lab, language repository and study group rooms for students, faculty, staff and the public.
The center is part of a Title III grant program that Connors received in 2014.
“This was a $5 million dollar grant spread over five years. This particular one has two focus areas. It has the Native American Success Center area, and it also has another focus for online hybrid course development,” Gwen Rodgers, Connors Title III project director, said.
Rodgers said Connors developed a “pride model” to help Native students with retention, help them learn about their respective cultures and be “inclusive” of all cultures.
“The center is open to anybody. It is not exclusive to Native Americans. There’s a rumor going around that only Native American students can utilize the center, and we’re trying to dispel that,” Colleen Noble, NASCC director, said. “We want students, the public, faculty, staff to feel comfortable to come and learn about the history, culture, literature, artwork of the Five Civilized Tribes. That’s our focus. We are reaching out to school districts for them to come and be a part of field trips.”
The Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw and Seminole nations were labeled as the Five Civilized Tribes.
Noble said in the center’s cultural section artwork is featured with a majority of it being Cherokee, but it also has Muscogee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Pawnee and Osage artwork. For the grant’s remainder, NASCC officials plan to acquire more art pieces from the Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee tribes in Oklahoma.
The center also offers cultural activities throughout the year by inviting presenters from different tribes to teach classes such as basket making and moccasin making.
Noble said Connors has a high population of Native American students, and the center is a “stop gap” for them to learn more about their respective cultures and heritages without having to travel to places such as Tulsa, Tahlequah and Muskogee to visit museums.
“We are currently 38 percent Native American students, which is a really good percentage for this area. We are one of the highest Native American populations for the state of Oklahoma for a higher learning institute. The biggest percentage of our students are Cherokee. We have over 900 students who are Native American and out of that over 600 are Cherokee,” Noble said. “We’re able to partner with Cherokee Nation and bring in some really wonderful cultural experts to share their knowledge and skills with our students.”
In the NASCC’s success center section, students learn styles in audio, visual and kinesthetic areas. Kinesthetic learning or tactile learning is where students learn by carrying out physical activities rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.
Noble said the computers labs have headphones, study rooms have marker and art boards and students can utilize a “spinning chair” to de-stress and re-focus on college studies.
“It is a five-year grant, but it is developed and designed for continuation so that at the end of the five years this doesn’t all stop. It’s institutionalized throughout so that everything we’re doing now will keep going. So Connors will just be stronger because of it. We’re excited to be a part of it,” Rodgers said.
For more information, visit connorsstate.edu
or call 918-463-6364.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Jan. 16 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously amended the tribe’s fiscal year 2017 capital and operating budgets, increasing both funds.
With Tribal Councilors Curtis Snell and Wanda Hatfield absent, legislators added $76,837 to the capital budget for a total budget authority of $277.8 million. Officials said the increase came from a carryover environmental review for roads projects.
Legislators also increased the FY 2017 operating budget by $132,762 for a total budget authority of $664.5 million. Officials said the increase stems from grants received and authorized carryover reconciliation, new funding awards and an ending grant.
In other business, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden honored three Cherokee veterans with Cherokee Warrior Awards for their military service.
Dale Leon Johnson was drafted in 1967 and sworn into the Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 1968 he was transferred to Fulda, Germany, serving with Company C 19th Maintenance Battalion USAUR as a tank mechanic. He was honorably discharged as Specialist 4 in 1973. He and his wife Patricia have been married for 51 years and he recently retired from AEP/PSO after 37 years working as a lineman.
Shad Nicholas Taylor enlisted in the Oklahoma Army Guard in 1983 while still in high school. After basic and advanced training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he spent almost 10 years working at Camp Gruber near Muskogee. His duty included tours to Panama and Jamaica for hurricane relief. In 2003 he was deployed for 12 months to Fallujah, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Days before being sent home from Fallujah, he was wounded, sent to Bagdad, Kuwait, and Germany before finally going Fort Sill in Lawton to heal. He said he takes pride in all the commendations he has received and was honored to receive the awards and medals for his 20-plus years of service.
Jimmy Donald Quetone is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He served as a teacher and basketball coach for East Central High School in Tulsa before being drafted by the Army in 1954. He was stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Sam Houston in Texas. He served in the 97th Machine Record Unit where he was responsible for keeping records for personnel and equipment in the 4th Army Area. He was honorably discharged in 1956 and returned to the education field. He retired working as the CN director of Education in 2001. Quetone is also an inductee of the NSU Athletic Hall of Fame and continues to serve others by volunteering at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens center.
In reports, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton recognized the CNB and CN Entertainment Community Impact Teams for raising $21,406.67 for the “Heart of a Nation” campaign, which will be used to help buy needed medical equipment for tribal citizens.
A check was presented to Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Crittenden for the campaign.
“All across the board we’ve got a very giving company both in terms of time and money,” Slaton said. “What it’s intended to do is impact in a positive way, helping Cherokee people.”
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will host an Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment Fair from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on March 1 in Conference Room 1.
“We will be hosting another ACA Outreach and Enrollment Fair here at Claremore,” Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator, said. “Even though members of federally recognized tribes have a special monthly enrollment status, it is important for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and families to learn about their insurance options. Whether it’s purchasing insurance through the Marketplace or qualifying for SoonerCare, knowing that you have quality coverage provides peace of mind.”
Dishno said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer.
Also Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will attend to assist patients with signing up for free-to-low-cost health insurance.
The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6559 or 918-342-6507.
Cherokee artisans are some of the most talented in Oklahoma and across all of Indian Country. They preserve our culture and heritage through their work across various mediums. It’s critical for us as Indian people to ensure Indian art is truly created by enrolled citizens of federally recognized tribes.
That’s why Cherokee Nation, along with the leadership of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations, is supporting Oklahoma House Bill 2261, which is being considered now in the Oklahoma State Senate after passing the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a 90-0 vote. The bill is authored by Rep. Chuck Hoskin (D-Vinita) and Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman), Cherokee Nation citizens, and proposes a change in the definition of who can sell Indian art.
The proposal defines “American Indian tribe” as any Indian tribe federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and, further, defines “American Indian” as a citizen or enrolled member of an American Indian tribe.
This issue is important for us because it ensures people who falsely claim tribal citizenship will not be able to market themselves and their crafts as Native. Oklahoma should take a strong position in preserving the integrity and authenticity of American Indian arts. As the home of 39 federally recognized tribes and more than 500,000 tribal citizens, Oklahoma should be the pacesetter for protecting tribal culture. Each of the 39 tribes in Oklahoma is a sovereign government with a unique history and culture and has been acknowledged and confirmed by the U.S. Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, executive orders and judicial decisions.
Today, the sale of American Indian art and craftwork in Oklahoma is regulated by both federal and state laws, and strengthening our state laws guarantees the integrity of Native American art and the artists themselves.
Oklahoma Indian artisans are renowned worldwide for beadwork, jewelry, basket weaving and fine arts like painting, pottery and sculpture. As the popularity of Indian art expands, so does the sale of items misrepresented as authentic American Indian products. Purchasing authentic American Indian art and crafts in Oklahoma from an enrolled citizen of a federally recognized Indian helps preserve our rich and diverse cultures, and it significantly increases entrepreneurship and economic development in Indian Country.
H.B. 2261 will provide a direct economic benefit to Cherokee artists by helping to decrease the availability of fraudulent Cherokee art in the market. Additionally, if the availability of fraudulent items decreases, the demand for authentic art will increase.
Closing the loophole about who can sell Indian art will protect not only the artists but individual consumers, galleries, art collectors and museums, especially smaller museums with fewer financial resources. Nothing in H.B. 2261 prevents individuals who claim to be tribal descendants from selling arts and crafts in Oklahoma. However, the claim “Indian made” or “Indian art” simply would not apply.
I strongly encourage you to contact your state senators and ask them to support H.B. 2261.
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – During the past several years, Cherokee Nation citizen Jules Brison has tried to preserve Cherokee culture through her art. That preservation has evolved into a business that shares culturally significant art to people from all over.
Brison owns and operates Water Spider Creations. She makes textiles art such as finger-woven belts, moccasins, ribbon shirts and tear dresses.
“I originally started doing art at a very young age. In some areas I’m self-taught, and some others I’ve had great influence from various other artists. My uncle Robert Lewis was probably my biggest influence along with my grandmother,” she said.
Lewis started her focus in textiles, she said. With regards to her sewing, both of Brison’s grandmothers were seamstresses, and they both shared their knowledge with her, which allowed her to create and wear items she had a hand in making.
“When I was Miss Cherokee and Junior Miss Cherokee, I actually helped create my tear dresses. When I ran for Miss Indian Summer my cousin Terri Fields and I and Cierra Fields actually helped make my entire regalia set to compete,” she said.
With influence from others she decided to sell her artwork. She began working as a paid artist two years ago, and each piece commissioned or created for show is unique.
“Each new piece of art I create is not exactly the same as another piece. So each individual piece is original. You’ll see artists that can duplicate things a million times, and that’s not exactly one of my fortes. I feel like that each piece of art has its own character or its influences drawn from other things,” Brison said.
She said it’s not uncommon for her to have multiple projects going at once. For this story, she was working on beaded moccasins, a finger-woven belt and a feather cape for her wedding.
“It kind of gives me a way to express myself in various different forms all in one setting,” she said.
Brison, who has sold pieces to people as far as England and Japan, uses different media to sell her art. Etsy.com – an online marketplace of individual sellers/creators of handmade or vintage items, art and supplies – is one of which she said is a great tool for artists.
“I encourage more artists to use that because that gets your art on a global scale. Anybody from, you know, Ukraine, China, Japan, England – anybody can get on there, see your work and order it,” she said. “I’ve actually sold things all across the globe.”
Brison is also available on Facebook at Water Spider Creations, where she said she enjoys working with customers most because it can be more personal that way.
On April 3, the Cherokee Phoenix will draw a winner for her finger-woven belt that she donated as part of the newspaper’s quarterly giveaway.
“Finger weaving is one of our oldest traditional arts, and it’s also one of the arts that is finally seeing a revitalization,” she said. “The finger-woven belt that I actually did for the Phoenix is purple, cream and maroon. It took me about six hours to complete and is an average waste length, but the colors essentially pop.”
Readers can get one entry in the drawing for every $10 spent with the Cherokee Phoenix. For more information, call 918-207-3825 or 918-207-4975.
To contact Brison for more information about her art, find her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org