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Art act in effect at holiday

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
09/18/2008 10:23 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – This Cherokee National Holiday, anyone marketing themselves as Indians and operating vendor booths on Cherokee Nation property must be able to prove citizenship in a federally recognized tribe or face expulsion.

The tough measure stems from the tribe’s Truth in Advertising for Native Art Act, which Tribal Councilors passed and Principal Chief Chad Smith signed in January.

“We sent all of our arts and crafts vendors a copy of the Truth in Advertising for Native Art Act along with an arts and crafts contract,” Lou Slagle, holiday coordinator, said. “I’ll be making up some sort of license or verification (showing) that this vendor is an authorized Native American vendor.”

He said his staff would check booths to ensure that the act is followed and that if a vendor is caught misleading or deceiving customers, the vendor would be escorted off CN property by CN marshals and banned.

Despite the tough penalty, the act isn’t designed to stop non-Indians from operating holiday booths, but to stop them from claiming to be Indians.

“Any vendor can go out there. It’s just the difference between this vendor being certified as a tribal member versus someone who is just selling stuff,” Tonia Williams, CN Web manager and member of the tribe’s Fraudulent Indian Tribes Team, said. “As a Cherokee, as a federally recognized tribal citizen, you should be able to be certified as a federally recognized tribal citizen instead of just coming in and claiming to be Indian.”

FITT members said they initiated the act after seeing non-Indians using Web sites, buying memberships into state-recognized tribes or other so-called Indian groups and calling or associating themselves with Indian cultures – primarily through art – to legitimize themselves as Indians.

Cara Cowan Watts, Dist. 7 Tribal Councilor and FITT member, said many non-Indians use “fake identities” to sell art, fabricate culture and legitimize themselves as Indians.

Williams said FITT members don’t know how much money has been spent on non-Indian art over legitimate Indian art during the years but “for every dollar they (non-Indians) receive, it’s a dollar that doesn’t go to a real Native American.”

Theact’s main purpose is to foster authentic Indian art and combat non-Indians selling art as Indian art by defining an Indian as a federally recognized tribal citizen. Cowan Watts said the limited definition makes the CN act stronger than the U.S. Indian Arts and Crafts Act, which includes state-recognized tribal citizens.

She said the tribe’s act also expands the definition of art. It states that art is “an object or action that is made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind/and or spirit regardless of any functional uses,” including crafts, handmade items, traditional storytelling, contemporary art or techniques, oral histories, other performing arts and printed materials.

“It is to clarify any art, performing art, physical art or written art that you have to be a federally recognized tribal citizen if you are claiming that those things are Indian or Native American,” Cowan Watts said. “That’s different from the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act in that it is more inclusive of all art forms. And it limits it to federally recognized tribal citizens because we believe that so-called state recognized tribes are illegitimate.”

FITT coordinator Julie Ross said the federal law allows non-Indians to market themselves as Indians because all they have to do is join a state-recognized tribe, which usually requires an enrollment fee.

“Because the federal act recognizes state-recognized tribes, it is meaningless,” Ross said.
CN’s act also establishes guidelines for the purchase, promotion and sale of genuine Native American arts and crafts within its jurisdiction and by its entities. That includes CN government offices, Cherokee Nation Businesses, Cherokee Nation Enterprises, Cherokee Nation Industries, the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation and any component and entity the CN is a sole or majority stockholder or owner.

For example, if non-Indian vendors sell items while claiming to be Indians on Cherokee Heritage Center grounds and go unpunished, the CHC could lose its CN funding.
“This is still all in process,” Williams said. “We don’t know what really is going to happen, but we hope that we at least start a trend.”

Cowan Watts said the act’s enforcement at holidays should bring back Cherokee artists who have been pushed out by non-Indians.

“What we find is, too frequently, it’s real easy for these folks who aren’t Cherokee to scream and yell louder than our real Cherokees,” she said. “If these non-Indian people spend their entire day playing Indian while all our real tribal citizens have regular jobs, then it’s much easier for all these people buying and selling to be attracted to these non-Indians. This will be the first holiday that the act has an effect on, so I expect that to encourage our traditional folks to return.”

The act also states the CN shall not knowingly offer for sale art produced by individuals who falsely claim, imply or suggest they are Indian and will not host, sponsor, fund or otherwise devote or contribute resources to exhibits showing artists who falsely claim, imply or suggest they are Indian.

“So we if find the Five Civilized Tribes Museum (in Muskogee, Okla.) is including known wannabes, not just state recognized…but people who are not part of a state-recognized tribe and are truly just claiming to be Indian in an art show over our federally recognized tribal citizens we could pull the money,” Cowan Watts said. “Our belief is that the Five Tribes Museum is supposed to serve the Five Civilized Tribes.”

Roger Cain, a Cherokee citizen and artist from Stilwell, Okla., said he and his wife Shawna support the act and see it as honoring their Cherokee ancestors.

“To me, if they are federally recognized they are the ones with the ancestors who stood up and said ‘I’m Cherokee; I’m Keetoowah,’ from the very beginning. We have to honor our ancestors who did this,” he said. “I got friends who are mad about it and were from the very beginning. I feel bad for them, but I tell them that I’m honoring my ancestors.”

Cain said although he supports the act, he thinks state-recognized tribal citizens have the right to make art but should have separate categories at art shows.

“If a person is buying Native art, they should know that the artist still lives in the community, still works with the Indian community and practices within the Indian community and is federally recognized,” he said. “We want to make a different category for the state-recognized tribes so they can show their stuff and aren’t competing with us.”

He does, however, want the law to impact people who know nothing about Indians or Indian culture yet tell people they are Indian.

“I want this law to impact those guys,” he said. “That’s what this law is about, catching those guys. If I’m out here in the woods gathering what I need to make my art piece, and then somebody in a big city who all of a sudden realizes they are Indian because of an old family photo can order stuff off the Internet and make their piece, it makes me say, ‘hey, I’m out here living the Cherokee culture by gathering my materials and you’re living where the Cherokees got moved away from.’ That is what the act is about – reinforcing real Cherokees and real Indians.”

FITT members said along with the holiday booths and CHC gift shop, the act has also affected CNE’s art markets and gifts shops by ensuring each item sold under the Indian art label is made by federally recognized tribal citizens.

“The entities have cleaned up a lot of the stuff they had,” Williams said. “We’ve had everything from stuff made in China to artists’ works and things like that. They have cleaned up to where they aren’t presenting non-Indians’ works, especially books. If you are saying that you are Cherokee in the book, and you’re not, then don’t say it.”

Cowan Watts said books not written by “federally recognized tribal citizens are supposed to be migrated out or there’s going to be a sticker on them saying they are not Cherokee or Indians.”

One writer she cites is author Robert J. Conley, whose books include Cherokee history-based fictions, as well as the non-fiction works “A Cherokee Encyclopedia” and “The Cherokee Nation: A History,” which the CN commissioned him to write.

Cowan Watts said Conley is only an associate member of the United Keetoowah Band and can’t trace any Cherokee heritage.

Conley, who disagrees with the act, said he traces his Cherokee lineage to the Dawes Rolls via his grandmother, Myrtle E. Parris, who is listed on the final rolls.

“If I’m not a Cherokee, it’s interesting that the Cherokee Nation registered me initially and the UKB later enrolled me,” he said. “My grandmother is one of the original (Dawes Rolls) enrollees. If Cara Cowan and her cohorts have nothing better to do than be Cherokee blood police, then they need to find some kind of lives for themselves.”

According to the UKB Office of Enrollment, Conley is an inactive member.

“In tribal enrollment terms his file is labeled ‘inactive’ because there is no record of a relinquishment letter (of CN citizenship) or a CDIB (Certificate Degree of Indian Blood) for Mr. Conley,” Sammy Still, UKB media coordinator, wrote in an e-mail. “In regards to whether Mr. Conley would be able to become a member of the United Keetoowah Band, this would depend on what degree of blood he is by providing the tribe with a CDIB.”

Conley said there was no relinquishment letter because he wasn’t a CN citizen when he enrolled in the UKB and that he doesn’t have a CDIB because he doesn’t want one.

Another aspect of the act allows the CN Tribal Employment Rights Office to certify a list of federally recognized tribal citizens as artists. Artists who register on the list would do so voluntarily, which Cowan Watts encourages.

“I get calls from Tulsa corporations or from all over the United States…and they want to buy gifts or something like that,” she said. “That way there’s a list I can send that is much more fair and equitable and we know it’s legitimate.”

Cowan Watts said the act should also help with the tribe’s cultural tourism by ensuring that tourists meet authentic Cherokees and Cherokee artists.

“We also felt that it was important to get ahead on this for the cultural truth,” she said. “It’s an economic development tool, and it’s important that we have all this in place before cultural tourism develops. We don’t want Japanese and German tourists coming in and buying from these known wannabes. We want them buying from our community members…not from who has the biggest turkey feathers.”
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties.

He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design.

Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper.

He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.
TRAVIS-SNELL@cherokee.org • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties. He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design. Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper. He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.

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BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
07/21/2016 09:00 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen MaryBeth Timothy, of MoonHawk Art, recently donated four ceramic tiles to the Cherokee Phoenix for its third quarterly giveaway. The four tiles are 6 inches by 8 inches featuring a bear, eagle, wolf and horses. Timothy, who has created art most of her life, said she didn’t become a professional artist until age 30. “I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I can remember going back in my parent’s desk and finding pictures that I’d drawn when I was really little. I remember in kindergarten winning first place for a Halloween drawing that I’d done,” she said. “I started professionally I guess when I was around 30. And started painting about that time as well.” Timothy said she and her family had always taken an interest in the arts. “My mother’s pretty creative. She’s always done crafty things with us since we were little, and we’re all very musically inclined as well. I’ve just always been drawn to it, that and nature,” she said. Although she didn’t grow up in the Cherokee culture, she said it’s always been something she wanted to learn more about. As an adult, she said art helped her do that. “I didn’t grow up traditional or around our people until I was an adult, and I had that yearning to learn about our history and culture, our heritage, and I think in learning that it has also inspired that part of my art as well,” Timothy said. She said meeting influential people helped to further her artistic career. “Betty Cramer-Synar and her daughter Addie Synar. They really were my kick to continue and to increase my knowledge on it and to venture out into other mediums as well,” she said. Timothy said she’s experienced several art media, including drawing with graphite, pencil, pen and ink and acrylics. She has also worked with watercolor pencils, colored pencil, oil and she sculpts. More recently, she and her husband applied for a loan through the CN to print on ceramic tiles, coffee mugs and T-shirts. “We do all of the original art, and then we do our own printing as well,” she said. “We are Moonhawk Art LLC now. So we just became an LLC a few months ago.” Timothy and her husband’s artwork is for sale online and at craft shows and powwows, but they also take commission jobs. They also continue to work regular jobs, she said. MaryBeth works for the Five Civilized Tribes Museum and John for Bacone College, both in Muskogee. Entries for the Cherokee Phoenix quarterly giveaways are obtained by people donating to the Cherokee Phoenix elder fund or buying a subscription or merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent. The third drawing will be on Oct. 1. The tile featuring a bear is titled “Bear Clan.” “Ancient Glory” is the tile with the eagle. “PeekaBoo” is the one with a wolf, and “Seven” or “GaLiQuoGi” is the tile with horses. For more information regarding the giveaways 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>. For more information on MoonHawk Art visit <a href="http://www.moonhawkart.com" target="_blank">www.moonhawkart.com</a> or email <a href="mailto: moonhawkart@gmail.com">moonhawkart@gmail.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/19/2016 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Throughout history, Cherokees have always placed a priority on their relationship with the Earth and emphasized the importance of being good stewards of the land. A new exhibit at the Cherokee National Prison Museum showcases that relationship while featuring Cherokee agricultural practices from pre-removal to present day. “Of the Earth” runs July 15 through Nov. 1. Free admission will be offered on opening day. The exhibit features information on crops, including corn, squash and beans. These crops are also known as the Three Sisters, which are historically the most important throughout Cherokee history. Other crops include pumpkins, apples, grapes, peaches and wild onions. The Cherokee National Prison Museum was selected to host the exhibit, as it once featured a large garden where prisoners tended to its care. This was an important aspect of the prison, as it was used for prisoner reform and teaching life skills, as opposed to punishment. The prison was the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. It housed sentenced and accused prisoners from throughout the territory. The interpretive site and museum give visitors an idea about how law and order operated in Indian Territory. The site features a working blacksmith area and reconstructed gallows, exhibits about famous prisoners and daring escapes, local outlaws and Cherokee patriots, jail cells and more. It is located at 124 E. Choctaw St. Cherokee Nation museums are open from10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For information, call 1-877779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
07/18/2016 09:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Seven women came to the Cherokee Heritage Center on July 9 to transform flat reed material into baskets under the instruction of artist and former Miss Cherokee Danielle Culp. CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said the center hosts seven to eight art classes annually to promote Cherokee culture. “The idea is for students to have a taste of Cherokee culture and experience basket making, pottery making, stickball making, Cherokee clothing. We do a variety of things,” she said. “Today, the flat reed class is learning to weave like our ancestors did. The material used in flat reed weaving for today’s class is commercial reed, but our ancestors would have used river cane or split hardwoods. Our goal for today is (for students) to leave here with a small, finished basket so the students understand the process of beginning and finishing.” CHC cultural art classes usually only have 12 to 15 students to allow for one-on-one attention by the instructor and so that students have a good experience with the instructor, Weavel added. She said some students leave the classroom and continue to learn about the crafts. “The students are encouraged to continue the craft if they choose to do so,” she said. “We have had a student that has come to a class and ended up entering our Homecoming Art Show, which is a show just for Cherokee people.” Cherokee Nation citizen Valerie Brown, of Bixby, said she has taken the reed basket class three times because she enjoys learning more about her Cherokee heritage. “I wasn’t raised around Cherokee culture, but it was important to my mom. So after I lost her I thought ‘now’s the time to start learning more about where I’m from,’” she said. Brown said she’s a little slow in making baskets, but she enjoys working on them. She said after three classes she now has a feel for how the basket should be made and it’s easier for her to follow the instructor. “Whether I have any talent for it or not, I like doing it,” Brown said. “That’s why I’ve taken the round reed class so many times. Each time it’s a beginner’s class. Each time I learn more. Where I work they have an art contest for just the employees, and I’ve entered that and won a prize.” She said she has basket-making materials in her living room and makes small baskets in her spare time. “It’s relaxing. It’s just the feeling of working with my hands and creating something. I’ve always done crafts and things, and to me this is just an elevated level. It’s not just a craft. It just feels like more,” she said. Weavel said the classes also serve as a preservation tool because some students continue practicing what they learn and share with others. For more information, call 918-456-6007, email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a> or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/14/2016 04:00 PM
BRATTONSVILLE, S.C. – The movie “Cameron” follows British Indian agent Alexander Cameron (David Reed) on the run from militiamen hell-bent on his capture. Rumors throughout the Carolina backcountry claim Cameron is inciting Cherokee warriors to attack frontier settlers as a way of restoring British rule. Cameron had sent letters warning settlers of impending Cherokee attacks, but the letters backfire. Torn between his responsibility as a father, honor to his king, loyalty to the Cherokees and duty to his conscience, Cameron sinks deeper into turmoil, as he realizes his noble attempts to save innocent women and children have become his undoing. “The idea for Cameron emerged after my study of 18th-century letters written by Alexander Cameron, Indian agent among the Cherokee. In my eight years of research and writing ‘A Demand of Blood,’ Cameron and his Cherokee ally Dragging Canoe evolved as central characters in the epic narrative of the Cherokee war of 1776, and it is this war within a war that is the backdrop for ‘Cameron,’ an untold story of the American Revolution,” said Nadia Dean, the movie’s writer, producer and director. Dean is the author of “A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776” and a veteran broadcast and print journalist. In 2014, she wrote and produced the short documentary “Cherokee Diplomacy in South Carolina: 1777” for the Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina. Telling the story of the Cherokees in the American Revolution and of Alexander Cameron’s extraordinary saga is an endeavor that has spanned the past 12 years of her life, she said. “Alexander Cameron, the liaison between the Cherokee and British Crown, especially intrigued me. His world was part Scot, part Cherokee and part British sovereignty. The script was driven by my fascination with Cameron’s predicament. I asked myself, ‘How would I feel if my efforts, out of a sense of honor, became my undoing?’” she said. “The most emotionally charged music I composed for the film is ‘Beloved No More,’ which expresses the gravity of Cameron’s loss – loss of home, loss of authority and loss of honor.” Dean said she was raised primarily in Columbia, South Carolina, with frequent stays on her grandfather’s North Carolina mountain farm. “My ancestors had lived in the Smoky Mountains since the early 18th century. In 1776, on their way to burn Cherokee towns, 2,500 militiamen, including my six-generation grandfather, marched over what later became my mother’s childhood farm. My half-Cherokee cousin and I spent many summer days exploring the creeks, woods and waterfalls that would later be depicted in the book and film ‘Cold Mountain.’ That ‘A Demand of Blood’ and ‘Cameron’ involves my husband’s Cherokee ancestors, and some of my own, in a profound way ties me to this stirring story of the American Revolution,” Dean said. While writing her book and the movie, she said she became intrigued by the strong friendship between Cameron and Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe and their ability to survive the crushing blow of the American Revolution. In late 2013, Dean received a grant from the Graham Foundation of South Carolina to finance the film. Several casting directors advised her that the role of Dragging Canoe would be challenging to cast, and it was. After exhausting talent possibilities on the East Coast, Dean contacted a casting agent out West and found Jon Proudstar, who has appeared in several films. The 37-minute movie was filmed in Brattonsville, South Carolina, and Macon County, North Carolina. “As I say in the author’s note of ‘A Demand of Blood,’ stories are elemental to the human experience. We need stories. We need them because they are what connect us to each other. And it seems the ones that connect us deeply usually depict a man’s dark night of the soul and his eventual triumph over it,” Dean said. “As I ruminated about Cameron’s sudden loss of liberty, I realized that at the deepest part of our humanity, personal liberty proves to be our greatest need. The film’s story raises the question: Is it possible to fight for my own freedom, without depriving someone else of theirs?” For more information, visit <a href="http://www.CameronTheFilm.com" target="_blank">www.CameronTheFilm.com</a> or email <a href="mailto: Cherokee1776@gmail.com">Cherokee1776@gmail.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/11/2016 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held from 13:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on July 14 in the Community Ballroom located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. Anyone wishing to bring a side dish or a dessert can do so. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship. For more information, call Edna Jones at 918-453-5151, John Ross at 918-453-6170 or Roy Boney Jr. at 918-453-5487.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/08/2016 12:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will host Saturday workshops designed to promote and preserve traditional Cherokee art. The hands-on workshops will showcase traditional art forms and will be held once a month starting on July 9. Registration is open for the July 9 flat reed basketry class led by Cherokee Nation citizen Danielle Culp, as well as the Aug. 13 1700s Cherokee clothing class led by Cherokee National Treasure Tonia Hogner-Weavel. Classes are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $40 to participate. All materials are provided. Class sizes are limited so early registration is recommended. For more information or to RSVP, call 918-456-6007, ext. 6161 or email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a>. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.