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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.

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/19/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Thanks in part from an Oklahoma Arts Council grant, the Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies will host the Indigenous Arts Education Series in November for American Indian Heritage Month. The series will include the following: <strong>Nov. 2</strong> Marcus Harjo (Pawnee/Seminole) will present “Creative Writing and Music Production Workshop” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Harjo uses writing, music production and live performances to promote his passions of youth outreach, cultural awareness and promoting healthy, drug-free lifestyles, specifically among American Indian populations. His workshop will focus on teaching participants how to use writing and music composition skills to enhance the delivery of their message. His workshop will conclude with a live performance. <strong>Nov. 8</strong> Sandy Fife Wilson (Muscogee Creek) will present “Shell Carving Demonstration” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Wilson is an experienced artist having learned her art techniques through both formal education and traditional means as she comes from a long line of family artists. Wilson specializes in Southeastern design shell carvings, finger-woven items and Creek basketry. She will host a demonstration that will educate the audience on this traditional form of art and lead participants through the process using a direct, hands-on approach to instruction. <strong>Nov. 14</strong> Yatika Starr Fields (Muscogee Creek/Osage/Cherokee) will present “Becoming a Mural Artist” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Fields’ presentation will highlight his experience and work as a mural artist and provide attendees with some insight into the highly specialized field of mural art. This event will include a live art demonstration. The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. Additional information is available at <a href="http://www.arts.ok.gov" target="_blank">arts.ok.gov</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/18/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee National Youth Choir’s album “Celebration” was named Best Pop Recording during the 17th annual Native American Music Awards on Oct. 14. This year’s award marks the fifth honor – referred to as a NAMMY – the Cherokee National Youth Choir has garnered since the choir’s inception in 2000. The youth choir was also nominated for Group of the Year and Record of the Year for its latest album. “We were so excited to win Best Pop Recording at the Native American Music Awards,” Mary Kay Henderson, Cherokee National Youth Choir director, said. “Our CD, ‘Celebration,’ is a collection of Motown music and has been a fun way to encourage our young people to learn our language. Language teacher and choir coordinator Kathy Sierra and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for the Cherokee National Youth Choir.” The “Celebration” record is a combination of the 2017 Cherokee National Youth Choir and its soloists and members of the 2006 youth choir. Songs on the “Celebration” album include “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Celebration,” “Lean On Me,” “My Girl,” “Respect,” “My Guy,” “Stand By Me” and “We Are Family.” Sierra translated the lyrics from English to Cherokee for the recording. The Cherokee National Youth Choir has performed dozens of songs in the Cherokee language in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and at venues across the country, including the Oklahoma State Capitol. The choir also previously performed with such legendary artists as Foreigner, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Roy Clark, Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys. The choir is made up of 30 to 40 young Cherokees from northeastern Oklahoma communities. Members are middle and high school youth in grades 6-12. The students compete in auditions every year for inclusion in the group. “The Cherokee Nation Youth Choir has proven time and time again to be excellent cultural ambassadors for our tribal government and our people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We are so proud of them for bringing home another NAMMY honor. The accomplishments of these young people should be celebrated, as they are learning and utilizing the Cherokee language. Additionally, they have volunteered their time and talents to be part of the youth choir, which is an opportunity to grow their leadership skills. Congratulations to everyone involved with this wonderful achievement.” The choir’s newest album, “Just Jesus,” as well as past albums will be available for purchase later this year at Cherokee Nation Gift Shop locations and online at <a href="http://www.CherokeeGiftShop.com" target="_blank">www.CherokeeGiftShop.com</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/17/2017 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Navajo artist Ric Charlie won Best of Show for his jewelry piece “Navajo Bling” at the 12th annual Cherokee Art Market held Oct. 14-15 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Artists from throughout the nation competed in eight categories: painting, sculpture, beadwork/quillwork, basketry, pottery, textiles, jewelry and diverse art forms. Sixty artists received awards, and 150 artists displayed and sold their art during the event. Charlie, 59, of Tuba City, Arizona, makes jewelry, paints and sculpts. “I can’t make a living with those (painting and sculpting), but I do it for therapy,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed all kinds of art, ever since I was a kid.” He said his winning necklace was inspired by “a nice summer day” when he was out of school and had time on his hands. “Navajo Bling” is a 14-karat gold jewelry set featuring more than 1,700 individually set diamonds and is valued at $75,000. “As a kid I was always involved in creating things because on the reservation you had to. I learned a lot from my grandfather because he was the creator of many things,” he said. “The work that I do now is something I only dreamed about doing. When I started making jewelry, I said, ‘I really want to get into gold. I really want to get into diamonds. I really want to do this type of work.’ It’s just a dream come true.” Charlie said he “dreamed big” as a child. “If you don’t dream big, it won’t happen.” He’s participated in other art shows such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, but this was the first time he entered the Cherokee Art Market. He said he plans to enter his work again. “I find it (Cherokee Art Market) really personal. People here are very, very friendly and welcoming, too. The level of artwork here is incredible,” Charlie said. Cherokee artist Bryan Waytula won Best of Class for Class 1: Painting, Drawing, Graphics & Photography for his painting titled “We Stand as One.” Cherokee sculpture Bill Glass Jr. won Best of Class for Class 2: Sculpture for his piece “The Discussion Revolves.” In the Class 5: Pottery Division, Cherokee artist Troy Jackson won Best of Class for his work “Bird Effigy.” Cherokee Art Market Manager Deborah Fritts said one artist came from Alaska and another came from Maine and other artists from in between. She said the show has come a long way from its first year in 2005 when it was held under tents in the casino parking lot. It has been held inside the casino since 2009. Fritts attends other art shows to “scope” out artists and to network. She also meets with other art market coordinators. “A lot of the people that win at the other shows, like at Santa Fe (Indian Market) or the Heard Museum (Phoenix), they come to our show,” she said. Dallin Maybee is chief operating officer for the Southwest Association for Indian Arts, the nonprofit association that produces the Santa Fe Indian Market. He said the Cherokee Art Market has its own “personality,” and he wouldn’t compare it to Santa Fe but “it’s a great show.” “This brings an incredible competitive field of artists. It’s a nice show. It’s intimate. You see a lot of your friends here, and the prize money helps,” Maybee said. “I come to this show every time that I can just because it’s a good time.” For a full list of winners, visit <a href="http://www.Cherokeeartmarket.com" target="_blank">Cherokeeartmarket.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/17/2017 12:00 PM
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 11 at the Bartow History Museum. The speaker will be Jim Langford, and his topic will be “Impact of de Soto on Southeastern Native Americans.” Langford is a member and former officer of the Society of Georgia Archaeology and has been doing research on the Native American presence in the Southeast for many years. The Bartow History Museum is located at 4 E. Church St. Its phone number is 770-382-3818. The TOTA was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. It is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. GATOTA meetings are free and open to the public. People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nationaltota.com" target="_blank">www.nationaltota.com</a> or <a href="http://www.gatrailoftears.org" target="_blank">www.gatrailoftears.org</a>. For more information about the November meeting, email Tony Harris at <a href="mailto: harris7627@bellsouth.net">harris7627@bellsouth.net</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
10/12/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Families looking for a fun, educational adventure for their children during fall break should plan to visit the Cherokee Nation museums on Oct. 20.  Museums participating are the Cherokee National Prison Museum, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and the John Ross Museum. Enjoy free admission and special activities at all three locations. There will be paper bandolier bags at the Cherokee National Prison Museum, Cherokee syllabary lessons at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and make your own clay beads at the John Ross Museum. The educational activities occur from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Cherokee National 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 much more. Built in 1844, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. The 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits on the Cherokee National Judicial System; the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers; and the Cherokee language, with various historical items, including photos, stories, objects and furniture. Touch screen kiosks offer visitors documentary-style learning on various legal topics as well as teaching conversational Cherokee. The John Ross Museum highlights the life of John Ross, principal chief of the CN for more than 38 years, and houses exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and Cherokee Nation’s passion for the education of its people. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building known as School No. 51 and sits at the foot of Ross Cemetery, where John Ross and other notable Cherokee citizens are buried. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is located at 122 E. Keetoowah St., and the Cherokee National Prison Museum is at 124 E. Choctaw St., both in Tahlequah. The John Ross Museum is located at 22366 S. 530 Road in Park Hill. For more information, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.visitcherokeenation.com" target="_blank">www.visitcherokeenation.com</a>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
10/09/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With the hope of teaching more Cherokees soapstone carving, United Keetoowah Band citizen Matt Girty is spreading his knowledge of the ancient art by offering classes in Tahlequah to people willing to learn. His latest class was on Sept. 16 at the UKB Culture Center, where students gained insight and hands-on experience with soapstone carving. “My goal was to get more carvers out here because I see a lot of opportunity. So what many people are going to have to do around here is look within their self, look (at) who they are, and most of us out here are Cherokees,” he said. “If I can do it, there’s more out here that can do it. Even if they don’t get seen...then they’ve got a piece of their culture. They can show whoever they want to…so that way it’ll stay alive here within us and not die like it almost has been.” Girty said he starts his students with creating a turtle. “This right here is basically to get them to figure out their shapes and to get their hands on soapstone,” he said. “Figure out how to work it, how it feels on your hands.” As for tools, Girty uses X-Acto knives, files and hacksaws to shape his works. “I wanted these guys to get the feel of the grass roots of it because that’s how our people did it, not with power tools,” he said. “I want them to get the slow process of it, to get the blocking out and taking off a lot of the object to get to your main goal of making your object piece. So I want them to get used to doing it by hand first before they jump on any power tools.” By creating stone carved art, Girty said he feels he’s helping keep the art form alive. “It’s better for me to pass this on because this is all I know how to do that could better our people,” he said. “In my opinion, we should all be able to create beauty and make people smile in everything we do…to keep us going as Cherokee people.” UKB citizen Ernestine Berry said she is no stranger to the art world, so when she heard about Girty’s class she decided to take it. “I’m always interested in anything having to do with art,” she said. “I haven’t done stone carving before. I’ve done a little bit of woodcarving. I also have a degree in art for the University in Tulsa. So, I’ve done a little bit of artwork.” She said Girty is a “good” teacher and thinks what he does, by teaching and preserving the culture, is important. “I think anything to do with our tradition and our heritage is important to our people,” she said. “It helps us to know who we are. It helps to know where we came from, and it helps us to understand the ancestors and what they went through and the kind of lives that they lived.” Berry said she encourages anyone interested in preserving Cherokee culture to take Girty’s class. “It’s an enjoyable thing as well as a learning experience,” she said. “I just encourage anybody who wants to come, to come, because we’re not exclusive here. We accept everybody, Keetoowahs, Cherokee Nation, non-Indians, other tribes, anybody that wants to come.” So far Girty has taught two classes and hopes to continue teaching, while building upon each one to help students create more advanced pieces. “I have an idea for you to carve bears. The next class I want you to bring whatever you want to carve and then we can do it,” he said. “Next thing, I have a vision of our old pipe effigies that we used to make. That will be an advanced class because that’s what I’m (personally) doing now is recreating these ceremonial objects.” Girty hopes to have his next class in either late November or early December. “I’m here for instruction. Everything I know, it’s no secret,” he said. “I want to show you everything I know, then in turn you go show who you know. Come back and show me what you did, and hopefully you become to be a lot better than I am.” For more information, find him under Matt Girty on Facebook.