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Art act in effect at holiday

Assistant Editor
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. • 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.


Senior Reporter
12/16/2014 02:17 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation was inducted into the Tulsa City-County Library Hall of Fame on Dec. 6 during a ceremony held at the Hardesty Regional Library. The honor is given annually to an individual or organization demonstrating leadership and exemplary contributions of time, talent and energy toward improving the library and its resources. The tribe was selected as the 2014 inductee for its partnership with the library to record the Cherokee language on computer software. The software allows TCCL patrons to learn to speak, read and write Cherokee on computers. “Since the library opened its American Indian Resource Center 15 years ago the Cherokee Nation has supported the center by providing presenters for educational program, as well as monetary donations for the library’s collections,” TCCL CEO Gary Shaffer. “Thanks to the hard work of the Cherokee Nation and the American Indian Resource Center, Mango Languages, which is one of our vendors that works with the library, will begin offering for the first time an indigenous language, the Cherokee language course, beginning in early 2015.” Shaffer added that the CN helped develop interactive lessons and provided speakers of the language to record the lessons. The lessons will be offered through a user-friendly language instruction tool on the library’s website, as well as 2,000 other libraries across the country. Accepting the award for the tribe were CN translators Anna Sixkiller and John Ross, Cherokee Language Program Manager Roy Boney, Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Candessa Tehee, Cherokee Nation Businesses Director of Strategic Investments Jay Calhoun and Tribal Councilors Cara Cowan Watts and Lee Keener. Sixkiller and Ross completed two chapters for the Mango Languages software. The chapters include audio recorded by Sixkiller and Ross and written lessons. Ross said he and Sixkiller worked with Mango personnel via Skype, which allows people to have conversations using a webcam and the Internet. “Anna and I worked with a linguist from Mango. We worked on a script in the Cherokee language, and we started translating greetings, gratitude and goodbyes. The second part was conversation on ‘how is the weather today,’ names, places, etcetera. When we completed the writing part we started recording,” he said. The project began in August and was completed Dec. 1. “Personally, I see this as an opportunity to teach the Cherokee language to non-Native communities and other parts of the world to learn our Cherokee language,” Ross said. “If the people like the Cherokee language, Mango would like to continue the translation and continue adding more. It all depends on how the Cherokee language is received by the public.” Boney said it is fitting the CN is working with the TCCL because the tribe has a long history of literacy. “Education has been one of our major goals as a people as long we’ve been a people. We had the first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi (the Cherokee Female Seminary),” Boney said. “We’re proud of our literacy, and this project is in keeping with that. The Cherokee language, like most Native languages, is endangered. We don’t want to lose our language, so we use every tool possible that’s available to us to keep it. A project like this using this language learning software is pretty big thing for us. It provides people access to hear fluent speakers of Cherokee speaking the language.” Shaffer also thanked Ross and Sixkiller for their efforts. “It’s really a remarkable develop this. One of Tulsa City-County Library’s goals is that the library be a center for community, reading, life-long learning and access to information for all,” Shaffer said. “For the Cherokee Nation’s outstanding commitment and longstanding support of the Tulsa City-County Library and for its diligence to preserve its Native language, we are proud to induct the Cherokee Nation into the Library Hall of Fame.” Mango Languages can be accessed online for free with the use of a library card or by paid subscription. An app is also available for download on smartphones so users can hear Cherokee pronunciation at home. The website is <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Senior Reporter
12/16/2014 08:24 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center is inviting people to experience a new exhibit that is open through March 1. The “1710 Cherokee Hands-On Exhibit” features a sandbox with animal paw print pads that helps people learn how to identify animal tracks. It also has coloring pages, animal puzzles, a magnetic wall where children and adults can arrange color designs for baskets, a weaving wall with ropes to teach people how a basket is weaved, a “Be an Archaeologist,” section where artifacts can be uncovered and a pottery section with pottery dating to the 18th century. “This is the first time the heritage center has tried to do a complete hands-on exhibit. We want to do something different that we’ve done in the past, but we want to make sure it complements Diligwa, our ancient village, so every activity in here is hands-on, family friendly and teaches people about Cherokee history and culture in the 1710s,” CHC Curator Mickel Yantz said. He said the exhibit is really for all age groups and meant to give visitors a hands-on experience for the things seen in the Diligwa Village next door to the museum. Diligwa is a replica of 1710 Cherokee village that opened in 2013 on the grounds of the CHC. The outdoor living exhibit provides guests with an enhanced experience of authentic Cherokee life and history in the early 1700s. Diligwa is a name derivative of Tellico, a village in the East that was once the principal Cherokee town and is now underwater. Cherokee Immersion Charter School first grade teacher Helena McCoy said she brought her class to the CHC on Dec. 5 to experience the hands-on exhibit and expose her students to basket making and other Cherokee-made crafts. She said she also wanted to give her students the opportunity to observe the Cherokee history displayed in the museum. “We wanted them to have hands-on experience. They are making baskets right now, and they’re excited to learn about (basket) patterns and learn about animals by looking at their tracks,” she said. “Every chance we get we try to take them somewhere to do something different besides being in the classroom.” CHC Executive Director Dr. Candessa Tehee said grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Humanities Council is funding the hands-on exhibit. “It sort of brings the Diligwa Village indoors. So, we have a number of activities that people can come in and put their hands on. Hopefully it gives people a little touch of culture, history and crafting,” Tehee said. For information about the CHC and its exhibits, call 918-456-6007 or 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Senior Reporter
12/15/2014 08:35 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – In his 38 years of working at the Cherokee Heritage Center, Tom Mooney worked on numerous projects and held various titles, but he retired on Dec. 5 as the center’s archivist. He began his CHC career as its historical registrar in 1976, the same year the Cherokee people ratified a new tribal constitution and 10 years after work began on the center. “I’ve enjoyed every year here. A lot of my life has been spent here. When you spend that much time some place you make a lot of friends. I’ve been very pleased all the years I’ve been out here,” Mooney said. He assisted people with genealogy until 2000, when he began overseeing the center’s massive archive. The archive includes books, newspapers, photographs, Cherokee Nation records from 1948-75 and donated papers from former Principal Chief William Keeler and many other former leaders and CN citizens. “When I started here there was file cabinet and that was basically the archives,” he said. “It’s just been the past few years that we’ve really gotten things squared away in our collections.” After helping with genealogy, he said he was glad to be able to concentrate on the archives, which now make up two rooms in the museum’s basement. The 66-year-old said his favorite document in the archives is a letter written by Ellen Whitmore, the first principal of the Cherokee Female Seminary, which opened in 1851. The CHC nearly sits where the seminary once did. The seminary burned down in 1887, and the center has as its centerpiece the three remaining brick columns of the seminary. “She’s writing her family. She’s been offered a job out here. She’s in Massachusetts, and she’s having to make this decision about whether to come out to Cherokee Nation or not,” Mooney said of Whitmore’s letter. “Today, it’s a big challenge for a girl to come from Massachusetts to Oklahoma to take a job. Back then it must have been horrendous.” The perils of traveling to Indian Territory by boat in 1850 down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River through Memphis and then through Arkansas on the Arkansas River and into Indian Territory and Tahlequah, where Principal Chief John Ross greeted her, tested her will. However, Mooney said she enjoyed her time leading the seminary. Documents such as Whitmore’s letter and others are being scanned and made into digital files so they can be accessed easier without damaging the original document. Mooney said before documents were scanned it was up to him “to remember where some box was” to access certain documents. [BLOCKQUOTE]In 2011, Mooney became a certified archivist through the Academy of Certified Archivists. He said at the time he took the certification test as a method of self-evaluation to see if he could pass the ACA test. CHC Executive Director Center Candessa Tehee said Mooney has been more than the center’s archivist. “He’s really been the backbone of the institution. He has so much institutional knowledge,” she said. “Tom built the archives. He started with basically nothing, and now we’ve got thousands of documents, and he has dealt with so many’s really amazing what he has been able to do with so little.” One challenge was dealing with flooding in the basement during heavy rains. Tehee said Mooney told her during those times he would sleep on a cot with his arm above his head and his hand touching the floor so when the water came into the basement and touched his hand he would know to get up and vacuum it before it reached the archives. “Tom has such a passion for the institution. He has such a passion for Cherokee history, Cherokee heritage, Cherokee culture that he has made innumerable personal sacrifices to be here as archivist to continue to safeguard this collection,” Tehee said. Mooney retired a day before his 38th anniversary, which fell on Dec. 6. On Dec. 5, Mooney’s coworkers gathered in the CHC’s museum atrium to honor him for his dedication to the archives and for being a friend. He was presented with an “Unbroken Friendship Mat” made from river cane and woven by Cherokee artist and coworker Betty Frogg. Under the mat, which was enclosed in glass and a frame, read: “Thank you for 38 years of your ‘Unbroken Friendship.’” His wife, daughter and grandchildren also attended the honoring ceremony. Mooney met his wife Robin when they both worked at the CHC. He said he would miss the people he worked with the most, but he would, of course, also miss the “old documents” with which he has become familiar. “It’s been a great place. I’ve enjoyed the ride,” he said.
12/14/2014 12:00 PM
VENORE, Tenn. – The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore is offering a beginning and an advance beginner Cherokee language class beginning Jan. 12. Classes will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Jan. 12, 19, 26 and Feb. 2. The cost of the class is $40 for all four evenings. Shirley Oswalt and Mary Brown, citizens of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian, will teach the class. The noted Cherokee linguist Sequoyah was born near the museum site in 1776. The mission of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, a property of the EBCI, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of the Cherokee Indians in Eastern Tennessee, particularly the life and contributions of Sequoyah. The museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits objects and data that support this mission. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, located on Tellico Lake, features video, electronic displays and exhibits from various periods of Cherokee occupation in the Tennessee Overhill area. Its gift shop offers for sale many Cherokee and Native American crafts and jewelry as well as books on Cherokee history and culture. People interested in taking this class should contact the museum at 423-884-6246 to reserve space. In case of inclement weather, call the museum ahead of time to determine if the class is meeting.
12/14/2014 07:59 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – To honor the Dec. 14 birthday of Ned Christie the Cherokee National Prison Museum is temporarily showcasing his rifle and gun. Known as a statesman, Christie was a blacksmith and gunsmith by trade, who in 1885 was elected to the Cherokee Nation Council. His resentment towards the federal government was apparent, and he became well known for his intense speeches that promoted tribal sovereignty. While in town to serve a warrant on May 4, 1887, U.S. Deputy Marshal Daniel Maples was shot and killed. Because Christie was seen in the vicinity, he was accused of having been the shooter. Since Maples was a United States citizen, jurisdiction for the crime fell to the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas under Judge Isaac C. Parker. Refusing to submit to a “white man’s court,” Christie sought refuge at his home in Wauhilla. Five years later, deputy marshals shot and killed him. Twenty-six years after his death, a man claimed to have witnessed the shooting and identified Bud Trainor as the murderer, not Ned Christie. His account, published in an article that ran in the Daily Oklahoman, exonerated Ned Christie. Today, Christie’s story is told at the museum, which includes the Cherokee National Prison, which was the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. It housed sentenced and accused prisoners from throughout the territory. Built of sandstone rock, the prison was made to hold the most hardened and dangerous prisoners. The interpretive site and museum, located at 124 E. Choctaw St., show visitors how law and order operated in Indian Territory. The historic site features a working blacksmith area and reconstructed gallows. Today’s museum offers stories of Cherokees and how they were perceived as outlaws in the Cherokee Nation, while others were revered as patriots. For information, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/13/2014 02:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Two Native American artists recently earned a grant of $40,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to go towards the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa. The artists, Shan Goshorn and Sarah Sense, both work with basketry and their works will be in the upcoming exhibit, “Intertwined: Stories of a Splintered Past.” The council will receive an Art Works grant from NEA to support the event. “We couldn’t be more excited than to receive the support of the NEA for such an important project in our community,” said Hardesty Arts Center Director Kathy McRuiz. “Both Goshorn and Sense are at pivotal moments in their artistic careers. They are known worldwide for their work addressing issues of indigenous peoples.” According to reports, Goshorn is a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokees Indians and lives in Tulsa. She creates her baskets by using copies of historical photographs and documents that are cut into strips then woven into the baskets. Her work addresses topics of history, identity, hope and betrayal. Her baskets have brought her international fame. Sense is of Chitimachi/Choctaw heritage and is from California. Sense features original basket weaving methods to reflect the commonalities of indigenous peoples. The exhibit will be on display from May to June at the Hardesty Arts Center.