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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
08/23/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Cherokee National Treasure Martha Berry will teach a beadwork class at 10 a.m. on Nov. 12 at the Oklahoma History Center. The project will be a bandolier bag. Bandolier bags are beaded pouches with beaded flaps to enclose the pouches. They have beaded straps to enable the owners to wear the bags diagonally over the shoulder. The bag usually rests at hip level. The bag’s designs are created using glass beads. Berry creates beaded bandolier bags, moccasins, belts, sashes, small purses and knee bands in the styles worn by the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole prior to 1850. She was designated a Cherokee National Treasure in 2013. Her work can be viewed at <a href="http://www.berrybeadwork.com" target="_blank">http://www.berrybeadwork.com</a>. The Oklahoma History Center is located at 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive. For more information, call Sarah Dumas at 405-521-2491.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/19/2016 12:00 PM
CHATSWORTH, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 10 at the Vann House State Historic Site near Chatsworth. Speakers will be Cherokee Nation citizens Patsy Edgar and Tony Harris. Edgar is one of the founding members of the GATOTA and is secretary of the national TOTA board of directors. Tony is vice president of GATOTA and an expert in native plants used by the Cherokee. The topic will be “The Cherokee Nation Today.” A GATOTA business meeting will follow. The Vann House is located 3 miles west of Chatsworth at the intersection of Highways 225 and 52-A. People are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and tour the site after the meeting. During the 1790s, James Vann was a Cherokee leader and wealthy businessman. He established the largest and most prosperous plantation in the Cherokee Nation, covering 1,000 acres of what is now Murray County. The beautiful 2-1/2-story brick home at the site was the most elegant in the CN. After Vann was murdered in 1809, his son Joseph inherited the plantation. Joseph was also a Cherokee leader and became even wealthier than his father. In the 1830s, most of the Cherokee people were forced west by state and federal troops on the Trail of Tears. The Vann family lost their elegant home rebuilt their lives in Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma. Today the Vann House survives as Georgia’s best-preserved historic Cherokee home. A guided tour allows visitors to see the home, which features beautiful hand carvings, a remarkable “floating” staircase, a 12-foot mantle and fine antiques. The TOTA was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The association consists of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory. 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 period in this country’s history. For more information about the TOTA, visit www.nationaltota.org. For more information on the Georgia Chapter, visit <a href="http://www.gatrailoftears.org" target="_blank">www.gatrailoftears.org</a>. For more information about the September meeting, email <a href="mailto: harris7627@bellsouth.net">harris7627@bellsouth.net</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/17/2016 04:15 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – A new exhibit is to open at the Cherokee Nation’s John Ross Museum featuring information about John Ross and his Cherokee roots. “John Ross: The Early Years” will run Aug. 26 through Nov. 1. Free admission will be offered on opening day. The exhibit features the early years of the former chief’s life, including his time growing up in the CN and attending schools on the East Coast. It also details contacts he made and the influences he faced leading up to his time spent as CN principal chief. John Ross was the principal chief from 1828–66, serving longer in this position than any other person. During his service to the Cherokee people as principal chief, Ross witnessed devastation by both the Indian removals and the Civil War. The John Ross Museum highlights the life of Ross and houses exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and the Nation’s passion for education. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building known as School No. 51 and sits at the foot of Ross Cemetery, where Ross and other notable CN citizens are buried. The museum is located at 22366 S. 530 Road. CN museums are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, including museum operations, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
08/13/2016 10:00 AM
COLUMBUS, Ky. (AP) – Local historical and tourism organizations, along with state and national park representatives, participated in a recent ceremony at Columbus-Belmont State Park highlighting west Kentucky’s role in the historic Trail of Tears. The ceremony was designed to honor the approximately 1,100 Cherokee Indians who endured the Trail of Tears Benge Route, named after John Benge, who led the detachment in 1838 on a route to Oklahoma that included passage through Hickman County. The event included dedication of the signage that marks the route of the Benge Detachment and the unveiling of the newest park exhibits depicting the land and water routes of the trail. The Trail of Tears was a series of forced relocations of Indian nations to areas west of the Mississippi River following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Those who were relocated suffered from exposure, disease and starvation on the trek from their ancestral lands in Southeastern states, and more than 10,000 died. The Cherokee removal in 1838 took the lives of more than 2,000 of 16,500 people forced to leave their homeland. According to the Kentucky Great River Region Organization, the Benge group arrived in Columbus in mid-November 1838 and awaited transport across the Mississippi River by ferry to Belmont, Missouri. The Cherokees most likely spent several days camped around the ferry landing in the area of what is now the state park. “We’re seeing a vision become a reality,” said Alice Murphree, Kentucky Chapter president of the Trail of Tears Association, of the project that involved the work of several organizations and countless volunteer hours. “This is the actual route they took ... this site was witness to all of them who went by water.” The new exhibits demonstrate how important west Kentucky is to the overall promotion of the state as a tourist destination, through cultural heritage tourism, according to Amy Potts, communications specialist with the Kentucky Department of Travel & Tourism. “We can creatively market the state as a destination by how we tell our story, showing the places, artifacts and actions that represent stories of our people, past and present,” she said. According to Ron Vanover, director of recreational parks and historic sites for Kentucky state parks, the dedication of the signs about the intersection of the land and water routes of the Trail of Tears “will raise the visibility for this park for many guests and the community. “They will help tell the important story of what happened way before the Civil War. Moreover, these signs and the groups gathered today are here for a reason. That reason is to see that the Cherokee story will live on and on and on.” Troy Wayne Poteete is chief justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court and executive director of the national Trail of Tears Association. “I will tell you all that the designation of this route as a national trail was not a Cherokee initiative,” Poteete said. “This sad chapter is not something that we went to Congress and said we want you to make this a national trail.” However, after legislation was passed establishing the Trail of Tears as an official long distance trail, a highly placed Cherokee in the National Park Service helped get funding together and established an advisory council through the park service, Poteete said. That led to the formation of the national Trail of Tears organization and the state chapters that followed. “As a Cherokee official, I would have you know why we invest so much time and energy into the making of this trail,” Poteete said. “We don’t do this because we want to capture the image of our ancestors in the role of victims, and absolutely they were victimized. “The reason we do this is because this is an opportunity for us to honor that generation of Cherokee which endured, and not only endured, but rebuilt the Cherokee nation,” he said. “We draw lessons and inspirations as a people now from that tenacity. From that perseverance, that strength and resilience.” According to Poteete, “It is our responsibility to pass on to the next generation, a Cherokee nation strong, viable. It is our intention that our culture and our language be alive ... and people will be singing hymns in Cherokee when the Lord comes again.”
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham &
JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
08/12/2016 08:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center’s first female executive director has resigned to take an assistant professor post at Northeastern State University. Cherokee Nation citizen Candessa Tehee’s last day was Aug. 5. She was to start at NSU on Aug. 8. “I have accepted a position at Northeastern State University for an assistant professor of American Indian studies, and the position will focus on Cherokee language teaching and research and is also encouraged to do a lot of engagement with the local community. And that is something I’m very excited and really looking forward to,” she said. Tehee served as executive director for about 2-1/2 years and previously worked at the CN for five years. Her first CN job was at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School as a clerk in curriculum and instruction. “Every step that I’ve taken has been kind of another rung up the ladder,” Tehee said, “until I’m now departing as executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center.” Shane Jett, Cherokee National Historical Society board of trustees president, said he and other board members were working closely with the CN as they made arrangements for Tehee’s departure. “She is a strong and accomplished Cherokee woman, and I appreciate her achievements. She has overcome many obstacles in her life and sets a great example for Cherokee young women and young men for that matter,” he said. “I’m thrilled for the professional development opportunity her new teaching position affords her.” The CNHS has been around since 1963 and will be around for many years to come, Jett added. “It has survived because of the many contributions of time, talent and treasure from so many good people both Cherokees (and) non-Cherokee alike. I’m confident that we will continue to thrive from future Cherokees who will continue the tradition of promoting and teaching Cherokee heritage, history and culture,” he said. “Like with any transition this is a challenging time, but also a time of opportunity. The board is working hard to meet the challenges of filling her very capable shoes. I am confident that we will transition smoothly and continue to fulfill our mission.” Tehee said the CHC has gone from being a groundbreaking, innovative living history organization to a mainstay of the local community. “Has probably served hundreds of thousands of people throughout its history. In my 2-1/2 tenure here we have served I know over 130,000 for sure,” she said. “I have been able to oversee some changes to the infrastructure here and to the organization itself, which I feel have been very positive, and I will certainly miss the staff and miss the programming here.” On Aug. 5, Jett said in cooperation with Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. the CNHS board had selected Tonia Weavel as the CHC’s interim executive director. Jett said the next step was to conduct a nationwide search for a quality replacement in collaboration with CN leadership.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/11/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The next meeting of the Tahlequah Writers group is 2 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Cherokee Arts Center at 212 S. Water St. behind the Spider Gallery. Steve Cypert will present an example of multimedia showing his short movie “Spy Girl” and discuss marketing creative works. Discussion will include progress on the group’s daylong programming for the “Voices From Ink” writers’ festival slated for Oct. 1 at the NSU Jazz Lab downtown. The group will also learn of progress on its upcoming anthology titled “Green Country.” The Aug. 20 meeting is open to the public and provided by Tahlequah Writers. The Tahlequah Library will have an author’s fest Sept. 10 for bookselling, and Tahlequah Writers group coordinator Karen Coody Cooper is managing the event. Monthly meetings are casual and involve news of interest to writers and updates on what attendees are writing. Attendees include poets, fiction writers, historians, essayists, humorists, playwrights, scriptwriters, and more. Meetings discuss the art of writing as well as the business of publishing and promotion. For more information, call Coody Cooper at 918-207-0093 or email <a href="mailto: karcoocoo@att.net">karcoocoo@att.net</a>. People can also visit Tahlequah Writers on Facebook.