archived image

Art act in effect at holiday

BY TRAVIS SNELL
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.
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
06/24/2015 05:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The 63rd Cherokee National Holiday Little Cherokee Ambassador Competition application deadline is set for July 22. According to www.cherokee.org, the overall goal of Little Cherokee Ambassadors is to begin instilling leadership skills that will help them eventually become leaders for the Cherokee Nation. Participating in the Little Cherokee Ambassador event is intended to inspire youth to achieve their dreams. They are also encouraged to “lead by example” and become self-sufficient, as well as gain knowledge of their Cherokee heritage and begin to recognize their history, culture and language. Those who wish to apply must be a CN citizen, reside within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction, be between ages 4 to 12 years old, ne physically able to perform duties, must not have previously served as Little Cherokee Ambassador in the same division and must provide a completed Little Cherokee Ambassador application by deadline. The Little Cherokee Ambassador competition will be on Aug. 8 at Sequoyah Schools’ Place Where They Play. Each age division will compete and the new ambassadors will be announced at the end of the event. Age categories range from 4 to 6 years old, 7 to 9 years old and 10 to 12 years old. Applications should be emailed to <a href="mailto: kristen-smith@cherokee.org">kristen-smith@cherokee.org</a>, hand delivered to the CN College Resource Center or mailed to Cherokee Nation Little Cherokee Ambassador Program, Attention: Kristen Thomas, College Resource Center, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. For more information, call Kristen Thomas at 918-525-2266.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/18/2015 01:13 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Spider Gallery and The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum are coming together to celebrate Cherokee artists Bill and Demos Glass and their artwork. At 6 p.m. on June 18 a miniature replica of one of their pieces will be unveiled, which will offer a sneak peek of the larger sculptured work. During the celebration, Bill and Demos will also talk about their process when creating their art and the symbolism the art holds. The celebration coincides with Tahlequah’s Third Thursday Art Walk. All galleries and shops will be open until 8:30 p.m. on this day.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/16/2015 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On June 20, the Cherokee Nation is offering free museum admission to dads in recognition of Father’s Day. CN museums are the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, the Cherokee National Prison Museum and the John Ross Museum. Originally built in 1844, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. The 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits on three historic aspects: the Cherokee National Judicial System, the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers and the Cherokee language, with a variety of 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 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. The John Ross Museum highlights the life of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation 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 education. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building known as School #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. CN museums are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
06/15/2015 08:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Growing up Choctaw Nation citizen Joanne Davis spent a lot of time in the kitchen learning how to cook with her mother, grandmother and sister. But for the past 10 years, she has been making a Cherokee and Choctaw favorite, grape dumplings. “I’d have to get in there and learn how to do stuff, so I just grew up cooking and helping in the kitchen, learning how to make beans and gravy and stuff like that,” she said. On days when her mother didn’t feel like cooking, Davis and her sister would take over in the kitchen. “I’ve always liked to learn new recipes,” Davis said. “I watch a lot of cooking shows too, try out new recipes and stuff. I just enjoy cooking.” Without following a written recipe, Davis’ sister taught her how to make grape dumplings. “I don’t really measure, so I can’t say how much flour I use, but we use all-purpose flour and we use grape juice,” Davis said. “We put some grape juice on the stove to boil and add sugar to that and then I just mix up the dough, which is the flour and grape juice. Then I roll it out and cut it up for the dumplings and throw them in there. That’s the way I was taught to make them.” While tribes make grape dumplings different ways, nowadays they are commonly made with grape juice instead of traditional possum grapes. According to “Culture and Customs of the Choctaw Indians” by Donna L. Akers, a traditional way to make grape dumplings is to gather the wild grapes in the fall and dry them on the stem. To cook, boil the grapes and then strain them through cheesecloth and set the juice aside. Then mix cornmeal, baking soda and salt until doughy and roll into shape and drop into the grape juice and cook until done. The dumplings absorb the grape juice and the remainder of the juice is thickened. Davis said with her way of making the dumplings for a small group of people usually takes about 30 minutes. However, she and her sister usually make them for large events, if asked, such as the Free Feed during the Cherokee National Holiday over Labor Day weekend. They also make fry bread to go along with the dumplings. “I enjoy making them and I feel like I’m contributing to the dinners,” she said. “I just enjoy cooking in general. I’m making stuff that people like. It makes me feel proud of myself.” <strong>Cherokee Nation recipe for grape dumplings</strong> 1 cup flour 1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder 2 teaspoons sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon shortening 1/2 cup grape juice Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and shortening. Add juice and mix into stiff dough. Roll dough thin on floured board and cut into strips 1/2-inch wide, or roll dough in hands and break off pea-sized bits. Drop into boiling grape juice and cook for 10 to 12 minutes. – <a href="http://www.cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org</a> <strong>Choctaw Nation recipe for grape dumplings</strong> 1/2 gallon unsweetened grape juice 2 cups sugar 2 tablespoons shortening, melted 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup water flour Bring grape juice to a boil with the sugar. Mix water, shortening and baking powder. Add enough flour to make stiff dough. Roll out thin on a floured board and cut into pieces. Drop each of these one at a time into the boiling juice. Cook over high heat about 5 minutes. Then simmer for about 10 minutes with cover on before serving. May be served with cream or plain. – <a href="http://www.choctawnation.com" target="_blank">www.choctawnation.com</a>
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/12/2015 12:00 PM
COLCORD, Okla. –There will be free Cherokee language classes starting June 18 at the Talbot Library and Museum. The classes are from 9 a.m. to noon every Thursday and Saturday for five weeks. Those in attendance will learn beginning phonetics and will partake in syllabary writing practice. Students are encouraged to bring a writing utensil and a notepad. The class is open to anyone who would like to attend. The Talbot Library and Museum is located at 500 S. Colcord Ave. For more information, call class instructor Lawrence Panther at 918-232-6909 or email <a href="mailto: panther@nsuok.edu">panther@nsuok.edu</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
06/10/2015 08:16 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A panel exhibit is on display at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Service Center through Nov. 30 that highlights how Native soldiers and marines developed unbreakable codes to help win both world wars. “Code Talkers: How Natives Saved the United States” features standing panels that provide the history of Native Code Talkers and how they developed their unbreakable codes. In World War II, Germany’s military code was eventually broken. However, the enemy not could break the codes of Cherokee, Comanche, Navajo and other Native warriors. No machine understood their languages. Travis Owens, manager of Planning and Development for Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, said research was done to determine if there were Cherokee Code Talkers in World War I or World War II. “We did a lot of research and found out there was only one proven Cherokee Code Talker named George Adair. We presented some options for what we could do to memorialize the Code Talkers knowing that we could only document one so far,” Owens said. “One of those options was to to do a special exhibition on the history, not just Cherokee, but how Code Talkers saved America – the history of all tribes involved.” He said the exhibit highlights the Code Talkers’ legacy that included Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Choctaw, Comanche and Navajo soldiers and marines and why they served. The exhibit also highlights Adair who served with the 36th Division in Europe during World War I. In 2000, Congress passed a law that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the original 29 World War II Navajo Code Talkers and silver medals to each person who qualified as a Navajo Code Talker. In 2007, 18 Choctaw Code Talkers were posthumously awarded the Texas Medal of Valor for their World War II service. These two events are highlighted in the exhibit along with the fact The Code Talkers Recognition Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2008, which recognized every Native American Code Talker who served in the U.S. military during WWI or WWII with a Congressional Gold Medal. In 2013, 25 tribes were awarded Congressional Gold Medals in recognition of the dedication and valor of Native American Code Talkers during WWI and WWII. The CN received one of those medals, which is on display in the exhibit. Owens said the exhibit also addresses the misconception that every tribe had Code Talkers who served. People will also learn about how the Native soldiers and marines created their codes, which tribes had a formal code-talking program, why Natives adapted better to military life and why Natives fought in World War I when they weren’t citizens of the United States. In the early 20th century, the Great Depression was particularly hard on Native Americans. Jobs and money were scarce, and families and communities were suffering. The military offered free room, board, clothing, food and pay to enlisted soldiers, which was a huge draw to the Native American population. The armed forces provided a job and place to live, while allowing them to send money home to their families. This history is highlighted in the exhibit. “This Code Talker exhibit honors the brave Native soldiers who used our Cherokee language and other Native languages to defeat enemies in multiple wars dating back to World War I,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “Had it not been for their courageous efforts, the outcome of those wars could have been drastically different. We are proud to share their story with the public.” The CN Veterans Service Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about this and other historical attractions, visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.