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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
12/12/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday December 14, 2017 from 12:30 - 4pm. We will meet in the Community Ballroom that is located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. If you want to bring a side dish or a dessert, feel free to bring it. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship. For further information about the event, please contact: the Language Program at (918) 453-5151; John Ross at (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney, Jr. (918) 453-5487. Tsalagi aniwonisgi unadatlugv dodvnatlosi Nvgineiga Vsgiyi 14, 2017, ganvsulvi 12:30pm adalenisgi 4:00pm igohida. Na Anitsalagi tsunalisdayetiyi tsigotlv unaditli wayvsdi onadilvyvi utani kanvsula dodvnatlosi. Naniv Anitsalagi aniwonisgi otsitayohiha uniluhisdii. Alisdayvdi ayohisdi yodulia. Dodayotsadatlisani ale dodayotsalisdayvna hilutsvi. Ugodesdi tsadulihesdi tsadelayohisdi hiina wigehiyadvdi: Tsalagi Gawonihisdi Unadotlvsv (918) 453-5151; John Ross (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney, Jr. (918) 453-5487.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/09/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With its 2017 annual homecoming T-shirt now for sale, the Cherokee Phoenix is calling for Cherokee artists to submit design concepts for the news organization’s 2018 T-shirt. In 2016, the Cherokee Phoenix staff introduced a T-shirt to differ from the tribe’s Cherokee National Holiday T-shirt. Phoenix staff members contracted with artist Buffalo Gouge for the shirt’s initial design. For this year’s homecoming shirt, Phoenix staff members selected Daniel HorseChief’s concept out of approximately 10 designs from artists. The Cherokee Phoenix then contracted with HorseChief to create the 2017 shirt. HorseChief said his concept comes from a four-panel painting that features Selu, the Corn Mother in Cherokee lore. The image shows the bust of Selu, who is looking down into a Southeastern art pattern. Behind her on the left side are seven ears of corn with water under it. Behind her on the opposite side is a phoenix with fire below it. Above the phoenix is the Cherokee seven-pointed star. Above the image, written in Cherokee, are the words “Cherokee Phoenix.” Below the image, in English, is “2017 CHEROKEE HOMECOMING.” The limited-quantity, black shirts are short-sleeved, ranging in sizes small to 3XL and sell for $20 plus tax. The shirts are available at the Cherokee Phoenix office in Room 231 of the Annex Building (Old Motel) on the Tribal Complex. For more information, call 918-453-5269. They are also available at the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop, als0 on the Tribal Complex, or online at <a href="http://cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">http://cherokeegiftshop.com</a>. Phoenix staff members will also have shirts available at the Cherokee Phoenix booths at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex and Capital Square during the Cherokee National Holiday in September. The Cherokee Phoenix is accepting concept ideas from artists who are Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band citizens until midnight on Jan. 1. Artist can email detailed concepts to <a href="mailto: travis-snell@cherokee.org">travis-snell@cherokee.org</a>. For artists contemplating submitting design ideas, please note that if your concept is chosen and you sign a contract, the Cherokee Phoenix will own the artwork because we consider it a commissioned piece. As for what Phoenix staff members look for in a concept, we ask that artists “think Cherokee National Holiday” and include a phoenix.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
12/08/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasure Tommy Wildcat recently released a CD tilted “Donadagohv’i” or “See You Again,” which consists of 10 original flute compositions that are either studio productions or recorded performances. The Native American Music Award-winning flutist said he’s been playing for 25 years and has traveled across the nation and abroad sharing Cherokee culture via his music. “It’s important to share my music with people to promote the beautiful word of our American Indian heritage, but it also inspires those around me and those who are just finding their Cherokee heritage to get involved,” Wildcat said. Wildcat has performed at historical sites, festivals, powwows and CN at-large community events. He’s made 18 trips to Hawaii, visited 37 universities and taken four European tours. He’s also been a featured performer at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Stockholm Water Festival and Cherokee Days at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Before gaining recognition as a flutist, Wildcat made Cherokee crafts such as blowguns, darts, clay bead necklaces and river cane flutes. While making flutes and perfecting their sounds, Wildcat taught himself to play and developed a love for it. “I was already making blowguns, but I was really interested in trying to make the river cane flutes, so I just kept trying to make them and after probably a hundred of them, every flute I made would make a sound. Every time I made a flute I would have to tune it up, so it gave me a lot of practice,” he said. “I enjoyed it so much, and it became the strongest tradition that helped me help my family and promote our heritage.” In 2013, Wildcat was named a Cherokee National Treasure for his flute making, which remains one of his proudest accomplishments. The title is bestowed to CN citizens who have dedicated their lives to teaching, mentoring and advocating traditional Cherokee arts. As a way to fund his travels, he began selling cassette tapes of his music, which later transitioned to CDs. Soon individuals and businesses were requesting his CDs, and within the first year Wildcat sold 10,000 CDs. For “Donadagohv’i,” his eighth CD, Wildcat dedicated it to his late father, Cherokee National Treasure Tom Webber Wildcat, and his mother, Annie Wildcat. He said the title is his thank you to his family and friends for their love and support. “Donadagohv’i, which means I’ll see you again, is my personal wado (thank you) to all my family and friends that helped me from my very my first venue and small venues to the big venues.” Wildcat’s family and friends inspired each song on “Donadagohv’i.” He said he titled the songs after Cherokee words and phrases that have significant meaning to him. “I’ve titled my songs after Cherokee words that are used throughout our Cherokee-speaking communities, which is something I wanted to really promote. Inspiration is in our Cherokee words, like my song ‘Osda,’ which means much more than good or fine. When our elders tell our young people osda it inspires them that they did good or something about them is great,” he said. Wildcat said he wants to perform and compose music as long as he can, but it’s also important the younger generations take initiative to keep traditional music alive. “It’s very important to me and our heritage that the next generation continue on with the pride we always have had in our parents, grandparents, ancestors, with flute music and all of our music.” “Donadagohv’i” can be purchased at the Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Heritage Center, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Roland Casino gift shops or by ordering directly from Wildcat via Facebook.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
12/04/2017 08:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Heritage Center genealogists Gene Norris and Ashley Vann agree that knowing one’s genealogy is important for various reasons such as giving people a look into their ancestors’ lives, bringing light to certain traits or even genetic illnesses or diseases. “The importance of genealogy is finding out who your family is, and that’s the baseline of any genealogy regardless what minority that you may find within the research,” Vann said. Common questions that arise when beginning genealogical research are people wanting to know from whom and where they come, Vann said. “The aspect of genealogy most people are into, the knowing of ‘where do I come from? What are the quirks that that ancestors is? What makes me, me?’ I see a lot of people do that, especially on television because they will start revealing their family genealogy and maybe a special eye effect,” she said. “Maybe they have two different colors of eyes and they realize that’s passed down from generation to generation.” Norris, who began conducting genealogy research 35 years ago, said one thing that interested him about researching his ancestors were the “connections” he found. “My mom was adopted at 3, so I didn’t know my birth uncles until later. Turned out one was an artist, and I like to do art. So, you know...there’s also (these) kind of connections you find with these ancestors and those are what fascinated me,” he said. “I think that’s why you should get into genealogy is because of that reason, of wanting to know more about who they were, where they came from, not to have a specific purpose in mind.” As for diseases or illnesses passed down genetically, Norris said he learned a commonality between a client’s great-grandfather and father’s deaths. “I got on Ancestry (.com) and started looking at these records. They were in Texas. They weren’t here at the time of Dawes (Rolls). But I came across a Texas death certificate of her great-grandfather, and when I printed that off for her she saw the cause of death, and that is what her dad had died from and she got very emotional about it because she didn’t realize that it was genetic,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that, but for her to actually see it there in print, in front of her, it made her step back and she had that ‘ah ha’ moment and got very emotional about it.” Although Norris and Vann have strong interests in genealogy, that’s not the case for everyone. Norris said his interest stemmed from a fascination with history. “It’s interesting that in regards to genealogy that those that are into genealogy, that are really into it, usually are the only one in their immediate family that is interested in it. The reason behind that, I do not have any idea,” he said. “For me, history is very fascinating. Not just family history, but general history and learning about who our ancestors were in a sense of what they did on a daily basis, where they came from. Try to flesh them out, so to speak, where they’re not just a name and a date on a piece of paper.” For more information, call 918-456-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/27/2017 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasures will be signing copies of a book about themselves from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Dec. 1. The signing is scheduled for the Cherokee Gift Shop inside the casino. Treasures will sign the recently released “Cherokee National Treasures: In Their Own Words,” which can be purchased for $49.99. The book gives readers an opportunity to get to know each Cherokee National Treasure through their own stories and what motivates them to teach and carry on Cherokee language and traditions. The Cherokee National Treasure award was established in 1988 by the tribe and Cherokee National Historical Society. To date, the tribe has awarded 94 CN citizens the honor of Cherokee National Treasure to those who have shown exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art and culture. Those selected actively work to preserve and revive traditional cultural practices that are in danger of being lost from generation to generation. The CN published the book with Pamela Jumper Thurman and Cherokee National Treasure Shawna Morton Cain serving as editors. Cherokee National Treasures Kathryn Kelley, Betty Jo Smith, Lorene Drywater, Dorothy Ice, Al Herrin, Bessie Russell, Edith Catcher Knight, Thelma Vann Forrest, Durbin Feeling, Donald Vann and Betty Christie Frogg served on the Cherokee National Treasures Book Review Board. To buy a copy, visit any CN gift shop or <a href="http://www.cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeegiftshop.com</a>. Copies can also be purchased at most major book stores and online at <a href="http://www.amazon.com" target="_blank">www.amazon.com</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
11/22/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Fewer and fewer Cherokee people are speaking their native language, and the Cherokee Nation is losing elder speakers each year, so a monthly gathering of speakers is important for keeping the language alive, Cherokee Speakers Bureau officials said. On Nov. 9, the CSB held a gathering for Cherokee speakers in the Tsa-La-Gi Community Meeting Room for lunch, fellowship and to speak Cherokee. The CSB formed in 2007 to give Cherokee speakers an opportunity to speak the language with others. Ten years later, the CSB continues to be important for the language’s preservation. “This event is very important because we don’t get to talk in Cherokee very much anymore because like places where we work not all co-workers can speak it. So this event allows us to all come together to speak the language,” Kathy Sierra, CN Cherokee Language Program assistant, said. “I come to speak Cherokee, to see all my friends and just be together, you know. One of my speaker friends works at (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital) so we don’t get to see each other and speak Cherokee until this event.” Along with speaking Cherokee and having lunch, the event consists of storytelling, singing, community reports and word translation. CN translator specialist Dennis Sixkiller, who serves as the meetings’ facilitator, said attending the CSB and talking with other Cherokee speakers has refreshed his memory of the language. “I was kind of forgetting how to say some things in Cherokee. But from having a job (at Cherokee Nation) and being around people at the Speakers Bureau that speak Cherokee has really helped my language,” he said. “I just visited with a guy I grew up with, and a few years back I probably couldn’t talk to him in as much Cherokee as I did today, so it really has helped me out, and I really enjoy it.” For CN translator specialist Bonnie Kirk keeping the language alive is “crucial.” She said not only is it important for the older speakers to keep speaking the language, but it’s also important to teach others so CSB meetings continue. “I think right now it’s crucial to carry on the language that the Creator gave us. If we don’t, it’s going to be a lost art. We are fighting to keep that culture and teach our kids to speak Cherokee because if we don’t it’s going to be an end to a lot of our culture and to events like this,” she said. “This is our tenth year, and to this day we try to spread the word to different communities, and hopefully it will continue a long time because we really enjoy seeing each other once a month and speaking Cherokee with each other, and I hope that for the next generations, too.” Although the CSB is designated for Cherokee speakers anyone is welcome to attend, but only Cherokee is spoken. “We have a lot of students from different areas that just sit and listen, so everyone is welcome,” Kirk said. The next CSB meeting will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 14 in the same meeting room. For more information, call Roy Boney Jr. at 918-453-5487.