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Mother teaches 3 sons weaving tradition

Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
01/12/2009 09:05 AM
REEDS, Mo. – Cathy Moomaw, a third-generation loom weaver originally from Jay, Okla., has been weaving since she was 8 – the age she learned it from her “Granny” Pearl Abercrombie. These days Moomaw is passing the tradition to her three sons.

“My grandmother taught most all of her kids and grandkids how to weave, so it’s only natural that I want to teach my boys. And as far as we know we are the only fourth-generation Cherokee weavers we have been able to find,” the 46-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen said.

Since there are so few Cherokee weavers left, Moomaw said she began teaching her sons once they were big enough to reach the loom pedals.

“There are just a handful that we have been able to find, and there are not a lot of young weavers,” she said. “Out of all the grandkids, I feel very honored that I was the one that gets to pass this on. And I think it’s my responsibility to make sure that I teach more generations and that we keep this going and not let this die out.”

Chance, her youngest son at 13, said he likes weaving because it’s relaxing and it allows him to create artwork for others to enjoy.

“Being a fourth-generation weaver, it is kind of an important tradition to keep going and hopefully my kids will get to weave, too,” he said.

As part of keeping the art alive, Moomaw makes many blankets, including diamond weave blankets, which her grandmother was known for. In 2006, Moomaw entered a diamond weave blanket into the annual Cherokee Art Market at the Cherokee Casino Resort in Catoosa, Okla., and won.

The win got her an invitation to the 2007 Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival in Oklahoma City, which is one of the biggest Native American art shows in the country. Once there, she won her division with another diamond weave blanket.

“I felt like that was a real honor, just to be invited to get to go and then to win first was a even bigger surprise,” she said.

At the 2008 Red Earth, she placed third for an entry, while her oldest son Isaac Plumb, 28, took second place and Chance won the children’s division. Gus Plumb, her 20-year-old son, attends college and hasn’t entered a contest.

Moomaw’s award-winning knowledge of loom weaving stems from her days at the Oak Hill Indian Weavers hall in the Oak Hill/Piney community just outside Jay. There she learned from her grandmother how to weave and spent summers weaving rugs. However, that changed after she graduated high school and moved away from the area. Following the death of her grandmother, an aunt gave the looms to Moomaw, who has been weaving since.

Moomaw said to her knowledge the history of Cherokee loom weaving in Oklahoma goes back to the 1930s, when the CN established several weaving halls. She said her grandmother learned to weave at the Oak Hill hall and later became its president.

“She had the weaving hall for about 40 years where the other women in Oak Hill would come over and weave,” Moomaw said. “I still have my first placemats that I made when I was 8 years old.”

Part of her grandmother’s legacy includes a blanket in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

“We do have a letter from the Department of Interior where they commissioned her to weave draperies,” she said. “I hopesomeday she will be nominated for the Cherokee National Treasures. That would be the ultimate to see her receive that award considering how many weavers she taught and how she tried to keep natural fibers going.”

Moomaw said when the Cherokee weavers started they began weaving with wool and natural fibers but later switched to acrylic fibers. However, she said she prefers natural fibers.

“If I’m going to wrap up in something I want to wrap up in something that is natural,” she said. “There is more work in a wool blanket, but a wool blanket is going to look just as gorgeous 50 or 60 years from now as it does the first time you use it, so that’s why I like them.”

Moomaw said her grandmother was strict on how she taught her children and grandchildren. They had to have their tension, edges and stitches just right.

“A lot of people who see weaving, they see the design and the color and they think that’s how you pick a weaving, but for people that weave it is the edges and the tightness and the even spacing that’s the hard work of weaving,” she said.

Moomaw said she didn’t realize the importance of being meticulous and working hard at a blanket until now. She said crafting a 55-inch-by-72-inch blanket, which sells for about $500, usually takes her eight hours.

“Now that I have started doing the competitions I am so thankful that she took the time and taught me to do it the right way,” she said.

And anyone expecting to learn from Moomaw can expect the same teaching. (417)-358-4907.
About the Author

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at


Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy &
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
10/25/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Men, women and children from various tribes on Oct. 15 took to the Cherokee Nation’s One Fire Field to compete in the 2016 Shoot of the Nations cornstalk shoot competition. Buddy McCarty, a CN citizen and Cherokee Cornstalk Society member, said people competed to see who was the best but that the competition was also a time for friends to come together. “It’s just getting together and swapping tales and seeing who’s the best,” he said. The competition began with the children’s shoot and then the women and men took to the field all competing for the first place title. He said the competition rotates from tribe to tribe and it’s been about four years since the competition took place at the Cherokee Nation. “We just shoot at different places,” he said. “Last year was at the Chickasaws, and we’ve been to the Seminoles, and we’ve been to the Creeks, and we’ve been down to the Choctaws. We just rotate.” McCarty said he hopes the shoot gets more citizens learning about this aspect of their culture. “We’re trying to get everybody to start making their own bows and shooting their own arrows and just get the tradition back,” he said. Tom Standley, an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen, said he’s been making the approximate 1,200-mile round trip from Champaign, Illinois, for the past couple of years to compete in cornstalk competitions such as Shoot of the Nations. “I’ve been coming down here for the Cherokee Nation shoots and the Creek Nation shoots over in Okmulgee for a couple of years,” he said. “Probably a half a dozen trips that first summer and last summer, probably the same, just because this is the only place I can do cornstalk shooting.” He said he’s been shooting for nearly 10 years and has been making bows for about eight. He said it’s important for him to participate in this activity because it’s a Native game. “It’s a Native game. It’s a Cherokee game and my family lives in Cherokee, North Carolina, but there’s no cornstalk shooting down there. It just feels like something I should be doing,” he said. “It’s a connection. It’s Indian people coming together, having fun. Making their own bows and just enjoying being out on a nice day. Even though I drove…I’m not locked in on winning or getting as many hits as I can. It’s just about enjoying doing it, and that’s the way it seems to be for most people.” <strong>Shoot of the Nations Winners</strong> 10 and Under: Braden Birdtail, first place; Kurt McClain Trammel, second place; Chase Jones, third place 11-14: Josiah Robinson, first place; Legend Concharro, second place; Jeromiah Birdtail II, third place Adult: Pete Vann, first place; Jeromiah Birdtail, second place; Chris Forman, third place
10/06/2016 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Congratulations to Nan Butler from Wellston for being the Cherokee Phoenix’s third quarter giveaway winner. On Oct. 3, Butler won four painted tiles by Cherokee artist MaryBeth Timothy of MoonHawk Art after Cherokee Phoenix staff members drew her name from approximately 980 entries. The tiles are 6 inches by 8 inches and titled “Bear Clan” with a bear, “Ancient Glory” with an eagle, “PeekaBoo” with a wolf and “Seven” or “GaLiQuoGi” with horses. Butler joins Wauneta Wine of Columbia, Maryland, and Dale Easky of St. Clair, Missouri, as the 2016 Cherokee Phoenix giveaway winners. Wine won a carving by Cherokee sculptor Matthew Girty on July 1, and Easky won a knife by Cherokee knife maker Ray Kirk on April 1. Entries can be obtained by donating to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder Fund or buying a Cherokee Phoenix subscription or merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent. The Cherokee Phoenix will hold its fourth drawing on Jan. 3 when it gives away beaded jewelry by Cherokee artist and Native Uniques owner Samantha Barnes. For more information regarding the giveaways, call Samantha Cochran at 918-207-3825 or Justin Smith at 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> or <a href="mailto:"></a>. For more information on Native Uniques, go to or call 918-214-0030. For more information on MoonHawk Art, email <a href="mailto:"></a> or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
10/04/2016 12:00 PM
VINITA, Okla. – Eastern Trails Museum and Cherokee Nation officials on Sept. 24 opened the museum’s new CN addition with a ribbon-cutting and proclaimed the day as “Cherokee Day.” With funding provided by the Tribal Council and cultural artifacts donated by CN citizens, the museum, which opened in its current location in 1970, can now show the connection between the town of Vinita and the CN. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said he was proud of the addition. “There’s always been Cherokee items at this wonderful museum, but lately the museum has focused on putting an emphasis on Cherokee history because Vinita is a Cherokee town. Vinita was built by Cherokees. It was certainly here before statehood,” he said. “The Cherokee Nation is just here today to help the museum and the town celebrate the opening of the new addition.” Hoskin, who is from Vinita, added that there are deep roots in the northern Cherokee community. According to, Vinita is located in Craig County and was established in 1871 by Elias Cornelius Boudinot, the son of the first Cherokee Phoenix editor, Elias Boudinot. The town was originally called Downingville after CN Chief Lewis Downing but was later renamed Vinita after artist Lavinia Ellen Ream Hoxie. It was incorporated in 1898, nine years before Oklahoma statehood. It was also the first town in the state to receive electricity. Eastern Trails Museum Director Kathleen Duchamp said she was excited about the addition and was glad to see Cherokees sharing their culture. “Cherokee Nation brought seven Cherokee National Treasures who demonstrated basketry, loom weaving, buffalo grass dolls, sculptures, pottery and traditional bow making to large, appreciative crowds,” she said. Duchamp said the exhibit tells the story of the region’s Cherokees and how they were the area’s important pioneers. Dist. 11 Tribal Councilor Victoria Vasquez said she was “thrilled” about the event. “I’m also thrilled I was able to help with Cherokee funds to make this Cherokee exhibit possible. It’s a permanent Cherokee exhibit, it’s brand new and it’s going to be here forever.” Vasquez, who also lives in Vinita, donated several items to the exhibit. She said she’s visited the Eastern Trails Museum since she was a girl and called it a Craig County showpiece. For more information about the museum located 215 W. Illinois Ave., call 918-323-1338 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
10/04/2016 08:30 AM
EUCHA, Okla. – Each year in late September, Cherokee Nation citizen Mark Dunham and his father Tad check chinkapin trees, which were once plentiful in the area, for prickly, green burs that hold nuts. Logging practices and a chestnut disease in the 1950s and 1960s nearly wiped out the Ozark chinkapin or Chinquapin. The Dunhams now compete with squirrels, deer and other animals for the small amount of nuts produced by the chinkapin trees on their land in Delaware County. “It’s a tree that’s becoming scarce because of a fungal virus. The fungal virus came from Chinese chestnut trees, which are very closely related to these trees,” Mark said. “Historically, the tree used to grow about 3 foot in diameter and would grow anywhere from 60 to 80 foot tall. It was a really good producer every year of nuts. The Cherokees, a long time ago, would make bread out of the nuts. The nuts are really high in protein, and they’re very good for you.” According to the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation, the Ozark chinkapin is also called the Ozark chestnut. It was drought tolerant and grew on acidic dry rocky soils on hilltops and slopes. It bloomed in late May to early June after the threat of frost. The wood was prized because it was rot resistant and made excellent railroad ties and fence posts. “The Ozark Chinquapin nuts were delicious, and we waited for them to fall like you would wait on a crop of corn to ripen. They were that important. Up on the hilltop the nuts were so plentiful that we scooped them up with flat blade shovels and loaded them into the wagons to be used as livestock feed, to eat for ourselves and to sell. Deer, bears, turkeys, squirrels and a variety of other wildlife fattened up on the sweet crop of nuts that fell every year. But, starting in the 1950s and 60s all of the trees started dying off. Now they are all gone and no one has heard of them,” said a 96-year-old Missouri outdoorsman to the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation, describing chinkapins before the blight reached the Ozarks. Mark said these days the trees usually grow 4 inches in diameter and about 20 to 25 feet tall. Periodically, a tree dies but sends up sprouts that grow for a few years before they too die. He said the trees usually grow four to seven years before dying and sprouting again. In 2015, Mark said he and his father harvested a pint of chinkapin nuts from one tree, and this year they managed to get about 10 nuts from a tree. “So, this was really a poor year,” Mark said. The Dunhams use leather gloves to handle the “spiky hull” that holds chinkapin nuts. Once the hulls or burs are pulled off a tree, Tad uses his pocketknife to split open the bur, which are three-quarter to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, to remove the nuts. Often the burs form in clusters on stems, but each bur contains a single, shiny brown acorn-like nut, which are called oo-na-geen or oo-ha-geen in Cherokee, Mark said. Mark said there is also a chinkapin oak tree that sometimes people mistake for Ozark chinkapin. The chinkapin oak produces acorn nuts and the nuts from the trees look similar, he said, but the leaves are different with the Ozark chinkapin leaves, being more elongated and about 3 to 6 inches long. He said besides making bread, he has eaten the nuts raw and roasted. Mark said the nuts have an “original taste” while Tad said the nuts taste similar to hazelnuts. Tad has planted Chinese chestnut trees in his yard, which are disease resistant and produce a larger nut than the Ozark chinkapin, usually more than twice the size. Mark said the Chinese chestnut produces a nut about the size of a quarter while the Ozark chinkapin produces a nut smaller than a dime. The Dunhams said they have a heritage of living off their land. Tad maintains a garden and keeps and feeds catfish in his pond. The family also gathers wild onions, morel mushrooms, black walnuts and black haws, which are a dark-black berry fruit. The family also hunts deer on its land. Tad said he is proud that his family could nearly sustain itself off of his property.
09/29/2016 10:00 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Muskogee Phoenix, Bacone College and Five Civilized Tribes Museum are joining forces to create synergies between new and current events to usher in the inaugural “River City Intertribal Celebration” on March 31. But to kick off the event, Native American musical group Brule will perform on Sept. 30 at the Civic Center. On Oct. 1, the event shifts to Bacone College for the traditional powwow, a gathering of hundreds of the top Native dancers from across the country will compete for cash prizes. The day also will feature an art exhibit/show and dozens of Native American vendors displaying their arts and crafts. Event officials said years ago Muskogee was home to the Indian International Fair, which resembled contemporary agricultural fairs. Held annually in Muskogee, Indian Territory, in September or October from 1875 to about 1900, the weeklong event featured produce and domestic exhibits in a barn-like pavilion. Officials said these displays along with horse racing on the adjacent track, a merry-go-round and commercial vendors attracted many Indians and non-Indians from the Indian Territory and nearby states. “As a historian, I am thrilled about the prospect of joining forces with the (Muskogee) Phoenix and the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in the effort to raise awareness of the incredible underlying Native history of Muskogee,” Dr. Patti Jo King, Bacone College’s Center for American Indians director, said. “It will be wonderful to bring this history to light again, and to be able to instill that historic pride in our community and future generations.” King added that Bacone College, which opened in 1880, is the embodiment of the story of Indian Country and is a community treasure. “I have spoken to many people who have passed by this landmark for years, but have never ventured inside its gates,” she said. “I guarantee that if you would, you would find yourself fascinated by its beauty and intrigued by its amazing history and the stories that tie this wonderful old school to the town and people of Muskogee. This town is truly a history enthusiast’s paradise.” Officials said as an outgrowth of the Okmulgee Constitutional Convention of the early 1870s, the Indian International Fair served several purposes, including boosting the town and territory. Through music, dance, exhibits, food, talent shows, traditional Native American games and activities and much more, officials said the “River City Intertribal Celebration” hopes to rekindle and recapture that same spirit of yesteryear. “We are excited for the Five Civilized Tribes Museum and the participation of many talented artists in the River City Intertribal Celebration,” Sean Barney, museum executive director, said. “The festival is part of an effort to promote the region’s Indian music heritage and artistic talent. The festival will be the kickoff for the events showcased in April. We are very excited about the economic impact and awareness this event will bring to Muskogee.” Officials said the event’s support does not stop with the Muskogee Phoenix, Bacone College and the Five Civilized Tribes Museum as they are reaching out to the Cherokee, Muscogee Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations, as well as the Comanche Nation for collaboration. Officials said while working with the local and regional tribes, this celebration is also open to all Native American tribes throughout the country. “Our Native and non-Native communities have lived side by side for decades,” King said. “What fun it would be to put out heads together and share the very best of what we both have to offer – our stories and cherished historic memories. We are excited to be a part of this first big event, and we are looking forward to welcoming our friends, neighbors and visitors to be a part of the celebration. Our hats off to John Newby for this splendid idea of sharing our cultural heritage here in this unique, historic area.” Newby, publisher of the Muskogee Phoenix, said the dream is much larger than the inaugural event. “While the inaugural event is starting out as a day-and-a-half event, the goals and plans certainly don’t stop there,” he said. “It is the vision that we build one of the premier several-day Native American destination events in the country. Muskogee was once the Native American capital of the country. We need to bring that feeling back, and what better way to lay the foundation to accomplish this goal?” For more information, email Newby at <a href="mailto:"></a>; King at <a href="mailto:"></a> or Barney at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call Bacone Public Relations Office at 918-348-5868.
09/27/2016 03:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee National Treasures Art Show opens Oct. 1 and will run through Nov. 5 at the Cherokee Heritage Center. The artists are held in highest regard by the Cherokee Nation for their talented work as culture keepers. The show introduces the most recently named treasures and features the work of others. Most artwork displayed is available for purchase. “We are beyond grateful to have such gifted citizens who are dedicated to the preservation and perseverance of Cherokee culture,” CHC Curator Callie Chunestudy said. “Our National Treasures are shining examples of how we ensure our tribal heritage thrives for generations to come.” The Cherokee National Treasure Award was created in 1988 and is given annually to a few people during the Cherokee National Holiday. These artisans are known for their commitment to preserving and promoting Cherokee culture. Since inception, nearly 100 CN citizens have earned this distinction. Each artist boasts a minimum of 10 years experience within their field and is a master of their craft. Included in the show is a special display honoring the late Edith Catcher Knight, of Stilwell. Knight, who died earlier this year, was bestowed the Cherokee National Treasure honor in 1992 for her work with traditional Cherokee clothing. A special reception is slated for 6 p.m. on Sept. 30 at the CHC to recognize Cherokee National Treasures and open the show. The event is free to attend and open to the public. The Cherokee National Treasures Art Show is made possible through the support of the Oklahoma Arts Council. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on 2016 season events, operating hours and programs, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.