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Mother teaches 3 sons weaving tradition

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
01/12/2009 09:05 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
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. www.cherokeewovenspirits.com. (417)-358-4907.

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/22/2018 04:00 PM
SULPHUR – Explore your Native American heritage at the Five Tribes Ancestry Conference on June 7-9 at the Chickasaw Cultural Center. The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, whose mission is to unite the governments of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee Creek and Seminole nations, has endorsed this first-of-its-kind conference. “The Five Tribes have a shared history due to the creation of the Dawes Rolls at the turn of the last century,” Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Dr. Charles Gourd said. “The vast majority of our visitors at CHC are interested in researching their family heritage, but they just aren’t sure where to start. Working with the Five Tribes, we have created a one-of-a-kind conference that will provide a better understanding of genealogical methodology and introduce available records to aid individuals in their family research.” The three-day event is expected to provide tools to research Native American ancestry and discussion topics with guest speakers, including keynote speaker Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield Jr., director of the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. “Archives, historical societies and other genealogical institutions, especially in the south-southeast, have all seen an increase in the number of people seeking information about their family ancestry,” Littlefield said. “The majority of researchers are focused on validating their family’s claim to Indian ancestry and, thus, tribal citizenship. It is our responsibility to assist these individuals to the best of our ability while educating the public about the realities of the search.” The cost to attend is $150 and includes a conference bag and flash drive with digital copies of presentation materials. Registration forms are available at <a href="http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org" target="_blank">www.CherokeeHeritage.org</a>. The deadline to register is May 31. The CHC is presenting the Five Tribes Ancestry Conference, but it will take place at the Chickasaw Cultural Center at 867 Charles Cooper Memorial Road. For more information, including accommodations and registration, call 918-456-6007, ext. 6162 or email <a href="mailto: ashley-vann@cherokee.org">ashley-vann@cherokee.org</a> or <a href="mailto: gene-norris@cherokee.org">gene-norris@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/20/2018 04:00 PM
PARK HILL – The Cherokee Heritage Center is hosting cultural classes designed to preserve, promote and teach traditional Cherokee art. The Saturday workshops are held once a month and provide hands-on learning opportunities with various traditional art forms. Registration is open for the May 5 class on flat reed basketry and plant dyes and the June 2 class on flint knapping. Both classes are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $40 each. Early registration is recommended as class size is limited. For more information or to RSVP, call Tonia Weavel at 918-456-6007, ext. 6161, or email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a>. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/19/2018 10:00 AM
PARK HILL – The Cherokee Heritage Center recently received nearly $12,000 in grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council to support three new cultural artists in its interactive exhibits for the 2018 tourism season. “The addition of these artists to our staff will aid in our efforts to provide an engaging and interactive environment for visiting guests,” CHC Executive Director Dr. Charles Gourd said. “We are thankful for the support of the OAC, which continues to support our mission to preserve, promote and teach Cherokee history, art and culture.” Cherokee Nation citizens Lily Drywater and Geoff Little are providing cultural demonstrations in the ancient Cherokee village, Diligwa, which authentically portrays Cherokee life in the early 1700s. Drywater performs traditional finger weaving, and Little demonstrates the art of bow making. CN citizen Charlotte Wolfe has joined the team in Adams Corner Rural Village, which represents Cherokee life in the 1890s before Oklahoma statehood. Wolfe demonstrates Cherokee basketry and cornhusk dolls. “As a young girl, I had a hunger for my heritage and a desire to immerse myself in the Cherokee culture,” said Wolfe. “That spark has fueled my career, and I have had the privilege to study a variety of Cherokee art forms, many from Cherokee National Treasures. I feel that each one is a gift passed down to me, and I take great pride in sharing that knowledge with guests visiting the heritage center. I hope that each guest leaves with a better understanding of Cherokee culture, and that they feel inspired to learn more.” The CHC is the premier cultural center for Cherokee history, culture and the arts. It’s located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. Summer hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Funding provided by the Oklahoma Arts Council is supported financially by the state and the National Endowment for the Arts. The OAC is the state agency for the support and development of the arts. Its mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. It provides more than 400 grants to nearly 225 organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state’s arts and cultural industry, and manages works of art in the Oklahoma Public Art Collection and the public spaces of the state Capitol. Additional information is available at <a href="http://www.arts.ok.gov" target="_blank">arts.ok.gov</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/18/2018 12:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Following the Native film series and keynote speakers throughout the week, the Northeastern State University 46th annual Symposium on the American Indian will conclude with the NSU Powwow. The powwow begins at 2 p.m. on April 21 in the University Center Ballroom. Kelly Anquoe will begin the day by teaching a dance workshop that will provide an opportunity for individuals to learn about the styles of dance and types of regalia that will be seen during the powwow. There will also be time for questions related to powwow protocol. The Learning Traditional Dance Workshop will be at 2 p.m. A Gourd Dance will begin the powwow at 3 p.m., followed by a dinner break from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the Grand Entry/Intertribal will begin at 7 p.m. and conclude at midnight. Event leaders include the master of ceremonies Stanley John (Navajo), head lady dancer Robyn Chanate (Cherokee/Kiowa), head man dancer Daniel Roberts (Muscogee Creek/Aleut/Choctaw), head gourd dancer Chris Chanate (Kiowa/Cherokee), head singer Joel Deerinwater (Muscogee Creek/Cherokee), Color Guard from the Mvskoke Creek Nation Honor Guard and the arena director Tony Ballou (Cherokee/Creek/Navajo). Traditional arts vendors will be set up at the event along with institutional and organizational display booths. Symposium activities are free and the public is encouraged to attend. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/symposium" target="_blank">www.nsuok.edu/symposium</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
04/18/2018 08:15 AM
PARK HILL – Cherokee Nation citizen Troy Jackson won the grand prize for his sculpture “Adadolisdi – The Prayer” at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 47th annual Trail of Tears Art Show. Winners were announced during an April 6 ceremony and opening-night reception for the art show, which runs through May 5. The TOTAS is the longest-running Native American art show in Oklahoma and features authentic Native American artwork from artists of different federally recognized tribes. This year the show received 172 submissions from 89 artists representing 12 tribal nations. All featured artwork is available for purchase throughout the show’s duration. CHC Curator Callie Chunestudy said the show received a record number of entries and has about 16 new artists who have previously entered the show. “It’s a great opportunity for artists both new and seasoned to display their work and have it in a tribal museum. I think you will see a lot more variety. People are really starting to come into their own with things like graphic arts and coming out of the box a little more with sculptures and some of what people consider kind of the more traditional arts. So you get to see some new and interesting things you may have not seen before,” she said. Artists competed for more than $15,000 in prize money in seven categories: painting, sculpture, pottery, basketry, graphics, jewelry and miniatures. As the grand prize recipient, Jackson received $2,00 and a copper gorget. He said his inspiration for the piece came from what he starts each day with – prayer. “I use prayer to keep focused and to keep on task. Being an artist isn’t an easy job, especially being a self-employed artist, so I have to have something that keeps me focused and that is what prayer does for me.” CN citizen Ron Mitchell took honorable mention in the graphics category for his piece “Out of the Darkness.” He said he’s been entering the show off and on since 1987. “I like this particular show because it is the Trail of Tears show…It gives us a showcase that we can actually show artwork that depicts what happened to our tribe and a lot of the other tribes, too when the Removal Act took place,” Mitchell said. Awards for the Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition were also announced during the ceremony, which includes art by Native American youth from grades 6-12 and precedes the annual Cherokee Art Market in the fall. Youth artwork will be on display and for sale through the length of the show, too. For a complete list of winners, visit <a href="http://www.Anadisgoi.com" target="_blank">www.Anadisgoi.com</a>. <strong>2018 Trail of Tears Art Show winners</strong> Painting: Kenny Henson, Cherokee Nation, “Awi Usdi and the Invasive Species” Sculpture: Paul Hacker, Choctaw Nation, “Eagle Song” Basketry: Mike Dart, Cherokee Nation, “Wild Onion Gathering Basket” Pottery: Jane Osti, Cherokee Nation, “Earth, Spirit and Fire” Jewelry: Toneh Chuleewah, Cherokee Nation, “Hero Twins” Graphics: John Gritts, Cherokee Nation, “Keep, Out, Indian Reservation, Government Property” Miniature: Norma Howard, Choctaw Nation, “Walking Home from the Store” Emerging Artists: Mike Phillips, Cherokee Nation, “Balance of Life” Trail of Tears Award: Norma Howard, Choctaw Nation, “Choctaw Removal” Bill Rabbit Legacy Award: Kindra Swafford, Cherokee Nation, “Bond” Betty Garner Elder Award: Norma Howard, Choctaw Nation, “Choctaw Removal” <strong>2018 Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition winners</strong> Best of Show: Lindsay Petitt, Cherokee Nation, “Fireside Tales” 2-D, grades 6-10: Tyrus Teehee, Cherokee Nation, “Suli and the Waterbeetle” 2-D, grades 11-12: Xeneca LeClair, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, “Blue Shawl” 3-D, grades 6-8: Julia Lewis, Cherokee Nation, ??????? 3-D, grades 9-10: Alexis Rietman, Cherokee Nation, “Exploring New Traditions” 3-D, grades 11-12: Graycianne Bennett, Cherokee Nation, “Just Hanging Out” Judge’s Choice: Tucker Williams, Cherokee Nation, “Native Beauty” Judge’s Choice: Graycianne Bennett, Cherokee Nation, “Just Hanging Out" Judge’s Choice: Chloe Davis, Cherokee Nation, “Personification of Sunshine" Bill Rabbit Award: Graycianne Bennett, Cherokee Nation, “Just Hanging Out”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/16/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Encore! Performing Society on April 8 previewed its reimagined production of “Four Moons,” which highlights the careers of five Native American ballerinas. “The history of the five ballerinas was always interesting to me because they are so unique. There’s only a handful of Native American ballerinas in the world,” “Four Moons” Director Lena Gladkova-Huffman said. The production features 12 female dancers, nearly all of who are Cherokee, and uses digital backdrops with archived footage, pictures and interviews to showcase the life and careers of Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and sisters Maria and Marjorie Tallchief. The group became known as the Five Moons and rose to prominence in the mid-1900s during a time when ballet was largely considered a Russian art form. The women represented the Cherokee, Osage, Choctaw and Shawnee tribes. Four of them danced together for the original 1967 production, which occurred during the Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival. It was titled “Four Moons” because the Tallchief sisters were highlighted together. “When we picked up this production, the girls had to do a lot of research and find out who each ballerina was. So they come out of this production with bigger knowledge of the world in general, and hopefully our audience will too,” Gladkova-Huffman said. “There were these five amazing women who, from children, decided to dedicate their life to art.” She said her fascination with the Five Moons and the original performance sparked the need for a reimagining featuring her choreography. “They met and danced, and it was a unique occasion because everybody danced, with the exception of Maria Tallchief, who was retired, and then nobody video recorded them. So from then on everybody that has recreated this play has used original choreography,” she said. Gladkova-Huffman studied ballet in Volgograd, Russia, and though she pursued a career as a doctor after immigrating to America, she’s “closely connected” to directing and choreographing. Many girls featured in her reimagining come from her dance studio, though each “handpicked” ballerina had to meet select criteria. They also vary in age from elementary- to college-aged students to highlight the Five Moons as younger and older versions. Cherokee Nation citizen Natalie Walker, 19, studies at Northeastern State University and is dancing as the older Chouteau. She said she and her younger partner unfurl a ribbon during their dance as a nod to the Cherokee people and Chouteau’s heritage. “There is a part in my dance where we pull a white ribbon and it separates the stage, which is supposed to represent the Trail of Tears,” she said. “It separates us from our Cherokee heritage, as well as the younger and older versions of (Chouteau).” Walker said the dancers have rehearsed on weekends for months to prepare. “We all are very good about taking criticism from Mrs. Lena very well, which I think helps us improve in dancing and for the production,” she said. “It has taken many, many practices since then to get ready for this, and I love dancing in front of people.” CN citizen Lacy Ullrich, 13, portrays the younger Marjorie Tallchief. “I didn’t really know much about it the first time I did this, but it sounded fun,” she said. “They’re all very interesting, and they’ve accomplished a ton of really cool things throughout their lifetime. All these girls come from different tribes, and one of them is Cherokee, and they were all born in Oklahoma, so it’s fun to get to dance the Cherokee variation.” Portraying Hightower is CN citizen Hadley Hume, 17, who will attend the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this fall to major in performance dance. She said audiences should expect to see a mix of traditional ballet and Native American aspects. “You’ll see us dancing on point, on flat, but we’ll also have one girl come out in a traditional Cherokee dress. It’s just really amazing to be able to bring all of their tribes together, and it’s just a really cool way to say, ‘hey look, we’re all here.’” Her mother, Dayna, is the vice president of Encore! who secured the rights to composer Louis Ballard’s music from the 1967 production. She also designed the traditional costumes. “All of the coral dresses that you’ll see and the ribbon work, I’ve done,” she said. “I tell (the girls), ‘I create it, you bring it to life. You make it come to life when you dance.’ We’ve also had some various local Cherokee National Treasures that’s worked on other pieces.” The preview was held ahead of scheduled performances in Washington, D.C., for the annual Cherokee Days on April 13-15 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.