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Mother teaches 3 sons weaving tradition

BY JAMI MURPHY
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. www.cherokeewovenspirits.com. (417)-358-4907.
About the Author
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 www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 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 www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/08/2016 10:30 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. – This year is the centennial of the birth of the late Cherokee artist Lloyd Kiva New, and three Santa Fe arts institutions are celebrating this anniversary in style. Locally, New, who died in 2002, is known as the Institute of American Indian Art’s first artistic director. Yet nationally, Native people refer to him as the “Godfather of Native Fashion.” The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts and the New Mexico Museum of Art will each present an exhibition in 2016 focusing on New’s contributions to contemporary Native culture. Additionally, the three institutions are planning a symposium, multiple lectures, panel discussions, fashion show, gala and 100th birthday party. For the past two years, the museums have worked to honor New’s iconic status with items on view from their respective holdings, from his widow Aysen New’s collection and items rarely on public display from important private collections. Opening first is the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art’s “Lloyd Kiva New: Art, Design and Influence,” which draws on three themes of his legacy. The art aspect includes paintings by New from his personal collection, completed between 1938-95, many never before shown in a museum or gallery. The design portion presents the artist as an innovator of Native Modernism through fashion and textile design in an interpretive reproduction of the Kiva Studio – New’s successful 1950s showroom in Scottsdale, Arizona. The influence aspect features more than 40 printed textiles created by IAIA students during the 1960s and 1970s under New’s artistic direction – drawn from the permanent collection of the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts. Additionally, patrons will be able to “create” designs based on New’s work through an interactive display. IAIA officials said they hope to illuminate New’s artistic abilities, successful fashion career and profound impact on contemporary Native art. A soft opening for the exhibition was scheduled for Jan. 22 and will run through July 31. Lloyd Kiva New: Art will remain open until Sept. 1. The exhibit’s official opening and reception will be held Feb. 18 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Museum of Indian Arts and Culture’s career retrospective “A New Century: The Life and Legacy of Cherokee Artist and Educator Lloyd ‘Kiva’ New,” is slated for Feb. 14 to Dec. 30. The exhibit is a look into New’s life from his beginnings in Oklahoma to the burgeoning days at IAIA. In between he strides the decks of the USS Sanborn during World War II and the halls of the Art Institute of Chicago. Opening successive and successful boutiques and craft centers in the gleaming post-war enclave of Scottsdale. New was a pioneer in the worlds of fashion, entrepreneurship and Native art instruction. His vision of cultural studies and creative arts education continues to influence and inspire. Through personal recollections, photos, archival documents and objects pour la couture, the exhibit reviews the life of this American Indian visionary. The New Mexico Museum of Art’s exhibit “Finding a Contemporary Voice: The Legacy of Lloyd Kiva New and IAIA,” slated for May 20 to Oct. 10, showcases artwork by former and present IAIA faculty and alumni demonstrating the contribution these artists have made to the larger field of contemporary art. Taking a group portrait of IAIA faculty and the legacy of the institution’s first art director as starting points, this exhibition includes work by IAIA faculty and alumni from the 1960s to the present. In his teaching, New encouraged looking at innovative techniques and forms as a path to creating contemporary Indian art. Additionally, IAIA and MIAC will jointly present a symposium, “The Lloyd Kiva New Centennial Convocation” in October. The convocation will be an interdisciplinary look at the contemporary Native art movement. Other activities planned include fashion shows, panel discussions, lectures, a Veterans Day event and additional special programming in conjunction with Indian Market in August. IAIA will also offer the class “Lloyd Kiva New and the Contemporary Native Art Movement” in the Spring 2016 semester, taught by IAIA archivist Ryan Flahive and guest lecturers. New earned a degree in art education from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1938. He taught painting at the Phoenix Indian School until enlisting in the Navy in 1941. Upon returning to Phoenix after World War II, he became a charter member of the Arizona Craftsmen cooperative, a group of artists who helped develop Scottsdale into a western center of handcrafted arts. New took the trade name “Kiva” in 1946, and the Kiva Studio built an affluent clientele and earned national acclaim for his handbags, clothing and printed textiles throughout the 1950s. In 1962, New changed his career path by serving as the IAIA’s first art director until 1967, then as the school’s president until 1978. In 1988, he returned to serve as interim president, finally becoming president emeritus. Although officially retired, New continued to be active in the Native arts community, serving on the Indian Arts and Crafts board, as well as the boards of national museums, and continued writing and speaking worldwide until his death in 2002. He had a broad, humanistic approach to the arts, stressing creative links to the traditional arts but urging students not to be bound by them and to reject the stereotypical notions of American Indian art and culture.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
02/03/2016 08:15 AM
CALERA, Okla. – When it comes to expressing herself through art, Cherokee Nation citizen Hailey Bishop has been doing so since she was 2. In the past 16 years she’s created art and won awards for it. The 18-year-old said she first started with coloring books. That’s when her parents noticed her talent. “I was like 2 and I’d be coloring in my high chair and my parents would notice a whole different change. They were like ‘this isn’t normal.’ So they started buying me little paint kits and 64 packs of crayons,” she said. She started taking art seriously at age 7, entering her art in the Bryan County Fair. She said from then she branched out by attending art shows and finding her passion of creating portraits. She said it’s “intriguing” to capture people’s faces. “That’s the thing that I’ve always been interested in since I was very little. That’s what I see. I like nature too, but just peoples faces, it’s very intriguing,” Bishop said. “Most people think that they’re the hardest to draw, but to me they’re the funnest and always the easiest.” Bishop said she enjoys drawing faces because it feels as if she’s connecting with the person. “There’s something about faces when I draw them. It’s almost like you know the person, especially if it’s a very old photo of Native Americans or just any person. It’s almost like you’re getting to know the person,” she said. Bishop also said she creates art in various media. “I paint. I’m trying to venture out into oil painting. Oil painting is kind of hard to do. You have to get things done really quick because it dries so slow,” she said. “I’m venturing out into clay. I’ve tried to mix mediums together with say leaves on canvases, really just out-of-the-box type things. I’ve painted on all types of surfaces. My go-to is in drawing. I really like charcoal. Charcoal is very messy, but it’s a challenging medium.” As for her inspirations, they vary by piece and by how she’s feeling. “I really love to feed off my inspirations of what God might give me, and usually it’s nature and people. Sometime it can just be something I’m just really happy about or I’m just really moved by. Most of my emotions drive my artwork,” she said. “Sometimes nothing really inspires me for some pieces. Sometimes I just want to do it…It’s like what I feel at the time and that’s really it.” Bishop said she won big at the 2015 Southeastern Art Show and Market in Sulphur even though she missed the deadline but was allowed to enter. She said by entering late she had limited time to create. “I had a week and a half to work on my work. That was the most challenging thing I have ever done.” She entered four pieces and they all placed. “I didn’t expect that I would win anything. I was just like ‘I’m just going to try.’ I usually shoot for the best, which would be best of show, which I didn’t get but I’m totally OK with that. I wasn’t expecting to get anything,” she said. “It was a really awesome experience. It’s just another year that you get these opportunities and more experience. Now that I’m going into the adult category I’m really stepping up my game, and it’s just a whole different world.” She won “Best of Two-Dimensional Art” for her drawing “2 Corinthians 4:7” in the youth category. “It just happened to be the one that I was least expecting to place that won the whole shebang,” she said. She also won three youth juror awards for her drawings “Song of Solomon 4:7,” “Study of Native American Woman by Manuel Librodo” and her painting “Find Peace.” She earned nearly $1,200 in award money and nearly another $1,200 from selling her artwork. Bishop said it’s important to have found her calling in art and believes young people should also find something that drives them. “Know what drives you and stick with those things because if you don’t have a purpose behind anything that you want to do how are you going to stick with it? How are you going to achieve more things?” she said. “Especially for young people, I think it’s important for them to have something to grasp on to, especially in our society today.” Bishop said she enjoys being an artist and is grateful for the opportunities art has provided her. “The artist that I am is just, it’s a crazy thing to really describe, but if I wasn’t an artist I think that I wouldn’t know how to express myself,” she said. “I love the fact that being an artist affects my whole person. It affects how I see everything. It affects what my morals are. It affects many aspects in my daily life.” Bishop attends Calera High School and is set to graduate this year. She was recently accepted into Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and plans to major in graphic design. “I’ve decided to venture out and major in graphic design because of the work that I’m doing at my local vo-tech down here. I’m in a graphic design class now, so I have a lot of opportunities to already get hands-on experience,” she said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/28/2016 08:15 AM
WESTVILLE, Okla. – A free Cherokee history and humanities course begins Feb. 3 and will run until March 6 at the John F. Henderson Public Library located at 116 North Williams St. The course, offered by the Cherokee Nation, is open to the public and will run from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. The course will allow participants interested in Cherokee history and culture to get an overview of the Nation’s changes from pre-contact with European settlers through Oklahoma statehood. Upon completion of the 21-hour course, participants will receive a certificate from the tribe. “The courses and the lecture series we’ve done in the past have all been well received by our students,” said instructor Roy Hamilton. “We try to limit the amount of lecturing that takes place by adding in some video and film, demonstrations, and bringing in guest speakers. It is important for the Cherokee people, and the public in general, to understand that the Cherokee Nation possesses a unique cultural identity.” For more information or to pre-register, call Hamilton at 918-453-5210 or email <a href="mailto: roy-hamilton@cherokee.org">roy-hamilton@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/27/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Echota Ground will host a benefit stomp dance at 7 p.m. until midnight on Feb. 6 at the Tahlequah Community Building. According to a Facebook post about the event, all ceremonial grounds are welcome and the event will include raffles, cakewalks and auctions. Concession will also be available. All proceeds will go to benefit improvements to the Echota Ground.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
01/22/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Matthew Anderson, a cultural specialist at the Spider Gallery, is offering daily lunchtime cultural presentation from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at the gallery. “And it may not just be a cultural presentation there may actually be sketching, painting, sculpture, but there’s also a desire for finger weaving and twining,” Anderson said. “Those demonstrations I’ll be able to stop and do those at any time.” He said he’s had people, including Cherokee language teachers and enrichment program participants, who wanted to go over some activities that have been covered in cultural education classes. “And so we are available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to do that the rest of January and February at least,” he said. Other presentations might include cordage from plant material, which will also include going over what plants are available locally and their uses. “There are lunch specials through the Kawi Café and those daily specials are usually ready very quickly. If you just have a short lunch break, you can order one of the daily specials and also increase your knowledge of Cherokee art and culture by either just viewing the demonstration or actually participating in the instruction,” Anderson said. All the short lunchtime courses are available through the art center in a more in-depth style. For more information visit cherokeeartscenter.com and find the Spider Gallery link on that page or call 918-453-5728. Anderson said he could also be reached by email at <a href="mailto: matthew-anderson@cherokee.org">matthew-anderson@cherokee.org</a> or on Facebook.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/20/2016 12:00 PM
SEQUOYAH, Okla. (AP) – Though much of the life of the gifted linguist Sequoyah is unknown today, certain information has been gathered by historians through the years. Much of it was acquired through oral accounts of family members or other individuals who knew the blacksmith. No matter the source, all agree that his development of the written Cherokee language was a remarkable accomplishment. The Muskogee Phoenix reports that family accounts say Sequoyah was born in what is today Monroe County, Tennessee, but the exact date is left to speculation. His mother was a full-blood Cherokee named Wurteh Watts. She was of the Paint Clan and part of a prominent Cherokee family. His father is believed to be Nathaniel Gist. Sequoyah’s English name has been found in different documents as George Gist, Guess or Guest. Oral tradition tells us that Sequoyah first developed an interest in creating a written form of the Cherokee language in 1809. A group of friends had gathered in his blacksmith shop in Tennessee and were discussing the “talking leaves” of their neighbors. Some were of the opinion that communication by paper was “witchcraft,” but Sequoyah understood the concept of written language. He set out to create such a thing for the Cherokee language. He toiled at this project for 12 years. During these years, he served in the military, married Sally Waters of the Bird Clan and had a daughter named Ayoka. At first Sequoyah tried to develop a symbol for every Cherokee word, but it became quickly evident that this would be too massive an undertaking. He then identified the 85 syllables in the Cherokee language and created a symbol for each one. He borrowed symbols from every alphabet he could find, copying some from the Waters family Bible. Other symbols he simply created himself. His brother-in-law, Michael Waters, was an early student, but it was Ayoka who quickly learned to use the developing language system. Sequoyah was not without his detractors. Many who knew about his efforts believed he was dabbling in witchcraft. It is said that his wife burned his early writing attempts. But he carried on and when questioned by Cherokee government officials, he was able to demonstrate how his writing worked with the help of Ayoka. Even after moving with other Cherokees to Arkansas sometime before 1820, Sequoyah continued to perfect the syllabary. He returned east in 1821 and demonstrated his final effort. Thus, the year 1821 is considered to be the date for the completion of the Cherokee syllabary. This makes it 195 years old in 2016. Within a short time, most of the eastern and western Cherokees were able to read and write in their own language. Missionary Samuel Worcester sent the syllabary to a printer in Boston to have the symbols cast for type. Soon the Cherokees became the first American Indian tribe to print their own newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, which still is published today.