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Mother teaches 3 sons weaving tradition

BY JAMI MURPHY
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.
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
09/18/2014 03:21 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. –Conservationists recently joined forces to clean and preserve Native artifacts, art and archives at Bacone College’s Ataloa Lodge Museum during a recent artifact and art preservation event weekend. The three-day weekend event was funded by the Oklahoma Heritage Trust and the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and Museums and had a team of fine art, paper, basket and textile conservators. The conservators observed the various collections, performed minor conservation treatments, re-housed items with other materials, which met museum and archival standards, and constructed a plan for future care of the items. For more information about the project or to contribute to the maintenance of collections at Bacone College, call 918-781-7223.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/17/2014 11:37 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Oct. 2-3, students will have the opportunity to interact at the Cherokee Heritage Center and learn about Cherokee history as part of Ancient Cherokee Days. “This is a great opportunity for children to learn about ancient Cherokee life in a fun, interactive way,” CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said. “When they leave Cherokee Heritage Center, they will have a better understanding of what life was like for Cherokees 300 years ago.” The event is set in an outdoor classroom setting for students in grades kindergarten through 12 and is for public, private and homeschooled children. The event is primarily held inside Diligwa, which is the CHC’s authentic recreation of Cherokee life in the early 1700s. There are many Cherokee cultural learning stations available throughout the grounds that feature chunkey, marbles, stickball, blowguns and language. The outdoor cultural classes also feature interactive curriculum and games centered on Cherokee lifestyle in the early 18th century, including craft demonstrations in pottery making, basket weaving, food grinding, weapons or tool making and language. Admission to Ancient Cherokee Days is $5 per student. Accompanying adults are free. Face painting, which represents Cherokee tattoos from the early 1700s, is offered at $1 per design. Admission also includes tours of the Cherokee National Museum, the Trail of Tears exhibit and Adams Corner. Picnic tables are available for guests bringing lunches. The CHC has ample parking for school buses and private vehicles. The Murrell Home, one-half mile south, has additional picnic and playground areas. Registration for Ancient Cherokee Days begins at 9:30 a.m. The event will occur rain or shine, with an established curriculum in place for inclement weather that allows students to continue to enjoy the stations. For more information, call Weavel at 918-456-6007 or email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/15/2014 04:04 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Four Cherokee Nation citizens were given the designations of Cherokee National Treasure during an Aug. 28 ceremony in the Sequoyah High School gym. “Our 2014 awardees all exemplify the values that we hold dear as Cherokee people and they advance our culture in their respective disciplines,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Each and every one of these honorees deserves our deepest respect and gratitude. Their positive influence propels us all, as Cherokee people, forward.” David Comingdeer was named Cherokee Nation Treasure for his stickball stick making. He has been crafting his handmade sticks for 22 years from hickory wood that he cuts and then shapes using heat to make the wood flexible. He said he takes great care to perpetuate the art in the ways of his ancestors. Comingdeer’s family has lived in both Adair and Cherokee counties since their arrival in Indian Territory. He resides in the community of Spade Mountain, where he cultivates a pine tree plantation. Comingdeer is of the Paint Clan and is a member of the Echota Ground at Park Hill where he is head chief. He and his children have an active ceremonial life and spend much of their time traveling to ceremonial stomp dances across eastern Oklahoma. A lifelong resident of the CN, Clesta J. Manley was born on her father’s allotment land on the banks of the Grand River. For 30 years, Manley has shared Cherokee culture and art with the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club where she encourages members to learn more about history and culture. She started drawing at age 9 and continues to paint in a variety of media. Manley has participated in exhibitions throughout the state, won numerous awards, as well as a grant for a month to paint in Italy provided by the University of Tulsa Art Department. She has participated in juried shows at Philbrook Art Museum, Gilcrease Art Museum, Walton Art Center and the Cherokee Homecoming Art Show. Eddie Morrison, a native of Tahlequah, is a contemporary sculptor who has worked in wood and stone for 38 years. He is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. Morrison often uses red cedar in his works for the variations in color provided by the wood. Another favored material is Kansas limestone that he collects himself. Much of this limestone contains fossils from a prehistoric sea that once covered much of North America. These fossils are often visible in the rough portions of Morrison’s stone sculptures. Morrison’s works are featured at the Department of Interior Building in Washington, D.C., on the Chisholm Trail monument at the Kansas-Oklahoma border, as well as in permanent collections throughout the country. Cherokee language specialist John Ross is a native of Greasy and a translation specialist for the tribe’s Education Services. Ross previously worked as a research analyst and grant writer for CN Community Services and served eight years as chief and four years as treasurer for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. Ross is bilingual and speaks Cherokee as a primary language. He serves as chairman of the Ethnobotany Publications board, which focuses on Cherokee cultural-environmental issues and is dedicated to the preservation of tribal environmental knowledge. Ross also serves on the Cherokee Elders Council. In 2013, Ross received the Perry Aunko Indigenous Language Preservation Award from the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
09/12/2014 12:42 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials announced a six-figure partnership with Gilcrease Museum on Sept. 11 to create a special Cherokee exhibition in 2017. The exhibition will display an estimated 100 items of Cherokee history from the museum’s collections. To help fund the exhibition, CN officials donated $100,000 to the museum during a ceremony. “We are celebrating a new milestone with the Cherokee Nation with an effort to provide more education about the emergence of the Cherokee Nation following removal – a very amazing story of unification that has led to growth that has led to a remarkably vibrant Cherokee Nation today,” University of Tulsa President Steadman Upham said. “We take seriously the stewardship charge of all of the records we keep.” The City of Tulsa owns the museum, but the university has operated it since 2008. The museum possesses 11 lineal feet of the John Ross Papers that chronicle major events during the former principal chief’s life, including the tribe’s struggle against forced removal to Indian Territory in 1838-39, internal violence with post-removal factionalism, the tribe’s unification, the Nation’s rebuilding in Indian Territory and the American Civil War that devastated it. Duane H. King, director of the museum’s Helmerich Center for American Research, said the dates that will be covered by the “Emergence of Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory” exhibition are 1828-66, which coincide with Ross’ tenure. Ross was principal chief for 38 years, longer than any other person in tribal history. “It’s commendable that the leadership of the Cherokee Nation...understand the importance of education and the importance of sharing the Cherokee story with the world,” King said. “Our partnership and collaboration with the CN will last many years.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the donation is a way he and the Tribal Council can fulfill part of their oaths of office to carry on “the culture, heritage, traditions and language” of the Cherokee people. “This is one small way we can help fulfill our obligation with good partners that we know will tell the story accurately – will tell the story that will allow people to come and learn a little more about who we are as a people, about who we are as a tribe, about where we came from and about where we’re going,” Baker said. “It’s absolutely our honor and privilege to work with Gilcrease and with TU to carry on a mission that is a passion to all concerned.” Most items for the exhibition will come from the Gilcrease collection, but museum officials also plan to showcase significant Cherokee items from other museums. Among the items slated for display are portraits of famous Cherokee leaders and other art and artifacts reflecting the emergence of the CN in Indian Territory. Museum officials will work with Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism in the exhibition’s development. Much of CNCT’s work during the past six years has been on the time period in Cherokee history that will be showcased in the exhibition. In November 2013, CN officials contributed a collection of more than 2,000 pages handwritten by Ross for preservation. The project complements an ongoing partnership between Cherokee language translators and Gilcrease Museum to translate Cherokee documents to English for the first time. “The story of the emergence of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory is the story of triumph over adversity. It’s the story of success in the face of tragedy, and it’s one of the most poignant accounts in the annals of recorded history,” King said. “It’s a story we want to share with the public, and we believe it will generate considerable interest locally, regionally and nationally.” Gilcrease Museum is one of the country’s leading facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. It houses a large collection of Native American art and artifacts as well as thousands of historical documents, maps and manuscripts. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.gilcrease.utulsa.edu" target="_blank">www.gilcrease.utulsa.edu</a> or call 918-596-2700.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
09/10/2014 08:35 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The annual Cherokee Holiday Art Show continues to grow both in entries and categories. The Cherokee Nation and its Commerce Department sponsored the ninth annual art show held Aug. 29-31 in the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center. The show had 112 artists who entered 178 pieces of paintings, jewelry, pottery, sculptures, photographs, textiles and baskets. The artists competed for $12,000 in prize money with $900 going to the Best in Show winner. Troy Jackson of Grandview won Best in Show for his clay sculpture “The Gift,” which he said symbolizes the industrial revolution and how it affected Native Americans. “I’ve been wanting to learn more about the industrial revolution and the effect it had on Native Americans. I’ve taken gears and cogs to represent the revolution, but we also have a more Native theme with nature, so I used the fish as a symbolism for nature,” he said. “When I put those two together I get this sense of irony because the industrial revolution went so fast that it caused a disturbance with our nature. The irony is now we use industry to maintain what was once self-sufficient. Nature was once self-sufficient. We just continually tear up and we continually repair.” The sculpture is 43 inches tall, 15 inches wide and is 5 inches in depth. Jackson said the top portion of his piece symbolizes his faith. “I think that we’ve been given a gift from God almighty. The industrial revolution was a gift because it created jobs for everybody and it made life easier and we were also given nature, so that (top portion of sculpture) symbolized God above,” he said. Cherokee Holiday Art Show Coordinator Marie Smith said this year jewelry got its own category after being included in the diverse arts category. “We saw that we were starting to get a lot of jewelry entries. We wanted to separate those out of the diverse category because the diverse category is hard to judge already,” she said. Youth entries were separated into three categories to “spread the prize money around” and to encourage youth to enter the show, Smith added. “We have a lot of new artists coming up and a lot of younger artists coming up,” she said. “We’ve really got some spectacular pieces and over the years, and what I’ve seen, is that some of these artists come out stronger and stronger each year.” Also, the Deputy Chief Award was added to the mix to go along with the Principal Chief and Speaker of the Council awards, which are chosen by Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Speaker of the Council Tina Glory Jordan, respectively. “We added the Deputy Chief’s Award, again, to spread the prize money,” Smith said. Judges for the competition were also allowed to choose their favorite youth and adult entries during the art show. Jolie Morgan of Tahlequah won a Judge’s Choice Award for her maroon and white acrylic yarn, finger-woven belt. She said the colors represent Sequoyah Schools, where she is in the eighth grade. Morgan said she learned how to finger weave from her mother, Candessa Tehee, and wants to continue finger weaving and learn how to do bead work and make baskets. Ten-year-old Tanner Williams of Broken Arrow has been entering the Cherokee Holiday Art Show for five years. This year he won the Principal Chief Award for a “Cherokee Shield” made from clay. Williams said it took him about four days to finish the shield. For its designs, Williams said he put “random symbols on it that looked really cool.” He said he wants to keep working with clay and also works with gourds that his grandmother, Cherokee artist Verna Bates, grows and uses for art. “When he first began entering the Holiday Art Show, he was simply excited to have his art on display. As he has become older, his interest in his Cherokee heritage has grown, which thrills me,” Bates said. “I try to share what I know about our culture and heritage so that both grandsons, Tanner and Tucker, will understand and continue to explore our history and Cherokee arts. I can’t wait to see what they do with their talents as they grow older.” Smith said she appreciated the volunteers from CN departments and community members helped with the show to make it a success again. Cherokee Holiday Art Show winners are: Traditional: Roger and Shawna Cain – “Old School: GWY Fishing Set” Contemporary Pottery: Troy Jackson – “Contemporary Marriage Vase” Paintings: John Owen – “Early Journalists” Drawings and Graphics: Bryan Douglas Parker – “Broken Promises” Sculpture: Bill Glass Jr. – “Birdman” Contemporary Basketry: Rodslen Brown-King – “Lace Moxie Purse” Textiles & Weaving: Dorothy Ice – “Loom Woven Diamond Weave Pattern” Diverse Arts: Leslie Gates – “Deer Clan Vessel” Photography: Elizabeth Hummingbird – “Waking Up to Mother Earth” Jewelry: Toneh Chuleewah – “Hollywood Bracelet” Youth 14-18: Angelica Cricket Bohanan – “River Cane Basket” Youth-Judges’ Choice Judge Mary Beth Nelson: Jolie Morgan – “Si-Quoya Adadlosdi” Judge Traci Rabbit: Sofia Bohanan – “Southern Plains Bag-Kiowa/Comanche style” Judge Tim Nevaquaya: Treyton Pruitt – “Dagsi Watching Over the Bloodroot” Adult-Judges’ Choice Judge Mary Beth Nelson: Beverly Fentress – “Near Extinction to Distinction...Tell The Story” Judge Traci Rabbit: Tony Tiger – “Transcendent Rapture of Being” Judge Tim Nevaquaya: Curtis Sewell – “Cherokee Stripes” Chief’s Choice Youth: Tanner Williams – “Cherokee Shield” Adult: Jeffrey Watt – “Deer Horn Eagle” Deputy Chief’s Choice Youth: Treyton Pruitt – “Dagsi in the Bloodroot” Adult: Bill Glass Jr. – “Birdman” Speaker of the Council Youth: Treyton Pruitt - “Dagsi Watching Over the Bloodroot” Adult: Matt Anderson – “Carved Gourd with Split Oak Pattern”
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/09/2014 12:37 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will host a free 8-week course starting on Sept. 16 on the Cherokee language at the Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs. Classes will be held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Tuesday. According to the Grove Daily Sun, Lawrence Panther, who also teaches Cherokee at Northeastern State University, will teach the classes. “Participants will be taught the Cherokee syllabary and phonetics, as well as how to read and write Cherokee words,” the Grove Daily Sun reports. The class is limited to 25 people. Registration is required. To register send a request to Lawrence Panther by email at <a href="mailto: pantherl@nsuok.edu">pantherl@nsuok.edu</a> or call 918-353-2980.