Cherokee Nation citizen Frances Donelson sews a Choctaw tear dress in her home near Fort Gibson, Okla. In 1993 she started making tear dresses and ribbon shirts when her sister was a vendor at the Cherokee National Holiday. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Donelson keeping traditional Cherokee fashion alive

Cherokee Nation citizen Frances Donelson holds an adult Cherokee tear dresses she made. Since 2002, she has won 12 awards for her sewing at events for her tear dresses and ribbon shirts. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX  Cherokee Nation citizen Frances Donelson holds an adult Cherokee tear dresses she made. Since 2002, she has won 12 awards for her sewing at events for her tear dresses and ribbon shirts. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Frances Donelson holds an adult Cherokee tear dresses she made. Since 2002, she has won 12 awards for her sewing at events for her tear dresses and ribbon shirts. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
01/13/2012 08:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee people love their traditional games, foods, stories and clothes. In 1993, Cherokee Nation citizen Frances Donelson decided to use her sewing skills to keep the tradition of tear dresses and ribbon shirts alive.

“It’s just something that I’ve done for years,” she said.

The tear dress is the traditional dress for Cherokee women. The ribbon shirt, which has ribbons on the front and back, is popular for Cherokee men.

According to CN website, the dress is believed to be the style of dress from the Trail of Tears era, when most women had no access to scissors because of the removal and confiscation of belongings. So the material was torn from larger pieces. The traditional dress has diamonds around the skirt and sleeves. Today, some dresses have been modified to utilize triangles, circles and even the seven-pointed star of the Cherokee.

The Trail of Tears-era dress had quarter length sleeves and a mid-calf skirt length. Women’s dresses had button-down tops, while the buttons were usually fastened in the back for infants. Today, the dress has been modified to be floor length with full-length sleeves.

Donelson said she began sewing when she was young. But it wasn’t until 1993, when her sister was a Cherokee National Holiday vendor, that Donelson made tear dresses and ribbon shirts.

“She was doing jewelry and she said ‘you can make a couple of skirts and we’ll see about selling them,’” Donelson said. “So it just kind of evolved from there. I started working on the tear dresses. I’ve found by observation, looking at some, and I finally decided that I could make one of those and the first time I did I had only five. After I sold all five of them, I started making more.”

She quickly learned that it’s better to add elastic to the waist and wristbands to fit more people.

“I started making them a little bit more flexible because a lot of it is custom made and when you don’t know who you are going to make it for you have to make it a little bit larger or try different ways of making it flexible instead of having a fitted waist,” she said.

Donelson also makes Muscogee Creek and Choctaw tear dresses and ribbon shirts.

“I figured out I can do a Cherokee tear dress; it takes me approximately 20 hours,” she said. “The Choctaw dress involves a lot of handwork and I figured out that I sit for 80 hours doing one dress.”

Donelson has made dresses for people living in California, Texas, Hawaii, Washington and New Jersey. She has even made one for someone in Germany.

“People say ‘do you have a website?’ No I don’t have a website and I’m not on Facebook, I don’t do any of that,” she said. “All the orders I get are just word-of-mouth.”

She even made Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s ribbon shirt that he wore at his Nov. 6 inauguration as well as several dresses for his family.

“For the last three years, Frances has made a tear dress for our granddaughter. She’s made her one for every (Cherokee National) holiday,” said first lady Sherry Baker. “She just does a beautiful job and she always makes it to fit and she just goes out of her way to take care of it.”

Donelson charges $60 for an adult ribbon shirt, $45 if material is provided; $75 for a Cherokee tear dress for ages 3 to 7, $50 if material is provided; $100 for a Cherokee tear dress for ages 8 to 12, $75 if material is provided; and $150 for an adult Cherokee tear dress, $100 if material is provided.

She said she doesn’t rely on her hobby for a living and tries to keep her costs low.

“…it’s something that I enjoy doing, so I try to keep it down as much as possible, but you always feel like you need something for the cost of the material and the amount of time you put into it,” she said. “Someone asked me once if I wasn’t doing this then what would I be doing. I’d probably be sitting and just watching TV and not doing much of anything. It keeps me busy and I enjoy doing it and as long as people seem to like the dresses I’ll continue making them.”

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org
918-453-5000, ext. 6139

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
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="http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org" target="_blank">www.CherokeeHeritage.org</a>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
09/26/2016 08:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Creativity flows from Cherokee Nation citizen Nathalie Standingcloud’s mind and fingertips as she creates artworks, whether they are temporary such as chalk or permanent such as tattoos. Through her creations she illustrates her calling in art. Standingcloud said she started drawing as soon as she could hold a pencil. “Being an artist as a young child, I have a lot of artists in my family so it’s kind of in my blood,” she said. “I always grew up drawing dragons and stuff, and people would tell me how good my drawings were and that I should get involved with it and really go with it. I just thought it was something good I could do. I never thought that I could create a career until I got older and realized that I don’t want to sit in an office. I’d rather just be outside drawing.” Growing up she never took art classes, she said, and didn’t until attending Northeastern State University. “I really haven’t become super involved in my art 24/7 everyday until maybe about two years ago when I started college because I took art classes there and really found out what my potential was,” she said. She said at NSU she won the 43rd annual Symposium on the American Indian poster contest in 2015. “They featured my pregnant woman on the poster, and I got to see it not only on the poster but in the newspaper, around town and on a billboard. So that was the first time I actually got to see my illustrations up and out there for the world to see,” she said. “To see that up there on the billboard, my artwork, it’s way different from seeing it in my notebook that’s for sure. It just made me feel, I don’t know, useful. Made me feel like I was making the world pay attention a little bit more, look at things and be inspired.” Since early summer she’s been involved with chalk art after winning a chalk art competition in Wagoner. “A family wanted me to go out and draw a portrait of their son who recently passed and we won first place. The family was happy. I was happy,” she said. “I never worked with chalk before then so there’s something about that competition that really inspired me to work with that medium a lot more.” She said some of her latest chalk art consist of traditional Cherokee pieces. “My first piece is a double-headed woodpecker Cherokee original, traditional design that I did,” she said. “The other one, the big circle with the two dragons, Uktena, that’s another original Cherokee design.” She’s also drawn Pokémon around Tahlequah, which she created after the hype the mobile game Pokémon Go made. “Pokémon’s a big thing now, so I like to draw Pokémon,” she said. “For some of the kids who don’t have a phone it’s kind of not fun to go outside and not see Pokémon, so when little kids walk by and they see Pikachu on the wall or Squirtle under the bridge it’s a little magical.” Standingcloud said because her chalk artwork isn’t permanent it’s important to see it before it’s gone. “My chalk work does take quite a bit of time to finish, but I think the fact that my chalk work is washable kind of makes it a little more special because it isn’t permanent. You only have a couple of days before the rain’s going to wash it away,” she said. Standingcloud said along with painting, sketching and tattooing she likes trying new mediums. “Being an artist, I just love to explore new mediums and hopefully chalk won’t be my last medium to explore,” she said. “I plan on becoming a full-time professional tattoo artist, so ink is another medium that I’m interested in. Just anything where I can get my creative juices flowing.” Standingcloud said she enjoys being an artist and hopes to continue creating and getting commission work. “I really enjoy this, and I hope that I get more commissions so my purpose of being an artist is fulfilled, and I just keep growing and learning and keeping people happy,” she said. To view her art or to commission a piece, visit her Facebook page, Instagram at littlemisscherokee or email <a href="mailto: nathaliestandingcloud@gmail.com">nathaliestandingcloud@gmail.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/23/2016 10:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – Enjoy a day of traditional Cherokee art, music and more at the Eastern Trails Museum on Sept. 24. Cherokee Day, featuring live music and cultural demonstrations from Cherokee National Treasures, runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The special event celebrates the opening of a new exhibit at the museum that pays tribute to Cherokee influence throughout Craig County. “This represents a great opportunity to share the history and heritage of the Cherokee Nation,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Eastern Trails Museum is a good partner with the tribe as we continue our ongoing educational efforts. Our Cherokee artisans and historians ensure our unique traditions remain alive and relevant for future generations.” Cherokee Day is a family-friendly event and is free to attend. Cultural demonstrations include basketry, loom weaving, buffalo grass dolls, sculptures, ceramics and traditional hunting bows. The Eastern Trails Museum is located at 215 W. Illinois Ave. For more information about the museum, visit www.EasternTrailsMuseum.com. For more information about Cherokee culture and Cherokee Nation historical attractions, visit www.VisitCherokeeNation.com.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/16/2016 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Art Market is set to return to Oct. 8-9 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The 11th annual event has grown into one of the finest Native American art markets in the country, featuring more than 150 elite Native American artists. More than 50 tribes are represented at the event that features artwork available for purchase. Pieces include beadwork, pottery, painting, basketry, sculptures and textiles. As part of the two-day event, there will be cultural demonstrations open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Cultural demonstrations include jewelry, stamp work technique, katsina doll making, pottery, painting, basket weaving and music. An opening reception will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 7 in The Sky Room to welcome artists and guests. The artists will compete for $75,000 in overall prize money awarded across 25 categories. The public is welcome to attend the awards reception for $25 per person. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door. Best of Show for the 10th annual Cherokee Art Market was awarded to Blackfeet Nation citizen Jackie Larson Bread and Northern Arapaho citizen Ken Williams for the beadwork entry “Fit for An Arapaho/Blackfeet Dandy.” The Cherokee Art Market will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Sequoyah Convention Center at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Admission is $5 per person. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeartmarket.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeeartmarket.com</a>. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is located off Interstate 44 at exit 240. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or call 1-800-760-6700.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
09/14/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Sept. 3, the annual Cherokee National Holiday’s Jason Christie Fishing Day attracted kids of all ages to the stocked, man-made pond east of the Cherokee Nation Complex for the “catch & release derby.” Tom Elkins, CN Environmental Programs administrator and event coordinator, said it seems as though the event gets bigger and better each year. “It amazed me, but we gave away all 600 poles, so there were over 600 kids attending,” he said. At one time, officials said the children were shoulder-to-shoulder around the pond. “I don’t know if it was the biggest (attendance) because we purposefully don’t track that, but I saw a young boy with a 3-pound channel cat(fish) in his hands,” Christie, a CN citizen and professional angler, said. He added that the event doubled the amount of fishing gear given out from the 2015 event. “The main goal to this is to introduce kids to fishing,” he said. According to his online biography, Christie has competed in local and regional tournaments. He started his tournament career fishing with various partners, including his uncles and his dad and won team tournaments. He also fished individually in pro-am events that proved to be successful and helped build his confidence as a professional angler. His big break came 2007 when he won a Stren Series event on Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri. In the past five years, he has eight wins on a national level.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
09/12/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Nearly 100 people including shooters and their families attended the traditional cornstalk shoot during Cherokee National Holiday over the Labor Day weekend. Cornstalk shoot coordinator Richard Fields said he felt the event went great in all divisions and was happy with the turnout. “Cornstalk shoot went good, it went very good. We ran around late both days, but it was worth it. Good turnout for all divisions - kids, adults, traditional, recurve and primitive. It turned out good,” Fields said. On Sept. 3, he said there were about 40 shooters and around 20 the next day, not including those who shot during the Traditional Games on Sept. 4, which comprised of people who qualified to shoot from several community events leading up to the Cherokee National Holiday. This year was also the first time the event has given prizes for women’s traditional cornstalk shooting. “It worked out good. I’d like to see more of everybody – kids, men and women. That’s why we put the prizes in for the women. So we could start their own division. This is our first time we tried it and it looked like it was a success,” Fields said. Winning the women’s division was Gina Foreman. Andra Freeman took second place, while her sister Pogie Freeman took third. And in the men’s division, Ed Deerinwater took third place, George Lowe took second place and Chris Foreman won first place. Skiatook resident and Cherokee Nation citizen Mary Aboud said she enjoyed the traditional games and was glad to see so many people take part. “The cornstalk shoot and getting to see women and kids involved in it and into traditional games, it’s just been really cool to see,” she said. “I’d like to see more women come out and get involved into the games, into the cornstalk shoot, maybe even hatchet throwing. It looks like a lot of fun.” Fields said next year he hopes to see more prizes for the winners. “I really liked it though. Plus we found a new home. The guy who runs this (Joe Thornton Archery Range), Brian Jackson, said we (Cornstalk Society) got a new home so this is our home now,” he said. The Cornstalk Society shoots every third Saturday, and Fields said everyone is welcome to attend.