http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgTranslation specialist John Ross translates a document from English to Cherokee. Ross and five other translation specialists translate documents and create materials for the tribe’s immersion school. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Translation specialist John Ross translates a document from English to Cherokee. Ross and five other translation specialists translate documents and create materials for the tribe’s immersion school. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Translators: Translation specialist set on preserving Cherokee language

Cherokee Nation translation specialists are, from left, Dennis Sixkiller, Anna Sixkiller, David Pettit, Durbin Feeling, John Ross and Phyllis Edwards. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX John Ross One of many stop signs and street signs at the Tribal Complex are written in Cherokee and English and translated by the tribe’s translation department. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A sign written in Cherokee and English at the Cherokee Nation Tag Office in Tahlequah, Okla., informs people where they can leave their car tag information. DILLON TURMAN/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Posters inside the Tribal Complex highlight important plants and animals for Cherokee people. This poster for watercress also provides the Cherokee name for the plant in the Cherokee syllabary and English phonetics. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Signage throughout the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah uses Cherokee and English. This signage is for the Cherokee Nation Office of Veterans Affairs. DILLON TURMAN/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation translation specialists are, from left, Dennis Sixkiller, Anna Sixkiller, David Pettit, Durbin Feeling, John Ross and Phyllis Edwards. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
01/31/2012 08:05 AM

Editor's note: The Cherokee Phoenix is running a six-part series on the Cherokee Nation Translation Specialists. Cherokee Nation translation specialists are Dennis Sixkiller, Anna Sixkiller, David Pettit, Durbin Feeling, John Ross and Phyllis Edwards. The stories will run every other day.



TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee speaker and translator John Ross is focused and determined to do his part in preserving the Cherokee language.

Ross, 56, originally of the Greasy Community in Adair County, is one of six translation specialists in the Cherokee Nation’s translation department where documents, signs, books and other printed items are translated from English into Cherokee.

Ross said his main task is translating three books a month for Cherokee Immersion School students. “That’s our priority. Then we work with all the departments in the Cherokee Nation. We translate words and phrases, and we do about 30 translations a month.”

The department also translates three to four articles from English into Cherokee for the Cherokee Phoenix each month, and coordinates the Cherokee language proficiency test for employees wanting to be recognized for their language knowledge. He said about 100 employees have taken the proficiency test.

“It makes you feel good about our language. As a Cherokee speaker, I like to see more people learning the language and also come in here and talk to us. That’s what we are here for, to try to promote the language,” he said.

Ross said during a busy week 30 or more people, employees and community members will come to the translation department needing help with a word or reading a document written in Cherokee. The translators also get phone calls from people out of state wanting help with translating phrases, words and even prayers.

“There’s stories that they have that have been passed down, and they want it translated,” Ross said. “It makes you feel good when you help people like that.”
Translating for people and programs keeps him “on his toes” and his translation skills sharp.

“It sharpens your language and writing skills. It just helps you all around to be able to translate,” he said. “Like we say here, ‘not everybody that speaks the language can be a translator.’ It’s a gift, I believe. If they work at it, I think they become translators too, but it’s not easy.”

The translation staff is also part of the Cherokee Speakers Bureau – a group of about 50 Cherokee speakers from area communities that meet once a month in Tahlequah to discuss Cherokee words, translate English words into Cherokee and fellowship. The bureau is also part of a larger group consisting of Cherokee speakers from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Ross said the most rewarding experience he’s had is translating historic documents written in Cherokee. Some are located at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. And sometimes while translating historic documents, he finds Cherokee words that are no longer used. Ross said the translation department is beginning to use those “lost” words again, and a found word may be one less word the translation group and Cherokee Speakers Bureau has to create.

“We’re finding a lot of names or towns or communities. They (ancestors) used these words, and now they are all coming back,” he said.

Ross handles historic documents perhaps hundreds of years old while embracing the latest technology that helps him do his job. The translators use Apple iPhones and iPads and computers with the Cherokee syllabary. He said the staff uses iPads to send emails in the syllabary to other Cherokee language users.

“That’s pretty neat. This is going to be the future I believe,” he said.

Despite the efforts being put toward preserving the Cherokee language, the language’s survival still seems uncertain. Ross said his generation is the last generation that speaks the language in everyday conversations.

He said his generation learned Cherokee from their parents. Cherokee after his generation did not for various reasons, and most of the next generation of speakers will likely come from the Immersion School.

“We have over 100 children learning the Cherokee language. It’s so wonderful when we go visit them, and we do that a lot. To converse with our kids in our own language is a wonderful thing,” he said.

He said five years ago that was not possible because only his generation spoke the language. He said he believes more parents today are interested in their children learning the language.

“Our culture is better off if we speak the language,” he said. “If we continue our immersion school the way it is now, then I don’t think we have to worry about our language dying out. A lot of people say our language is dying out, but here’s an example of our kids showing us, if we teach them, they will learn.”

will-chavez@cherokee.org

918-207-3961


ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎻ.--- ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ John Ross ᎤᎦᏎᏍᏙ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏛᏅᎢᏍᏙ ᎢᏳᏛᏗ ᎤᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏗᏒᏍᏓ ᎨᏒ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.
Ross, ᎯᎦᏍᎪ ᏑᏓᎵ ᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ, ᎪᎢ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎤᏛᏒ ᏅᎿ Adair ᏍᎦᏚᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏌᏊ ᏗᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏗᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ, ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ, ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ ᏕᎦᎷᎬ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎪ ᏲᏁᎦ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏂᏓᏅᏁᎰᎢ.

Ross ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎠᏍᎪᎵᏴ ᎾᎿ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎲ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏦᎢ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏓᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎪ ᏏᏅᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᏅᏙᏗ. “ᎾᏍᎩ ᏭᏍᎪᎵᏴ. ᎠᎴᏗᏍᏊ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᏗᎦᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏚᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ. ᏙᏣᏁᎶᏗᏍᎪ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏦᏍᎪᎯ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏙᏣᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᏏᏅᏓ ᎨᏒᎢ.”

ᎯᎠ ᏦᎦᏙᏢ ᏙᏣᏁᎶᏗᏍᎪ ᏦᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏅᎩ ᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏧᏂᎴᏴᏙᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎴᎯᏌᏅ ᏣᏃᏎᎰᎢ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏂᏙᏨᏁᎰ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏏᏅᏓ ᎨᏒ, ᎠᎴ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏗᎬᏙᏗ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᎭᎯᏍᏗ ᎢᎦ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎲ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎪᏪᎶᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ. ᎤᏛᏅᏃ ᎠᏎ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏯᏂ ᎤᏂᎩᏓ ᎯᎠ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ.

“ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏓᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗ ᎨᏐ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏪᏂᎯᏍᏗ. ᏣᎳᎩ ᏥᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ, ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᎩᎪᏩᏛᏗ ᎤᏂᎪᏛ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᎷᎪ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎤᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎪ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏄᏰᎸᏓ ᎠᎭᏂ ᏦᏥᏯᎠ, ᎣᎩᏃᎮᏗ ᎣᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.

Ross ᏒᎾᏙᏓᏆᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏦᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᏳᎶᏒᏍᏓ, ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎪᏛᏋ ᎠᏂᎷᎪ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎪ ᏗᏍᏕᎸᏗ ᏗᎧᏂᎢᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏓᏂᏁᎰ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎪ. ᎠᎴᏗᏍᏊ ᏧᎾᏟᏃᎮᏗ ᏗᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏗᎬᏗ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏓᏙᎵᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᏊ.

“ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏢᏅ ᎾᏍᏊ ᏚᎾᏅᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᏙᎩᎾᎠ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏗᎬᏗ ᏗᎬᏩᏂᎪᎵᏰᏓ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Ross. “ᎣᏍᏓ ᎦᏓᏅᏓᏗᏍᎪ ᎩᎶ ᏱᏥᏍᏕᎸᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ.”
ᏕᎦᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎠᏆᏎᏍᏙ ᎠᎩᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏯᏆᏛᏁᏗᎢ.

“ᏓᏤᎶᎪ ᏥᏪᏂᏍᎬ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏉᏪᎶᏗᎢ. ᏄᏓᎴᏒᏮ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᏕᎦᏁᎶᏗᏍᎬ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᎾᏍᎩ ᏃᏥᏪᏍᎪ ᎠᎭᏂ, ᏝᏃ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏰᎬᎾᏁᎶᏗ.’ ᎠᏥᏁᎸ ᎨᏐ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎬᏩᏛᏗ ᏥᎨᏐ, ᎠᏉᎦᏳ. ᎢᏳᏃ ᏯᎾᎵᏏᎾᎲᏍᏗ, ᎠᏉᎯᏳ ᎾᏍᏊ ᏱᏓᎾᏁᎶᏗ ᎾᏍᏊ, ᎠᏎᏃ Ꮭ ᎠᎯᏓ ᏱᎩ.”

ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᎯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᎦᏘᏯ ᎠᏁᎳ-- ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏈᎦ ᎠᏎ ᎯᎦᏍᎪ ᏯᏂ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎾᎥ ᏗᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏂᏙᏓᏳᎾᏂᎩᏓ ᏌᏊ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏗ ᏏᏅᏓ ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎵᏆ ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ, ᏗᏁᎸᏙᏗ ᏲᏁᎦ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏗᎬᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏙᏣᏓᏩᏛᎯᏙᎰᎢ. ᎠᎴᏗᏍᏊ ᎯᎠ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᎦᏘᏯ ᎤᎾᏓᏈᎬ ᎠᏁᎳ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏔᎾ ᎤᎾᏓᏈᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎠᏁᎭ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ.

Ross ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏭᎪᏛ ᎠᎵᎮᎵᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᏁᎸᏙᏗ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏧᏃᏪᎳᏅ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ. ᎢᎦᏓᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏔᎳᏏ ᎾᎿ Gilcrease Museum. ᎢᏴᏓᎭ ᏱᏓᏁᎶᏔᏂ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᎢᎦᏓ ᏙᏥᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ Ꮭ ᏱᏙᎬᏔᏃ. Ross ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏒ ᎠᎾᎴᏂ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᏦᎩᏲᏎᎸ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᏙᏥᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏘᏯ ᏧᏃᏢᎯᏐᏗ.

“ᏙᏥᏩᏘᏍᎪ ᏧᎪᏓ ᏚᎾᏙᎥ, ᏕᎦᏚᎲ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᏍᎦᏚᎩ. ᎾᎿ ᏦᎩᎦᏴᎵᎨ ᏧᏅᏔᏅ ᏗᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏙᎦᎷᎦ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ

Ross ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᏕᎦᏂᏙᎰ ᏧᏪᏘ ᏗᎪᏪᎳᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏎ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎨᏐ ᎾᎿ ᎾᏝᎬ ᎤᎾᏄᎪᏨ ᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ. ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏁᎶᏗᏍᎩ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᏒᎦᏔ ᏧᎾᏟᏃᎮᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ ᏗᎪᏪᎳ.
ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎿ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏓᎾᏓᏅᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏙᏗ ᎪᏢᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎤᏠᏯ ᏧᏂᎭ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏍᎩ.

“ᏙᎯᏳ ᎣᏍᏓ. ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏫᏗᎦᏛᎢ ᎢᎬᏙᏗ ᎠᏉᎯᏳᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ.
ᎣᏣᏟᏂᎬᏁᎰ ᎣᎦᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᎤᏛᎯᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ,
ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎠᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᏴᏓᎭ Ꮟ Ꮭ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏱᏂᎬᏫᏍᏙ. Ross ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎾᎿ ᎯᎠ ᏣᏁᎲ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎬᏩᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎾᎿ ᏂᏓᏙᏓᏈᏒ ᎤᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.
ᎤᏛᏅᏃ ᎯᎠ ᏧᎾᏛᏒ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᏂᎦᏴᎵᎨᎢ. ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎣᏂ ᏧᎾᏛᏒ Ꮭ ᏳᎾᏕᎶᏆᎡ ᏳᏍᏗ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᏍᎬ Ꮭ ᏯᏅᏔ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎣᏂ ᏥᏛᎾᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏗᎾᏓᎴᎲᏍᎨᏍᏗ. “ᎤᎪᏓ ᎾᎿ ᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏯᏂ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᎠ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ. ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏐ ᏳᏙᏥᏩᏛᎯᏙᎵ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏙ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏃᏣᏛᏁᎰᎢ. ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏗᏟᏃᎮᏙᏗ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎢᎦ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎨᏐᎢ,” ᎤᏛᏅᎢ

ᎤᏛᏅ ᎯᏍᎩ ᎾᏕᏘᏯ ᏥᎨᏒ Ꮭ ᎡᎵ ᏱᎨᏎᎢ ᏅᏗᏍᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎢᏧᎳᎭ ᏧᎾᏛᏒ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᎭ ᏣᎳᎩ. ᎤᏛᏅ ᎤᏬᎯᏳᏐ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏓᎦᏴᎵᎨ ᎤᎵᏍᎨᏓ ᏄᏅᏃ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.

“ᎢᏲᎦᏛᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏓᏤᏟ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ,” ᎤᏛᏅ. “ᎢᏳᏃ ᏱᏂᎦᏯᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ. ᏙᎯᏳ Ꮭ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏗ ᏱᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏙᎯ ᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ. ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎵᏛᏗ ᎠᎾᏗᏍᎪ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏗᏂᏲᏟ ᎨᎩᏃᎯᏎᎰ ᎠᎾᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎪᎢ, ᎢᏳᏃ ᏱᏗᎨᏲᎾ, ᏯᎾᏕᎶᏆ.”


About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Culture

BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
08/16/2017 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For more than 40 years, Cherokee National Treasure and Cherokee/Muscogee (Creek) artist Knokovtee Scott has transformed local purple mussel shells into jewelry. To keep the art form alive, he now teaches it at the Cherokee Arts Center. “My goal is to establish a foundation of students that will get this type of jewelry to grow, and eventually it will be as well recognized as any jewelry from any region of the country,” he said. The Rose native comes from an artistic family that enriched his life in Cherokee and Muscogee arts at an early age, which made him strive for an art career. In 1972, while studying Southwest jewelry at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he said he realized that people’s perspective of Native American jewelry was turquoise and silver. “If you asked anybody there, ‘what was Indian jewelry?’ they’d say turquoise and silver. But what I was always wondering is how come people don’t have anything from the Southeast. Why isn’t our artwork as recognized as the Southwest?” Scott said. He began searching for an artistic direction that would lead to his Cherokee roots. He said it wasn’t until he visited a medicine man that he found the art form. “A cousin of mine said ‘we need to go talk to a medicine man so you can find a direction to follow for today.’ So we went, took medicine, went through the sweat lodge ceremony, and when we got back to his house and I asked him, ‘can you help me find a direction to go in my art career today?’ and he said, ‘if you look in the past you’ll find your direction today. Our people made jewelry out of shell.’ And from that moment on I started working with shell,” he said. Recognized for his shell art, Scott is described as the “Southeast shell revivalist” for resurrecting the art after 400 years. He said by teaching students he can ensure it’s not lost again. “I need to pass this on because this was one of the most advanced, highly elaborate, most decorated type of artwork that came out of the Southeast,” he said. “Most say it’s the finest design north of Mesoamerica that the Cherokees once did.” During his classes, students learn the art’s history, how and where to find the mussel shells as well as how to cut, carve and buff them into jewelry. CN citizen Candice Byrd said she fell into Scott’s class by an accident but was quickly intrigued. “Just listening to Knokovtee and learning about the Southeastern iconography, pre-Mississippian shell carving and learning to work with the organic materials, I fell in love with it,” she said. “I didn’t realize it would take hold so strongly, but you start to develop a real love for the piece and for the art.” Scott said the art comes from the Mississippian period, stretching from 800-1500 A.D. “I was always interested in a type of art that didn’t have any outside influences, so I was looking for an art form that came from the traditional people, and the Cherokees were a part of the culture,” he said. “All the archeological evidence shows the Cherokee people were part of the Mississippian period. They used shell in ceremonial usage, but they also made shell jewelry and shell utensils.” However, he doesn’t use just any mussel shell he finds to make the jewelry. He uses the purple mussel shell, also known as the Mankiller Pearl shell. The Tribal Council renamed the shell that can be found in local rivers, lakes and creeks the Mankiller Pearl shell in 1988 in honor of then-Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller. However, being in poor health, Scott said he isn’t sure how much longer he will offer classes. But his goal is to teach as many students as he can. “I want every one of my students to learn this art form well enough to teach another person to continue it on. That is my main goal.” For more information, visit www.cherokeeartcenter.com or call 918-453-5728.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
08/12/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With its 2017 annual homecoming T-shirt now for sale, the Cherokee Phoenix is calling for Cherokee artists to submit design concepts for the news organization’s 2018 T-shirt. In 2016, the Cherokee Phoenix staff introduced a T-shirt to differ from the tribe’s Cherokee National Holiday T-shirt. Phoenix staff members contracted with artist Buffalo Gouge for the shirt’s initial design. For this year’s homecoming shirt, Phoenix staff members selected Daniel HorseChief’s concept out of approximately 10 designs from artists. The Cherokee Phoenix then contracted with HorseChief to create the 2017 shirt. HorseChief said his concept comes from a four-panel painting that features Selu, the Corn Mother in Cherokee lore. The image shows the bust of Selu, who is looking down into a Southeastern art pattern. Behind her on the left side are seven ears of corn with water under it. Behind her on the opposite side is a phoenix with fire below it. Above the phoenix is the Cherokee seven-pointed star. Above the image, written in Cherokee, are the words “Cherokee Phoenix.” Below the image, in English, is “2017 CHEROKEE HOMECOMING.” The limited-quantity, black shirts are short-sleeved, ranging in sizes small to 3XL and sell for $20 plus tax. The shirts are available at the Cherokee Phoenix office in Room 231 of the Annex Building (Old Motel) on the Tribal Complex. For more information, call 918-453-5269. They are also available at the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop, als0 on the Tribal Complex, or online at <a href="http://cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">http://cherokeegiftshop.com</a>. Phoenix staff members will also have shirts available at the Cherokee Phoenix booths at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex and Capital Square during the Cherokee National Holiday in September. The Cherokee Phoenix is accepting concept ideas from artists who are Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band citizens until midnight on Jan. 1. Artist can email detailed concepts to <a href="mailto: travis-snell@cherokee.org">travis-snell@cherokee.org</a>. For artists contemplating submitting design ideas, please note that if your concept is chosen and you sign a contract, the Cherokee Phoenix will own the artwork because we consider it a commissioned piece. As for what Phoenix staff members look for in a concept, we ask that artists “think Cherokee National Holiday” and include a phoenix.
BY LINDSEY BARK
News Writer
08/09/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Keli Gonzales found joy in art as a child from watching her father and cousins draw and paint. As she grew, she developed her modernized art style using Cherokee culture. Gonzales recently opened an online store called Keladi, her Cherokee name, to sell prints, original paintings and buttons that are affordable and “accessible” after realizing people wanted to buy her designs. She said people who know Cherokee culture are intrigued by her drawings because they identify with it. “I think that a lot of people like to see the syllabary on stuff, and they like to own things that…(are) Cherokee-specific items.” Gonzales incorporates Cherokee syllabary, stories, animals and sports into her art. Her drawing “Anejodi” portrays stickball players vying for a stickball in the air. “In (the) stickball drawing, I was told that there’s a story about a guy; he cheated in stickball because he picked the ball up with his hands; and you’re not supposed to do that. And he threw the stickball really hard, and it got stuck in the sky and it became the moon. That’s like a reminder to not cheat. So in that drawing, it’s got little…moon bursts because of that story,” Gonzales said. Gonzales said she doesn’t like to be “overt” in her drawings and uses hints of Cherokee culture to leave it open for interpretation. “I like things that don’t look like real things, if that makes sense. It’s like an interpretation of a real thing instead of copying it. I like to interpret.” Her painting “Digvyaluyv” (Pieces) features body parts such as an arm and a leg that she said are a “comment on how fragmented our culture is” and that “hopefully one day we can unite all the pieces.” Gonzales also has an affinity for comic-style illustrations with characters speaking in Cherokee. She does not translate the syllabary because the viewer should translate the language and learn in the process. Her drawing “Nigohilv” (Constant) is a comic about a pair of skeletons caught in a conversation with the dialogue in the Cherokee language. To her, it represents being constant. To others, she has heard it meant the language being constant or someone not growing up being a second-language learner. Gonzales said her style is influenced by her love of cartoons such as The Simpsons, using graphite and ink as a medium. Many of her drawings include bold lines and bright colors. “I love colorful things because of The Simpsons or just cartoons in general. I love defined lines around things…(cartoons) influenced my style quite a bit, bright colors and bold lines,” she said. Gonzales also draws inspiration from Cherokee artists such as Dan HorseChief, Roy Boney Jr. and Joseph Erb because their art features more “modern spins.” “In my head I always thought of Native art as being something very specific…like dreamcatchers,” she said. “I always promised myself I would never do a Trail of Tears painting because we’re doing more now. That’s not what I want to focus on is this horrible thing that happened, and it did happen, but we made it through. We went across and finished. We’re stronger because of it. I like to show that we’re innovative and that we’re doing more and we’re doing better.” Gonzales earned a fine arts degree from Northeastern State University and hopes to expand her art by entering more shows, attending art markets and learning more about screen-printing to start selling her designs on T-shirts.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/08/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Language Program is teaming up with the Cherokee Phoenix to offer readers a look at some of the first stories printed in the Cherokee language when the newspaper began publishing in 1828. “A lot of people, when they talk about the Cherokee Phoenix they say that it was printed in English and Cherokee, but a lot of people don’t realize that it wasn’t a straight translation,” Roy Boney, Language Program manager, said. “So what was in English wasn’t in Cherokee. It was different content for different readers. So most of that stuff hasn’t ever been translated, or if it has, it’s been a real long time since anyone has ever actually read what it was.” The idea stemmed from Translator David Crawler reading some of the paper’s old articles. “At times when we’re not doing so much translations, I read them and thought, ‘these are real interesting,’” he said. “Well, some of the stories in there I thought was kind of funny, and then some of them were kind of serious talk. And I thought, ‘there’s nobody living today that’s actually read this piece,’ and I thought it would be good to maybe put that back into the Phoenix today so people would know what was going on back then.” Brandon Scott, Cherokee Phoenix executive editor, said when he was approached about the project he “didn’t hesitate” to say yes. “I really think it’s important to reflect on our history, and look at things through the eyes of our ancestors,” he said. “To some these may be old forgotten tidbits of information that carry no real historical value, but to others these are a glimpse of days gone by, things that would otherwise be forgotten. I, for one, think those little things can be just as important as the big things.” Boney said Crawler is the translator for the project, and by doing this it brings back history “that was kind of lost along the way.” “So we have all the Cherokee syllabary from the original Cherokee Phoenix. We have a copy of it. So David’s been going through it and finding little bits and pieces of things that are interesting, and he’s going to translate some of it and we’ll have it in the Phoenix,” he said. Boney said the project is “still in the works,” but the intent is for it to run in the Cherokee Phoenix’s monthly publication. “So there will be bits and pieces in each issue,” he said. “It will have an image of the original text with the translation in it and kind of talking about what issue it came from and all those kind of things.” Boney said some of the pieces are longer format stories while others are short. “I remember one was like a notice of a man looking for his wife or something. So you get a little slice of life back then with what was going on,” he said. Boney said Crawler typically translates stories for the paper, so in a way the work the translators are doing now is a “continuation” of how it was done before. “I just like the idea of the Cherokee Phoenix is still being published today in Cherokee and in English, and David’s one of the translators that does the stories for the paper, so it’s a continuation to kind of what happened before,” he said. “Even though now they’re translating stories straight from English into Cherokee. The difference here is these other articles in the original run of the Phoenix were written in Cherokee. They were specifically Cherokee stories, so seeing that connection, the differences and the similarities there are pretty interesting.”
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
08/04/2017 08:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center hosted its first on-site print action and gallery tour on July 29, using artists who have work in the traveling “Return from Exile” Native American contemporary art exhibit, which opened May 13 at the CHC and ends Aug. 11. “A print action is an event that you can attend where artists are screen-printing live,” CHC Curator Callie Chunestudy. “So you can bring items such as shirts or tote bags and they’ll print on those for you or we’ll be giving out paper prints of the images they’ve designed for us today.” Participating artists were Bobby C. Martin (Muscogee Creek), Tony Tiger (Sac and Fox/Seminole), Margaret Roach Wheeler (Chickasaw/Choctaw), as well as Cherokee artists Toneh Chuleewah, Demos Glass and Roy Boney. “It’s a chance for patrons to come out and meet the artists of the exhibit whose works they’ve seen over the summer. We’re also giving out free prints so it’s an opportunity for free art and to learn more about contemporary Native American art,” Chunestudy added. Boney said he was proud to be a part of the traveling exhibit. “The ‘Return from Exile’ show has traveled across the country and features contemporary art of Southeastern tribal artists.” As for the print action, Boney said it gives those in attendance a new perspective. “I think when people see and think of Native American art, it’s usually very static. It’s something hanging on a wall or behind a case and that kind of thing. So for this show having people come out and actually see artists make art before their eyes is a really good experience.” The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on upcoming events and attractions, call 918-456-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
08/02/2017 09:00 AM
SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. – From a young age in Muskogee, Oklahoma, Cherokee Nation citizen Tana Washington always had a passion for art. “I’ve been interested in art all my life. My dad was really good friends with Cherokee artists, so I remember being around that art all the time,” she said. “I also took art classes in school and entered art shows when I was kid, but I really just did it for fun.” When Washington fell on hard times with her son’s death and an injury to her back that prevented her from working, art became her refuge. “I lost my son in 2000, so I started drawing then for therapy. I probably didn’t take it seriously until four years ago though. I hurt my back, and I wasn’t able to work anymore, so I had the time to sit down and start creating,” she said. With that free time, Washington wanted to stay productive. Her sister challenged her to create a piece of art every day as part of what she called “25 days of Christmas.” “It pushed my creativity because I wasn’t doing the same thing every night,” she said. “I was doing paint, ink, pencil and charcoal drawings. Then I started to add small scissor cuts, and then I just started combining them into a style. I didn’t mean to create a style, but I did.” After the month-long session, Washington found her style was unlike any Cherokee artist. Her style is known as “scissor cuts,” most commonly found in Japanese culture, but Washington added a traditional Cherokee twist to the medium. “I’m probably the only Cherokee artist making scissor cuts. There are only 250 scissor-cut artists in the U.S., but what makes me different is I make it my own with a traditional twist. I make it Cherokee,” she said. “It’s pretty nerve racking though. You have to do a lot of thinking and design because it all has to connect. One wrong cut and it’s over.” Although she most identifies herself with scissor-cut artwork, she loves different art techniques and media. Currently, her favorite is the smoke technique, which she enjoyed while creating the “25 days of Christmas” pieces. “The smoke technique is laying down carbon from fuel on paper. So I played around with that for a while and really liked the contrast of light and dark and shadows it creates,” she said. “But I found I really like combining the smoke and paint with the scissor cuts because of the effects it gives. Someone told me ‘you know in art school they teach you to not combine mediums,’ but this really works, so I think it’s very well received.” To some, Washington’s style cannot be identified to one medium. Instead it’s an array of styles incorporated into one piece. “One of the guys who bought some of my first pieces of art said, ‘what I really like about your art is you can see 10 different pieces and think it’s 10 different artists,’ and that made me feel good. I didn’t think I had a style, but that is my style,” she said. Although she’s hit rough patches in her life, she said she owes getting past them to art. “I’ve had a lot of hard times. I lost a job, lost a loved one, sometimes bad things happen, but art is really what kept me going,” she said. “I think it’s a perfect example of how life teaches you that you can turn a negative situation into a positive one. It just goes to show that with a little encouragement and passion for something you love, people can do anything.” Washington said she would have a vendor’s booth during the Cherokee National Holiday at the Cherokee Heritage Center. To reach Washington, call 479-220-9256 or email <a href="mailto: scissorcutart@hotmail.com">scissorcutart@hotmail.com</a>. She also recently donated two pieces to the Cherokee Phoenix for its third-quarter giveaway. The drawing is set for Oct. 2. The works are a clay mask with Cherokee Phoenix-inspired detail and a scissor-cut piece inspired by the pipeline fight at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Giveaway entries are acquired by donating to the Phoenix’s elder/veteran subscription fund or buying a print subscription or Phoenix merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent. For more information regarding the giveaway, call Samantha Cochran at 918-207-3825 or Justin Smith at 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto: Samantha-cochran@cherokee.org">Samantha-cochran@cherokee.org </a> or <a href="mailto: Justin-smith@cherokee.org">Justin-smith@cherokee.org</a>.