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 TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
06/25/2017 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 TESINA JACKSON
Former Reporter,
WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez &
JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
06/22/2017 12:00 PM
<strong>This is an archive story that the Cherokee Phoenix is publishing on the anniversary of the day that three prominent Cherokees were killed.</strong> DUTCH MILLS, Ark. – On the morning of June 22, 1839, three small bands of Cherokees carried out “blood law” upon Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot – three prominent Cherokees who signed a treaty in 1835 calling for the tribe’s removal to Indian Territory. Tribal Councilor Jack Baker said he believes “blood law” was the basis for the men’s assassinations. “Although they did not follow all of the procedures, I do believe that was the basis for the executions,” Baker said. “I believe the proper procedure should have been followed. They should have been brought to trial and that was not done.” The Cherokee General Council put the law, which had existed for years, into writing on Oct. 24, 1829. According to Thurman Wilkins’ “Cherokee Tragedy,” the law stated “if any citizen or citizens of this Nation should treat and dispose of any lands belonging to this Nation without special permission from the National authorities, he or they shall suffer death; Therefore…any person or persons who shall, contrary to the will and consent of the legislative council of this Nation…enter into a treaty with any commissioner or commissioners of the United States, or any officers instructed for that purpose, and agree to sell or dispose of any part or portion of the National lands defined in this Constitution of this Nation, he or they so offending, upon conviction before any of the circuit judges aforesaid are authorized to call a court for the trial of any such person or persons so transgressing. Be it Further Resolved; that any person or persons, who shall violate the provisions of this act, and shall refuse, by resistance, to appear at the place designated for trial, or abscond, are hereby declared to be outlaws; and any person or persons, citizens of this Nation, may kill him or them so offending, in any manner most convenient…and shall not be held accountable for the same.” It is thought that John Ross Party members carried out this law in the killings of the Ridges and Boudinot. <strong>Major Ridge</strong> He was born in the Cherokee town of Great Hiwassee, later a part of Tennessee. He was initiated as a warrior early and known by several names including Nunnehidihi, meaning “He Who Slays The Enemy In His Path,” and Ganundalegi, which meant “The Man Who Walks On The Mountain Top” or “The Ridge.” He received the name Major while fighting with U.S. Gen. Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the Creek War in 1814. He used Major as his first name the rest of his life. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, in the1820s gold sparked a demand to get rid of Cherokee titles to lands within Georgia. “While the federal government tried to create inducements to convince the Southeastern Indians to leave their homes, the discovery of gold in Georgia led to more aggressive demands for immediate removal,” the OHS website states. While Congress debated the issues with removal, several Cherokees negotiated a removal agreement with the United States, according to the OHS. “Major Ridge, a Cherokee planter and soldier, his son John Ridge, and his nephew Elias Boudinot conducted these negotiations with the United States despite the expressed wishes of the majority of their nation. Most Cherokees, including Principal Chief John Ross, protested and tried to stop Ridge and his so-called Treaty Party,” the OHS site states. “On May 28, 1830, while Ridge and his supporters negotiated terms of removal with the United States, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act.” This law provided $500,000 to establish districts west of the Mississippi River, to trade eastern tribal lands for those districts, to compensate the tribes for the cost of their removal and the improvements on their homesteads, and to pay one year’s worth subsistence to those who went west, the website states. Armed with this authority, Andrew Jackson, who was now president, authorized agents to negotiate and enforce treaties. Major and 56 other Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota on Dec. 29, 1835. Major, who could not write, made his mark on the treaty. That ultimately led to his death. According to “Cherokee Tragedy,” one of three bands of Cherokees sought to kill Major on the same morning as John Ridge and Elias Boudinot. “Having learned that he had left the previous day for Van Buren (Arkansas), where one of his slaves lay ill, they had followed him down the Line Road. They discovered where he had spent the night, beneath the roof of Ambrose Harnage, at Cincinnati, Arkansas, and they rode ahead to form an ambush,” the book states. Five men hid in the brush of trees where the road crossed White Rock Creek, now Little Branch, near Dutchtown, now known as Dutch Mills. “At ten o’clock, Major Ridge came riding down the highway with a colored boy in attendance. Several rifles cracked. The Ridge slumped in his saddle, his head and body pierced by five bullets,” according to the book. Those thought to have fired upon him were James Foreman, Anderson Springston, Bird Doublehead, Isaac Springton, James Hair and Jefferson Hair. Major’s body was recovered by nearby settlers and buried in a cemetery in what is now Piney, Okla. He was later moved and buried near his home on Honey Creek in northern Delaware County. <strong>John Ridge</strong> John was born in Georgia to Major and Susannah Wickett Ridge in 1802. Growing up, John attended school at the Springplace Mission in Georgia and then Brainerd Mission in Tennessee. In 1819, he went to the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Conn., which existed until 1827. While attending the Foreign Mission School, he met his wife, the daughter of the school’s steward, Sarah Bird Northrup. The couple married in 1824. The biracial union caused uproar from the town of Cornwall resulting in John and his wife leaving. According to Robert J. Conley’s “A Cherokee Encyclopedia” later that year, John went with his father and Chief Ross to Washington, D.C. to protest the possible removal of Cherokees from all lands east of the Mississippi River. In 1830, President Jackson pushed his removal bill through Congress and it passed into law. In 1832, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rev. Samuel Worcester v. Georgia that Georgia’s laws over Cherokee territory were illegal and unconstitutional. It ruled that the Cherokee Nation had sovereign status, however Jackson refused to enforce the ruling in favor of the Cherokees, which caused John to change his position. Feeling that the Cherokees had no other course of action, he began to speak in favor of negotiating a removal treaty with the United States and on Dec. 29, 1835, along with others known as the Ridge Party or Treaty Party, he signed the Treaty of New Echota. Those who signed the treaty were Cherokee Nation citizens but were not elected officials. After signing, he moved with his family to present-day Oklahoma in 1837. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty and although Chief Ross and others protested it, it led to the removal in 1838-39 known as the Trail of Tears. The U.S. Army began forcing Cherokees and their slaves (for those who had them) out of their homes. On Aug. 23, 1838, the first removal detachment of Cherokees left, and on Dec. 5, 1838, the 13th detachment left. It arrived in Indian Territory on March 18, 1839. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died along the trail. According to the treaty, Cherokees who wished to remain in the East could do so but would be required to become U.S. citizens by giving up their tribal status, a provision that was ignored during the removal. Because the treaty surrendered all Cherokee land, Ross supporters, the Ross or National Party, regarded the Treaty Party as traitors. On June 22, 1839, John, his father Major and Boudinot were assassinated for having signed the treaty. According to “Cherokee Tragedy,” 25 men reached John’s house in the morning and, while he was still in bed, fired a gun at John’s head. The gun failed to fire. He was then dragged outside and stabbed 26 times in the torso and neck. While still alive, he was then stomped on and kicked, all in front of his wife, mother and son, John Rollin Ridge. John was buried about 150 yards to 500 yards from his home in Polson Cemetery, which is located southeast of Grove, Okla. near the Oklahoma/Missouri state line in Delaware County. <strong>Elias Boudinot</strong> The sentiments among the Cherokee people in June 1839 in Indian Territory could be said were of misery, mistrust and resentment. The last detachment of Cherokees forcibly removed from the East had arrived three months before and they were attempting to rebuild their lives. However, Chief Ross wished to reunite the tribe’s three factions, which lived together in what is now northeastern Oklahoma. He called a meeting at an Illinois River camp ground located a few miles southeast of where Tahlequah now sits, and tried to get the Old Settlers, Cherokees who had settled the territory in the early 1800s, and members of the Treaty Party, Cherokees who had signed away Cherokee lands in the East, to reunite with his party or faction. Boudinot, the Cherokee Phoenix’s first editor, his uncle Major Ridge and Major’s son, John, were members of the Treaty Party. The two smaller factions declined any union with Ross, and the meeting broke up on June 21. Based on an 1890 statement by Allen Ross, John Ross’ son, men who had signed the 1835 Treaty and opposed John Ross as chief caused the anti-union dissention. “After several days of endeavor to get together and having failed, some of the leaders of the emigrants called a secret meeting without the knowledge or consent of my father John Ross at what is now known as Double Springs about four miles northwest of Tahlequah for the purpose of making plans to effect an act of union,” Allen’s statement reads. The discussion turned to the blood law passed by the Cherokee National Council that stated that any Cherokee who agreed or signed an agreement to sell Cherokee lands should forfeit their lives. “Believing that the same men who had made the Treaty of 1835 were responsible for the failure of the Cherokee people to get together, this meeting decided that these three men (Boudinot and the two Ridges) should be executed as provided by the law,” Allen wrote. “The meeting further decided that this meeting must be kept from their chief because he would prevent it as he had once before at Red Clay before their removal.” A committee was appointed to arrange details. Numbers were placed in a hat for each person present. Twelve numbers had an X mark after them, which indicated the executioners. Allen wrote he was not allowed to draw and was tasked to go his father’s home the evening before the executions and to stay with him and if possible keep him from finding out what was being done. According to a letter written on June 26 by Boudinot’s friend and confidant, Rev. Samuel Worcester, Boudinot was living with Worcester at Park Hill near Tahlequah and was building a home about a quarter mile away. Worcester was at the construction site the morning Boudinot was killed. “There he was, last Saturday morning, when some men came up, inquiring for medicine. He set out with them to come and get it and had walked but a few rods when he was heard to shriek, and his hired men, at and near his house ran to his help, but before they could reach the spot, the deed was done,” Worcester wrote. “They seemed to have stabbed Mr. Boudinot in the back with a knife, and then finished their dreadful work with a hatchet, inflicting seven strokes, two or three of which sunk deep into his head. To me he was a dear friend, a most intimate companion, and a most valued helper.” An act of union was formed the next month and the newly formed council pardoned all parties connected with the assassinations of the Ridges and Boudinot. Boudinot is buried in the Worcester Cemetery in Park Hill, about a mile from where the Cherokee Phoenix is published. The three assassinations are thought to have helped form the basis of the July 12, 1839, act of union that brought together the Old Settlers and the Ross and Treaty parties. Baker said Emmet Starr’s “History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folklore” states that the Eastern and Western Cherokees came together to form one body politic. This, Baker said, led to the CN constitution two months later.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/16/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —Applications for the 2017-18 Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition, as well as for Junior Miss Cherokee Leadership and Little Cherokee Ambassador competitions, are available at www.cherokee.org. To download the applications, visit the website and click on the Cherokee Ambassadors link in the Education section of the Services tab. Applications are also available at the Cherokee First desk inside the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The deadline for all applications is July 12. The Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition will be Aug. 26, with the Junior Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition on Aug. 19 and Little Cherokee Ambassador Competition on Aug. 12. “The competitions for Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee and Little Cherokee Ambassadors provide an opportunity for contestants to share their knowledge of Cherokee history, culture and language,” Lisa Trice-Turtle, Miss Cherokee sponsor and 1986-87 Miss Cherokee, said. “As an ambassador and messenger of the Cherokee people, the representative is a role model and is expected to exemplify the best qualities of Cherokee youth.” Miss Cherokee contestants must be ages 17- 22 as of Aug. 26. Candidates cannot have previously served as Miss Cherokee and must be Cherokee Nation citizens living in the tribal jurisdiction. In the past year, Miss Cherokee has attended the White House, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Oklahoma Capitol, CN events, community meetings and schools. To run for Junior Miss Cherokee, contestants must be ages 13-18, CN citizens and reside within the jurisdiction. For the Little Cherokee Ambassador Competition, one girl and one boy are selected from each of three age groups: 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12. Candidates must be CN citizens and live within the jurisdiction. Committee representatives will accept hand-delivered applications from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 12 in the TsaLaGi Ball Room located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees. Faxed applications or hand-delivered applications presented after the deadline will not be accepted. For more information on the Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition, call Trice-Turtle at 918-453-5000, ext. 4991. For more information on the Junior Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition, call Reba Bruner at 918-453-5397. For more information on the Little Cherokee Ambassador Competition, call Kristen Thomas at 918-525-2266.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
06/15/2017 01:15 PM
CULVER CITY, Calif. – The “Mankiller” documentary highlighting former Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller’s life was slated to premiere on June 19 during the 2017 LA Film Festival at the ArcLight Cinemas. Valerie Red-Horse Mohl, producer and director of the documentary, said she is “thrilled” the documentary will be premiered during the festival. “We’re thrilled that Los Angeles Film Festival offered us a slot in their competition and also to premiere it as a world premiere,” she said. Red-Horse Mohl said the approximately hour-long documentary focuses on the late chief’s life from her early years until her death on April 6, 2010. Mankiller served as principal chief from 1985-95. “I think the meat of the documentary is the (19)60s, (19)70s and (19)80s, and when you look at how her life evolved through that timeframe. Her family was relocated to San Francisco from Oklahoma on pretty much a forced removal program,” she said. “It was such a negative for her that she was crying and everyone was upset but as you see the film evolve you come to understand that San Francisco became so important to her development. She actually embraced the movement of the San Francisco of the (19)60s.” Red-Horse Mohl said there is also Cherokee Nation history weaved into Mankiller’s story, so it’s something that was focused on in the documentary. “What’s interesting about her story is she said in her autobiography, ‘my story’s only relevant as much as it’s relevant to the Cherokee Nation, Cherokee history.’ So we do weave Cherokee history in paralleling along her life too,” she said. Red-Horse Mohl said she is working with fellow producer Gale Anne Hurd, of Valhalla Entertainment, who is known as the “First Lady of Sci-Fi” and has produced films such as “The Terminator,” “Aliens” and is an executive producer on “The Walking Dead.” Red-Horse Mohl said for the documentary they worked with Mankiller’s widow, Charlie Soap; daughters Gina and Felicia Olaya, locals to Oklahoma; and countless influential people across the country such as former President Bill Clinton and female activist Gloria Steinem. “That was one of the most exciting parts of the film as well as the most challenging was really just trying to find as many people that knew her, that worked with her whether they were family or Cherokee or United States government,” she said. “You hear from, and I love this, a couple of people who lived in Bell, the community where she brought water. They spoke Cherokee as their first language and you can tell they’re just true Cherokee community people and they had lived in poverty when she brought the water in. At the same time you also hear from Bill Clinton who talks about her and gives her the Medal of Freedom award.” She said while watching the documentary the audience will see glimpses into Mankiller’s life with recorded footage of the former chief as well as shots of locations in Oklahoma such as Tahlequah, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as well as in San Francisco. Red-Horse Mohl said now more than ever Mankiller’s message is “relevant.” “After we got into it and really kind of started pealing the layers of the onion back and understanding how incredible she was and how much adversity she faced she turned everything positive and just her overall message of how she succeeded in politics by being kind and having integrity. All of those things started coming through, and I just started to feel like I had a huge responsibility to honor her memory and her legacy, but not just as a biography, more as a message,” she said. “I even think it’s a wake up call to the world that we can achieve things by working together. We don’t have to yell and scream, and we don’t have to be divided by party politics. To me, I just feel her message is just more important than ever.” Red-Horse Mohl said the documentary would air on PBS but a specific date had not been announced. For more information on the documentary, visit <a href="http://www.mankillerdoc.com" target="_blank">www.mankillerdoc.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Learn about the lives of pardoned prisoners from the Cherokee National Prison with an exhibit beginning June 16. “The Pardoned” exhibit, which runs through Jan. 1, discusses the pardoning process used in the Cherokee Nation and features stories about various prisoners and how their lives were affected by imprisonment and release. In addition, a lunchtime discussion led by Dr. Julie Reed will be held on June 20 from noon to 1 p.m. Reed is a CN citizen and an assistant professor in the department of history at the University of Tennessee. The lunchtime discussion is open to the public and free to attend. Guests are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch. The museum will offer free admission throughout the day. The Cherokee National Prison was the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. It housed sentenced and accused prisoners from throughout the territory. The interpretive site and museum give visitors an idea about how law and order operated in Indian Territory. The site features a working blacksmith area and reconstructed gallows, exhibits about famous prisoners and daring escapes, local outlaws and Cherokee patriots, jail cells and much more. The Cherokee National Prison Museum is located at 124 E. Choctaw St. Cherokee Nation museums are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information on Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/02/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is offering free, family friendly storytelling events on Wednesdays in June. The one-hour program is hosted at 10 a.m. under the gazebo at the Cherokee National Capitol. “Storytelling is such an important part of Cherokee culture and a great way for us to share our history with others,” Travis Owens, director of cultural tourism for Cherokee Nation Businesses, said. “This series features a variety of stories and speakers and promises to be both fun and engaging for all ages.” Each week “Stories on the Square” will conclude with a different hands-on activity or craft. The make-and-take activity schedule is below: June 7 – Clay medallions June 14 – Syllabary coloring sheets and Cherokee garden rocks June 21– Clay beads June 28– Mini stickball sticks The Cherokee National Capitol is located at 129 S. Muskogee Ave. In the event of inclement weather, the event will be moved to the Cherokee National Prison Museum, located at 124 E. Choctaw St. Attendees will receive free admission to the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and the Cherokee National Prison Museum following the program. For more information, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.