Sixth grade students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School dance to the song “The Twist” while singing the song’s lyrics in Cherokee. The class won first place for its performance during the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Immersion students win trophies at language fair

Cherokee Language Immersion School sixth graders show off their first place trophy for winning the Sixth through Eighth Grade Large Group Song category at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. From left are Lauren Hummingbird, Alayna Harkreader, Maggie Sourjohn, Sean Sikora, Cambria Bird, Cree Drowningbear, Emilee Chavez, Lauren Grayson and Cheyenne Drowningbear. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Language Immersion School sixth graders show off their first place trophy for winning the Sixth through Eighth Grade Large Group Song category at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. From left are Lauren Hummingbird, Alayna Harkreader, Maggie Sourjohn, Sean Sikora, Cambria Bird, Cree Drowningbear, Emilee Chavez, Lauren Grayson and Cheyenne Drowningbear. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
04/05/2012 02:36 PM
NORMAN, Okla. – Students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School did well during competition April 2-3 at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma.

The theme of this year’s fair, which hosted about 600 students from more than 20 Oklahoma tribes, was “I Am My Language.” Along with showing off language skills, students also had the opportunity to compete in art, essay and poetry competitions using their respective languages.

The immersion school’s second, fifth and sixth grades won first place awards for their respective performances using the Cherokee language. The school’s first graders won second place for their presentation and the kindergarten class received a fourth place prize. The performances were judged on use and knowledge of language and creativity.

The immersion school also placed in the film and video competitions. The sixth grade won first place for its “Tsalagi” DVD produced in the Cherokee language. Immersion school fifth grader Jolie Morgan placed second for her Cherokee language video, and the school won third place in the Third through Sixth grade category for the video “Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi.”

The winning immersion school classes and individual winners each received a trophy, and all of the students who competed in the language fair received a medal and a T-shirt.

“Our children at the Cherokee Nation immersion program have so much fun every year. ONAYLF has been so far the only place outside the school that offers our kids a place where they can practice their language in a public setting,” said parent Andrew Sikora, whose son Sean participated at the fair with the sixth grade class. “I will not exaggerate if I say that ONAYLF is a language highlight of the year.”

Students in grades kindergarten through high school are invited to the fair, which provides a venue for them to speak their Native languages publicly. The event also gives students the opportunity to dress up in traditional clothing and regalia.

Judges for the fair’s competitions are volunteers from Oklahoma tribes who speak or appreciate their Native languages.

CN citizen Christine Armer once served as a judge for the fair but now coordinates it. She is a Cherokee language professor at OU and said the fair is one of her favorite events of year because it brings her joy to see youth interested in their culture and language.

“My grandfather once told me that language is who you are,” she said.

She said if the next generations of students take an interest in their languages and see their importance, there’s hope that the cultural values found in Native American languages will be around for many generations.

Languages represented at the fair included Apache, Arapaho, Cayuga, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Coushatta, Dakota, Euchee, Hasinai (Caddo), Ho-Chunk, Jiwere (Otoe), Kanza (Kaw), Keres, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Mohawk, Muskogee (Creek), Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Pima, Prairie Band Potawatomi, Sauk, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee, Shoshone, Ute, Wichita and Zuni.

For more information about the language fair, visit or visit the fair’s Facebook page.


About the Author


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.
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="" target="_blank"></a> or call 918-596-2700.
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”
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:"></a> or call 918-353-2980.
09/05/2014 11:57 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Stickball, cornstalk shoots, Cherokee marbles, blowgun competitions, and powwows were all a part of the 62nd Cherokee National Holiday. Cherokees matched their traditional skills while spectators learned about Cherokee culture.
09/05/2014 08:05 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Four Cherokee women are working with expert basket makers to learn how different baskets are woven with various materials as part of a Cherokee Heritage Center apprenticeship program. This summer Feather Smith-Trevino, Emma Washee, Candice Byrd and Candessa Tehee learned from basket makers Charlotte Coates and Cherokee National Treasures Betty Frogg and Shawna Cain. The apprentices learned how to make double-walled reed baskets before learning how to make double-wall river cane baskets from start to finish. The process included gathering cane and stripping it to create basket-making materials. Coates, who specializes in double-wall baskets, said she volunteered to partake in the program because she believes her knowledge needs to be shared so it is not lost. “There’s not that many people in Oklahoma that could do this type of weaving, so when I was asked to teach the double-wall, I absolutely jumped at the opportunity because it’s important,” she said. Tehee, the CHC’s executive director, said she was excited when Cain and her husband Roger Cain approached her to form a partnership to teach apprentices how to make single- and double-wall baskets from river cane while collecting materials in a sustainable fashion. “River cane basketry is a huge part of Cherokee tradition and Cherokee culture. It has a long history. It goes back prior to contact (with white settlers), and so the partnership between the Cherokee National Treasure Association and the Cherokee Heritage Center was something I was very excited about. It’s a natural partnership for the Heritage Center and the CNTA,” Tehee said. Tehee has learned how to finger-weave yarn and weave with a tabletop loom, but she also wanted to learn basket making. “I wanted to add basketry to the skills that I have because a traditional Cherokee woman prior to contact would have done all of these things. I think it’s important for Cherokee women to carry on this tradition and know what our traditional arts are and to be able to teach them to others,” she said. Cherokees have had a close relationship with river cane for thousands of years. Records show that river cane once covered the lands of the Southeast and that Cherokees used it for basketry, music, housing, weapons, food and other items that have been lost over time. “By teaching these young ladies about not only basketry, but also the plant itself, they are learning holistically a more traditional process based upon the values of our ancestors of respecting the plant and what it gives us in return,” Roger Cain, who is also a Cherokee National Treasure, said. “Now that these apprentices have learned to weave double-wall baskets throughout the summer, we plan to now begin the process of gathering, processing and especially cultivating river cane so that these traditions and art forms that have almost been lost will continue to flourish for future generations.” Washee and Smith-Trevino said they already had some experience making baskets, but through the apprenticeship they will not only learn how to make baskets, they will understand where the materials grow, when to gather them and how to prepare them. Smith-Trevino said she’s learned basket making from various teachers, including Frogg while working in the CHC’s Ancient Village. She’s been weaving flat-reed and round-reed baskets for about 10 years and wanted to learn how to weave double-wall baskets and more techniques for river cane baskets. “I have worked splitting cane and working with natural dyes, but I hope to really improve those techniques and to learn more about how to gather, where to gather, at what times of the year to gather,” she said. “At the end of this program, we should be able to go out and gather all of our own materials, prepare our own materials and be able to completely prepare the baskets and weave it from start to finish.” Byrd is new to basket making. While working in the CHC’s Diligwa village this summer she learned how to make single-wall, flat-reed baskets from Frogg, and now has learned how to weave double-wall, flat-reed baskets from Coates and Shawna Cain. “It was something that I never pictured myself doing. It just thought it was something that really took some craftsmanship, and I didn’t think I was capable of doing it. It takes some thinking, some concentration,” she said. “We are learning the techniques of weaving, but what we’re also learning how to respect our natural resources. So, it’s more than just learning a new craft, it’s learning a new world view and a new appreciation for the work that goes into weaving the basket.” Tehee said the art of river cane basketry is not as vital as it once was for the Cherokee people. “Currently, there are really only a handful of people who can make a basket from start to finish using river cane. We are very, very lucky to partner with some individuals who have that knowledge, so we can create new artists who can carry on this tradition and pass it down to future generations,” she said. Tehee said the plan is to continue the program as long as there is interest. “I don’t think we can teach too many people these skills because prior to contact this is something every Cherokee woman knew. It’s something every Cherokee man knew in terms of gathering river cane in a sustainable way,” Tehee said.