The all-Cherokee band War Pony consists of, from left to right, Justin Graham, Sherman Connelly, Preston Postoak and Jason Billie. The band is from Sequoyah County. COURTESY PHOTO

War Pony hitting its stride as band

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
07/24/2012 08:50 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – The all-Cherokee band War Pony is breaking out of Sequoyah County where it began about 18 months ago and is becoming a regional band.

The four-member group is led by lead guitarist and singer Sherman Connelly and includes Preston Postoak on drums, Jason Billie on bass and Justin Graham on rhythm guitar.

Like many bands, War Pony consists of remnants of other bands. Connelly and Billie continued to play together after playing in another local band.

“That band never really got off the ground,” Connelly said.

After Connelly won the “Great Arkansas Talent Search” in 2010, he decided to put a band together and recruited Billie to join him. After bringing in Postoak and Graham, Billie said the band members quickly synced and “had a good band after a few shows.”

Connelly said the band’s sound is hard to label but it’s a mixture of Red Dirt, edgy blues and hillbilly rock ’n’ roll. He added that War Pony plays its own compositions as well as some covers during shows.

Billie said he prefers playing songs that get his “fingers to popping.” But Connelly said he prefers a heavy blues and classic rock sound to sing live because his early influences were Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix.

“Anything really along those lines, but as far as picking a particular song that I like to play, I really couldn’t tell you. I like them all,” he said. “One of the requirements of the songs that we play is that I have to like them.”

The band gets regular airplay on KTCS, a country music station in nearby Fort Smith, Ark., and is a regular act at Cherokee Casino Sallisaw.

Connelly said he enjoys playing gigs around Sequoyah County and seeing familiar faces in the crowds, but wants to expand to other areas.

He said War Pony will soon play at Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs and T-Bones in Tahlequah. The band has also played at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Oklahoma City and has a few Choctaw Nation casinos scheduled.

“We’ve been trying to get out past the Sequoyah County line. We’ll go just about anywhere they’ll have us around. We’ve played a few gigs in Little Rock (Ark.) at Stickyz Rock ’n’ Roll Chicken Shack, a pretty well-known venue. A lot of Red Dirt guys play there,” Connelly said.

The band recently participated in a showcase for Virgin Records at the Chicken Shack.

Connelly said the band is being asked more often to play middle-of-the week gigs, which may allow him to quit his day job of hanging drywall and metal stud frames.

He said the gigs are becoming more frequent, but he would always be grateful for the Sallisaw Veterans of Foreign Wars for helping him get his start.

“The staff there is super nice and they’ve been supportive of me from day one,” he said.

War Pony is working on a second album of original music in Ada with producer Mike McClure, who has produced albums for singer Stoney LaRue and bands Ragweed and Turnpike Troubadours. Connelly said the band needs only one more session to complete the album and should be putting out a single soon. Its first album is available on iTunes, Amazon.com and at its shows.

He said the number of fans on the band’s Facebook page has almost doubled in the past two months. The band’s booking information can also be found on the page.

Connelly said he’s amazed at how fast the band has evolved and gained in popularity.
“I’ve been really blessed and fortunate,” he said.

Billie said he hopes the band can eventually play music for a living.

“It’s something we’re really passionate about,” he said. “Come out and get rocked with War Pony. That’s all we can hope for is to make new fans.”

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

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 LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
01/11/2017 08:15 AM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – Since he was 8 years old, Cherokee Nation citizen Dave Standingwater has had an interest in archery and been fascinated by the flight of the arrow. Growing up in the Snake Creek Community near Locust Grove, Standingwater learned about hunting from his grandmother, Maggie Whitekiller Standingwater. His first hunting experience was at age 13, killing a deer with a bow and arrow his uncle made. “I was hooked after that,” he said. He said when times were hard and his father was unemployed, he helped out by hunting and providing for his family. “It was rough times back then,” he said. Years later, he became a nationally ranked archer in the Cabela’s Archery Shooters Association, competing across the United States and in national championship tournaments. In 1991, he experienced his first archery outing when his son invited him to a 3-D archery range in Locust Grove. Though he hunted growing up, shooting 3-D targets proved a challenge. “My first outing was terrible. I was so bad, and so I asked them if they (archery range) was open every weekend. So I went back. I started shooting and practicing,” Standingwater said. He said he practiced at home for 20 minutes to 30 minutes a day, eventually entering local archery tournaments. “I got to taking first, second and third place trophies and stuff like that,” he said. In 1994, he joined the Cabela’s Archery Shooters Association tour and his first tournament was in Oklahoma City. He began competing in out-of-state tournaments and racked up points to qualify for the championship tournament in Tennessee. “At that particular tournament, there were like 2,500 actual shooters, and I shot the traditional way – stick and string,” he said. He used a custom-made modern dual-purpose Black Widow bow. He said competing nationally enhanced his archery skills against many high-level shooters. “If you missed, your arrow was just gone. But in competition like that you didn’t miss, you just didn’t miss, he said.” He competed until 2001. He never won a championship tournament but often placed second and third. One of the biggest highlights of his career was when a Cabela’s magazine recognized him as one of the top 10 traditional bow shooters in the nation during the 1999 tour. “I started looking down that list there and my name was No. 7. I wore that magazine out showing people,” Standingwater said. “I just wanted to shoot. I never thought that I’d become in the top 10 bracket.” Now at 74, Standingwater continues his passion for shooting, bow making and learning how to flint knap. He made his first bow out of bois d’arc, learned how to cut a stave (a trimmed rod of wood used to make a bow) and make bowstring from squirrel hide. He studies to become a more “powerful” and “faster” bow shooter and said he is staying with the traditional way of shooting so that he has the knowledge to survive and provide for his family if he needs to. “I’m a full traditional shooter. I don’t aim down the arrow. I don’t look at the string. I look at the place where I want to hit. That’s where I want the arrow to go and that’s what I’m looking at. So that’s as traditional as you can get. I think that’s a plus when you get out in the woods. A lot of times your shots are going to be quick,” he said. He said he’s passing his archery knowledge to his family and compared his great-niece’s shooting to that of Robin Hood. He said the two often take nature walks and practice shooting rabbits and squirrels. Standingwater said he’s retained what he learned from his grandmother, who was a midwife and knew how to gather plants for medicines. Through her, he also learned to fish and gather foods that are in season. “I learned a lot from my grandmother, (she) taught me a lot.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/10/2017 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday January 12, 2017 from 12:30 - 4pm. We will meet in the Community Ballroom that is located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. If you want to bring a side dish or a dessert, feel free to bring it. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship. For further information about the event, please contact the Language Program Office: 918-453-5151, 918-453-6170, 918-453-5487.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/10/2017 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Congratulations to Cherokee Nation citizen Dana Parks from Brownsboro, Texas, for being the Cherokee Phoenix’s fourth-quarter giveaway winner. On Jan. 3, Parks won beaded jewelry made by Native Uniques owner Samantha Barnes. The winning package consisted of a bracelet, necklace, dream catcher and earrings. Parks won it after Cherokee Phoenix staff members drew her name from approximately 170 entries. Parks joins Nan Butler, of Wellston, Wauneta Wine of Columbia, Maryland, and Dale Easky of St. Clair, Missouri, as the 2016 Cherokee Phoenix quarterly giveaway winners. Butler won four painted tiles by Cherokee artist MaryBeth Timothy of MoonHawk Art for the third-quarter contest. Wine won a carving by Cherokee sculptor Matthew Girty for the second quarter, and Easky won a knife by Cherokee knife maker Ray Kirk for the first quarter. Entries can be obtained by donating to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder Fund or buying a Cherokee Phoenix subscription or merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent or donated. The Cherokee Phoenix will hold its first quarterly drawing for 2017 on April 3 when it gives away a finger-woven belt made by Jules Brison of Waterspider Creations. For more information regarding the giveaways, call Samantha Cochran at 918-207-3825 or Justin Smith at 918-207-4975 or email samantha-cochran@cherokee.org or justin-smith@cherokee.org. For more information on Waterspider Creations, visit <a href="http://www.etsy.com/shop/WaterspidercreaGifts" target="_blank">www.etsy.com/shop/WaterspidercreaGifts</a> or <a href="https://www.facebook.com/waterspidercreations/" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/waterspidercreations/</a>. For more information on Native Uniques, go to Nativeuniques.com or call 918-214-0030.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/04/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In January, two traditional basket-weaving classes will be offered at the United Keetoowah Band’s John Hair Cultural Center and Museum. Each class will have a two-day session with the first class taking place on Jan. 5-6 and the second on Jan. 19-20. All classes are from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. During the first class students will learn how to weave around a glass flower vase, and during the second class students will focus on weaving a basket and fitting it with a woven lid. Cindy Hair, a Keetoowah Tradition Keeper and master basket weaver, will teach the classes. She has approximately 50 years of weaving experience, and her basketry is known around the country. “I just love weaving baskets and love teaching basket weaving,” she said. “I want to keep it up and pass it on as long as I can.” The classes cost $25 each with reed being provided. Students are encouraged to bring their own vase, but vases will be available for purchase for $2. For more information or to register, call 918-772-4389.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
01/04/2017 08:15 AM
BRIGGS, Okla. – For the past 65 years, United Keetoowah Band citizen and Cherokee National Treasure Dorothy Lee Ice has been loom weaving, an art form used to make items such as belts, scarves, headbands, bookmarks, bracelets and shawls. Ice, of Briggs, became an employee of the Sequoyah Indian Weavers in the 1940s when she was 15 years old. She became interested in weaving after watching weaver Lucille Hair. After a time, her curiosity brought her back to watch the loom weavers. Bill Ames, a man from New York who ran the SIW, approached Ice and asked if she would like to learn. She did not hesitate and was employed that day. Her first woven piece was a blanket. “I just loved it when I first started. What got me interested, mostly, was (I) just got in there and started. I didn’t have to ask any questions,” Ice said. She said loom weaving consists of using a wooden loom, stringing or threading a warp and using shuttles on the loom to create a design. Ice said she only uses four designs when weaving. “I use plain weave, hit and miss, herring bone and diamond. That’s all I do,” she said. Ice said SIW employees were paid by “piece work.” Once an item was completed John Ketcher, of the Sequoyah Vocational School and former Tribal Councilor, inspected it. He was able to spot a flaw instantly, and if it was not good, the weaver had to re-create the piece. Once items passed inspected, they were shipped to New York to be sold. She said at the time, along with the Briggs weaving hall, there were weaving halls ran by Ames in Bull Hollow, Peavine and Jay. Ice worked for the Briggs SIW until 1960 and again in 1964 until it was shut down because of robberies and a lack of weaving material. She continued to loom weave on her own and only created made-to-order items. She said loom weaving remains the same as the art form has not evolved much from the time she started. She became a Cherokee National Treasure in 1991 for her knowledge of loom weaving and said that meant she “better be learning more and teaching more.” Ice, 81, now teaches classes at the Cherokee Arts Center in Tahlequah. The classes are commissioned through the Cherokee Nation. “(Out of) the Cherokees, I think I am the only one that is weaving. I would like to pass it on, and all I want to hear from them (students) is ‘I learned this from so and so, and I taught so and so.’ That’s all I want to hear from them. I just want to pass it on. I don’t want it to die,” Ice said. “If they want to learn and I know it, and I am able to teach them, I would like to teach them. I think it would be important for them to learn all of the traditions so that they can survive if hard times come.” Aside from loom weaving, Ice teaches reading and writing of the Cherokee language, her first language, and teaches others how to make shackles for stomp dances. As a UKB citizen, she also received that tribe’s Tradition Keeper Award for loom weaving in 2014. She also worked for Briggs Schools for many years as a teacher’s assistant and bus driver. In her spare time, she likes to clog dance at the senior citizens center in Tahlequah.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/28/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens Richard and Sheila Fields will host a grand opening of their new 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery at noon, Jan. 7 in Tahlequah. A ribbon cutting will take place at 2 p.m., Jan. 5 at the gallery hosted by the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce. “4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery showcases fine art by Cherokee National Treasures in addition to creations by up and coming Cherokee artists and craftsmen,” said Sheila. “All artists showcased in the gallery are of Cherokee descent, many are fluent in their Cherokee language, and each Cherokee artist brings their heritage to life through their individual talents and gifts which they pour into the design found in their art.” She added that the Cherokee elders among the Cherokee National Treasures inspired the gallery and that is why they are featured within it. “We are starting slow and we’re going to grow from there. We hope to add classes soon, a legacy for our artists,” said Richard. “If you are looking for authentic Cherokee art then you will find something to your liking in 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery.” The gallery is located at 210 S. Muskogee and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.