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
Senior Reporter – @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.

Multimedia

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
07/21/2016 09:00 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen MaryBeth Timothy, of MoonHawk Art, recently donated four ceramic tiles to the Cherokee Phoenix for its third quarterly giveaway. The four tiles are 6 inches by 8 inches featuring a bear, eagle, wolf and horses. Timothy, who has created art most of her life, said she didn’t become a professional artist until age 30. “I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I can remember going back in my parent’s desk and finding pictures that I’d drawn when I was really little. I remember in kindergarten winning first place for a Halloween drawing that I’d done,” she said. “I started professionally I guess when I was around 30. And started painting about that time as well.” Timothy said she and her family had always taken an interest in the arts. “My mother’s pretty creative. She’s always done crafty things with us since we were little, and we’re all very musically inclined as well. I’ve just always been drawn to it, that and nature,” she said. Although she didn’t grow up in the Cherokee culture, she said it’s always been something she wanted to learn more about. As an adult, she said art helped her do that. “I didn’t grow up traditional or around our people until I was an adult, and I had that yearning to learn about our history and culture, our heritage, and I think in learning that it has also inspired that part of my art as well,” Timothy said. She said meeting influential people helped to further her artistic career. “Betty Cramer-Synar and her daughter Addie Synar. They really were my kick to continue and to increase my knowledge on it and to venture out into other mediums as well,” she said. Timothy said she’s experienced several art media, including drawing with graphite, pencil, pen and ink and acrylics. She has also worked with watercolor pencils, colored pencil, oil and she sculpts. More recently, she and her husband applied for a loan through the CN to print on ceramic tiles, coffee mugs and T-shirts. “We do all of the original art, and then we do our own printing as well,” she said. “We are Moonhawk Art LLC now. So we just became an LLC a few months ago.” Timothy and her husband’s artwork is for sale online and at craft shows and powwows, but they also take commission jobs. They also continue to work regular jobs, she said. MaryBeth works for the Five Civilized Tribes Museum and John for Bacone College, both in Muskogee. Entries for the Cherokee Phoenix quarterly giveaways are obtained by people donating to the Cherokee Phoenix elder fund or buying a subscription or merchandise. One entry is given for every $10 spent. The third drawing will be on Oct. 1. The tile featuring a bear is titled “Bear Clan.” “Ancient Glory” is the tile with the eagle. “PeekaBoo” is the one with a wolf, and “Seven” or “GaLiQuoGi” is the tile with horses. For more information regarding the giveaways 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>. For more information on MoonHawk Art visit <a href="http://www.moonhawkart.com" target="_blank">www.moonhawkart.com</a> or email <a href="mailto: moonhawkart@gmail.com">moonhawkart@gmail.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/19/2016 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Throughout history, Cherokees have always placed a priority on their relationship with the Earth and emphasized the importance of being good stewards of the land. A new exhibit at the Cherokee National Prison Museum showcases that relationship while featuring Cherokee agricultural practices from pre-removal to present day. “Of the Earth” runs July 15 through Nov. 1. Free admission will be offered on opening day. The exhibit features information on crops, including corn, squash and beans. These crops are also known as the Three Sisters, which are historically the most important throughout Cherokee history. Other crops include pumpkins, apples, grapes, peaches and wild onions. The Cherokee National Prison Museum was selected to host the exhibit, as it once featured a large garden where prisoners tended to its care. This was an important aspect of the prison, as it was used for prisoner reform and teaching life skills, as opposed to punishment. The 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 more. It is located at 124 E. Choctaw St. Cherokee Nation museums are open from10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For information, call 1-877779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
07/18/2016 09:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Seven women came to the Cherokee Heritage Center on July 9 to transform flat reed material into baskets under the instruction of artist and former Miss Cherokee Danielle Culp. CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said the center hosts seven to eight art classes annually to promote Cherokee culture. “The idea is for students to have a taste of Cherokee culture and experience basket making, pottery making, stickball making, Cherokee clothing. We do a variety of things,” she said. “Today, the flat reed class is learning to weave like our ancestors did. The material used in flat reed weaving for today’s class is commercial reed, but our ancestors would have used river cane or split hardwoods. Our goal for today is (for students) to leave here with a small, finished basket so the students understand the process of beginning and finishing.” CHC cultural art classes usually only have 12 to 15 students to allow for one-on-one attention by the instructor and so that students have a good experience with the instructor, Weavel added. She said some students leave the classroom and continue to learn about the crafts. “The students are encouraged to continue the craft if they choose to do so,” she said. “We have had a student that has come to a class and ended up entering our Homecoming Art Show, which is a show just for Cherokee people.” Cherokee Nation citizen Valerie Brown, of Bixby, said she has taken the reed basket class three times because she enjoys learning more about her Cherokee heritage. “I wasn’t raised around Cherokee culture, but it was important to my mom. So after I lost her I thought ‘now’s the time to start learning more about where I’m from,’” she said. Brown said she’s a little slow in making baskets, but she enjoys working on them. She said after three classes she now has a feel for how the basket should be made and it’s easier for her to follow the instructor. “Whether I have any talent for it or not, I like doing it,” Brown said. “That’s why I’ve taken the round reed class so many times. Each time it’s a beginner’s class. Each time I learn more. Where I work they have an art contest for just the employees, and I’ve entered that and won a prize.” She said she has basket-making materials in her living room and makes small baskets in her spare time. “It’s relaxing. It’s just the feeling of working with my hands and creating something. I’ve always done crafts and things, and to me this is just an elevated level. It’s not just a craft. It just feels like more,” she said. Weavel said the classes also serve as a preservation tool because some students continue practicing what they learn and share with others. For more information, call 918-456-6007, email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a> or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/14/2016 04:00 PM
BRATTONSVILLE, S.C. – The movie “Cameron” follows British Indian agent Alexander Cameron (David Reed) on the run from militiamen hell-bent on his capture. Rumors throughout the Carolina backcountry claim Cameron is inciting Cherokee warriors to attack frontier settlers as a way of restoring British rule. Cameron had sent letters warning settlers of impending Cherokee attacks, but the letters backfire. Torn between his responsibility as a father, honor to his king, loyalty to the Cherokees and duty to his conscience, Cameron sinks deeper into turmoil, as he realizes his noble attempts to save innocent women and children have become his undoing. “The idea for Cameron emerged after my study of 18th-century letters written by Alexander Cameron, Indian agent among the Cherokee. In my eight years of research and writing ‘A Demand of Blood,’ Cameron and his Cherokee ally Dragging Canoe evolved as central characters in the epic narrative of the Cherokee war of 1776, and it is this war within a war that is the backdrop for ‘Cameron,’ an untold story of the American Revolution,” said Nadia Dean, the movie’s writer, producer and director. Dean is the author of “A Demand of Blood: The Cherokee War of 1776” and a veteran broadcast and print journalist. In 2014, she wrote and produced the short documentary “Cherokee Diplomacy in South Carolina: 1777” for the Museum of the Cherokee in South Carolina. Telling the story of the Cherokees in the American Revolution and of Alexander Cameron’s extraordinary saga is an endeavor that has spanned the past 12 years of her life, she said. “Alexander Cameron, the liaison between the Cherokee and British Crown, especially intrigued me. His world was part Scot, part Cherokee and part British sovereignty. The script was driven by my fascination with Cameron’s predicament. I asked myself, ‘How would I feel if my efforts, out of a sense of honor, became my undoing?’” she said. “The most emotionally charged music I composed for the film is ‘Beloved No More,’ which expresses the gravity of Cameron’s loss – loss of home, loss of authority and loss of honor.” Dean said she was raised primarily in Columbia, South Carolina, with frequent stays on her grandfather’s North Carolina mountain farm. “My ancestors had lived in the Smoky Mountains since the early 18th century. In 1776, on their way to burn Cherokee towns, 2,500 militiamen, including my six-generation grandfather, marched over what later became my mother’s childhood farm. My half-Cherokee cousin and I spent many summer days exploring the creeks, woods and waterfalls that would later be depicted in the book and film ‘Cold Mountain.’ That ‘A Demand of Blood’ and ‘Cameron’ involves my husband’s Cherokee ancestors, and some of my own, in a profound way ties me to this stirring story of the American Revolution,” Dean said. While writing her book and the movie, she said she became intrigued by the strong friendship between Cameron and Cherokee war chief Dragging Canoe and their ability to survive the crushing blow of the American Revolution. In late 2013, Dean received a grant from the Graham Foundation of South Carolina to finance the film. Several casting directors advised her that the role of Dragging Canoe would be challenging to cast, and it was. After exhausting talent possibilities on the East Coast, Dean contacted a casting agent out West and found Jon Proudstar, who has appeared in several films. The 37-minute movie was filmed in Brattonsville, South Carolina, and Macon County, North Carolina. “As I say in the author’s note of ‘A Demand of Blood,’ stories are elemental to the human experience. We need stories. We need them because they are what connect us to each other. And it seems the ones that connect us deeply usually depict a man’s dark night of the soul and his eventual triumph over it,” Dean said. “As I ruminated about Cameron’s sudden loss of liberty, I realized that at the deepest part of our humanity, personal liberty proves to be our greatest need. The film’s story raises the question: Is it possible to fight for my own freedom, without depriving someone else of theirs?” For more information, visit <a href="http://www.CameronTheFilm.com" target="_blank">www.CameronTheFilm.com</a> or email <a href="mailto: Cherokee1776@gmail.com">Cherokee1776@gmail.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/11/2016 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held from 13:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on July 14 in the Community Ballroom located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. Anyone wishing to bring a side dish or a dessert can do so. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship. For more information, call Edna Jones at 918-453-5151, John Ross at 918-453-6170 or Roy Boney Jr. at 918-453-5487.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/08/2016 12:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will host Saturday workshops designed to promote and preserve traditional Cherokee art. The hands-on workshops will showcase traditional art forms and will be held once a month starting on July 9. Registration is open for the July 9 flat reed basketry class led by Cherokee Nation citizen Danielle Culp, as well as the Aug. 13 1700s Cherokee clothing class led by Cherokee National Treasure Tonia Hogner-Weavel. Classes are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $40 to participate. All materials are provided. Class sizes are limited so early registration is recommended. For more information or to RSVP, call 918-456-6007, ext. 6161 or email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a>. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.