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 STAFF REPORTS
03/24/2017 04:00 PM
VENORE, Tenn. – Various cultural classes will take place in April at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum. Cornhusk doll making taught by Tonya Dockery will begin at 10 a.m. on April 1. The fee is $15, and class size is limited to 15 to 18 people. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian enrolled citizens Mary Brown and Gil Jackson will teach a Cherokee language class from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on April 3. The cost is $50 for four consecutive classes to be held on Monday evenings. Sharon Ensminger will teach a finger weaving class from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 22 by. Cost is $25. Participants are asked to bring a small box and two skeins of heavy weight yarn of different colors (one light, one dark) and a bag lunch. Class size is limited to 15 people. EBCI citizen Mary Thompson will teach a Cherokee basket weaving class from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 29. The cost of the class is $20 plus the cost of materials. Students should call for list of needed materials to bring to class. Participants are asked to bring a bag lunch. Class size limited to 12 people. Call the museum at 423-884-6246 for more information or stop by to register. Drinks are available for purchase at the museum. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is located at 576 Highway 360. People may visit <a href="http://www.sequoyahmusuem.org" target="_blank">www.sequoyahmusuem.org</a> for more upcoming events or call the museum.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/15/2017 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Discover your family history and Cherokee ancestry at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 16th annual Cherokee Ancestry Conference June 9-10 at the Tribal Complex. The event provides participants with the tools to research their ancestry with Cherokee historical records and features a variety of discussion topics, including historical events before and after the removal, inter-tribal relationships and advancements in social media and its effect on genealogy research. Participants will also learn about various CN records available online as well as resources available in their local area for Cherokee ancestry research. A discount is given to those who register before June 3. Pre-registration is $60 for Cherokee National Historical Society members and $75 for nonmembers. The deadline is June 3. Registrations after June 3 are $70 for CNHS members and $85 for nonmembers. The Cherokee Ancestry Conference will be held in the Osiyo Room at the Tribal Complex. It is located at 17725 S. Muskogee Ave. in the same building as Restaurant of the Cherokees. For more information, including accommodations and registration, call 918-456-6007, ext. 6162, or email <a href="mailto: ashley-vann@cherokee.org">ashley-vann@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/09/2017 12:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., have the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of the Cherokees from March 31 to April 2.   For the fourth consecutive year, the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians are partnering to host Cherokee Days at the museum, which is free to attend. “We have established an excellent partnership with the National Museum of the American Indian that annually celebrates the shared history and heritage of the Cherokee people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This event is a unique showcase and educational opportunity focused on our tribal lifeways. Our artisans, culture keepers and historians from the federally recognized governments of the Cherokee are able to come together as family and share our rich story that is so prominent in America’s history.”  Cherokee Days shares the history of the Cherokees through a timeline exhibit, live cultural art demonstrations and cultural performances. Among the art demonstrations are pottery making, basket weaving, carving and textiles. “You will learn the tribal stories of the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee. Our history is interwoven in the stories of survival, enrichment and the golden years,” UKB Principal Chief Joe Bunch said. “Cherokee Days at the Smithsonian promises to be a highly informative and enlightening learning experience. We have a wonderful opportunity to share our unique story and our culture with thousands of visitors in Washington, D.C.” As part of the event, there will be a make-and-take experience that provides children an opportunity to create traditionally inspired Cherokee items. “Cherokee Days is a unique opportunity for visitors and guests to experience the rich culture and history of the Cherokee people," Eastern Band Principal Chief Patrick Lambert said “At a time where there is increasing demand to learn more about the First Americans, working together the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee weave an incredible experience in the heart of the nation's capital. We look to not only showcase our historical Cherokee values, we want to show how we have evolved and retained our culture in a modern world.” The Cherokee Phoenix will also have a booth at the museum with subscription forms during the three-day event. Those unable to attend can watch by visiting <a href="http:www.CherokeeDays.com" target="_blank">http:www.CherokeeDays.com</a>.  The site provides a detailed agenda of daily activities and performances, access to information and photos from each tribe’s social media accounts and live streaming throughout the event.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
03/07/2017 09:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasure Vivian Cottrell has shared her knowledge of basket making at the Cherokee Arts Center for the past two months. Specifically, she taught “the old Cherokee traditional basket style of double weave” using river cane. “It’s our old traditional Cherokee style of weaving, and I am trying to teach it to others,” she said. “I’ve been weaving for approximately 45 years, since I was 13. My mother taught me, and she was also a (Cherokee) National Treasure. Her name was Betty Scraper Garner.” Cottrell, of Flint Ridge, said for the past four or five years she has been studying river cane – how to split it, peel it and dye it – as her Cherokee ancestors did in the old Cherokee Nation in eastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and western North Carolina. There the cane was abundant along the region’s many rivers. Her home is near the Illinois River, which allows her to walk to the river to gather cane and other basket-making materials. “And over that time I’ve also been weaving it, and once I felt comfortable...then I was able to pass that on. It was very important for me...to pass that knowledge on to others,” she said. Cottrell said she learned from her mother the importance to pass on her knowledge, so she recently took advantage of a CN program that recruits Cherokee National Treasures to teach classes to share their artistic skills. Cottrell said Cherokee people used double-weave baskets for storing and carrying items and are known for creating double-weave or double-wall baskets. The double-weave style is “labor intensive,” she said. A double-weave basket is two baskets with one inside the other, woven together at the rim. The weaver begins at the base of the inside basket and works upward to the rim. At the rim, the cane is bent downward, and the outside is woven from the top to the base, which makes the basket sturdier. Candice Byrd said she had “foundational knowledge” on how to make a double-weave basket having studied with Cherokee National Treasures Bessie Russell and Shawna Morton Cain. Byrd said she makes round-reed baskets where buck brush, honeysuckle reed or commercial reed is used, however, she said she wanted to study under Cottrell because she admires her basket-making work. “I’ve seen it at art shows, I’ve seen it at Cherokee Art Market, and I wanted to learn from her how she did her technique on how to do the double woven because in involves a lot of counting and it’s very specific,” she said. “It’s very hard to do, and it’s not something we see as often in these parts, as often as we seen it with the Eastern Band of Cherokees. I think it’s important that we have basket weavers who know different types of techniques.” Cottrell said she did not expect her students to weave an entire basket in one day, but as they gained experience they began to weave faster. Some of her students made three or four baskets in two months. Sally Briggs said she was glad to be invited to learn with Cottrell. She also knew how to weave baskets using various types of reeds, but learning how to make a Cherokee double-weave basket was something she has wanted to learn for years, she said. “I’ve never accomplished this basket until now,” she said. “I think, the (Cherokee) National Treasures and the Cherokee Nation, it was something they wanted to do to encourage more people to learn this basket and to make it.” She said she once tried to learn how to make a river cane, double-weave basket by reading a book but wasn’t successful. “It took Vivian teaching it to me because there are several intricate points in it, and it is a more difficult basket than what I was used to doing. So, it has been a fabulous opportunity to learn something that is one the Cherokee’s oldest style of baskets,” Briggs said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/06/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies has set the 45th annual Symposium on the American Indian for April 10-15 in the University Center at NSU’s Tahlequah campus. This years theme is “Indian Givers: Indigenous Inspirations,” and the event will include the return of the NSU Powwow. According to the symposium’s website, the symposium “will focus on the many ways in which American Indians have contributed to mainstream, western culture through art, literature, government and other areas of the humanities.” The symposium’s film series will kick off the week with two screenings. “Violet” will be shown at 6 p.m. on April 10 and “Medicine Woman” will be shown at 6 p.m. on April 11, both in the W. Roger Webb Educational Technology Center’s auditorium. The opening ceremony is set for 9:30 a.m. on April 12 where the Native American Student Association will welcome guests with comments from Center for Tribal Studies Director Sara Barnett and NASA President and Cherokee Nation citizen Jacob Chavez. The ceremony will also include a presentation of colors from the CN Color Guard, the Miss Native American NSU Crowning Ceremony and a special presentation from the Wewoka High School students and first year students of Maskoke Seminole Language class. Several keynote speakers will be at the symposium including CN citizen Dr. Jeff Corntassel, associate professor and graduate advisor in the School of Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria; Jacklyn Roessel, Navajo, founder of Grown Up Navajo and former education and public programs director at the Heard Museum; and more. The symposium will end with the NSU Powwow on April 15. The day will begin at 2 p.m. with a Gourd Dance, dinner at 5 p.m. and the Grand Entry/Intertribal powwow from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/symposium" target="_blank">www.nsuok.edu/symposium</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/06/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday March 9, 2017 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. 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 at (918) 453-5151; John Ross at (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. (918) 453-5487. Tsalagi aniwonisgi unadatlugv dodvnatlosi Nvgineiga Anvyi 9, 2017, ganvsulvi 12:30 p.m. adalenisgi 4 p.m. igohida. Na anitsalagi tsunalisdayetiyi tsigotlv unaditli wayvsdi onadilvyvi utani kanvsula dodvnatlosi. Nanivanitsalagi aniwonisgi otsitayohiha uniluhisdii. Alisdayvdi ayohisdi yodulia. Dodayotsadatlisani aledodayotsalisdayvna hilutsvi. Ugodesdi tsadulihesdi tsadelayohisdi hiina wigehiyadvdi: Tsalagi Gawonihisdi Unadotlvsv (918) 453-5151; John Ross (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. (918) 453-5487.