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
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.
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.

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/22/2014 02:45 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The George Kaiser Family Foundation announced on Dec. 11 the establishment of a national artist fellowship program – the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. The TAF will enhance Tulsa’s growing art scene by providing awards and resources to local and non-local artists. Native American artists are encouraged to apply. Fellows will be awarded an unrestricted stipend ranging from $15,000 to $40,000 and, in most cases, free housing and studio workspace. “This program creates a very unique opportunity for the selected fellows and for Tulsa,” Stanton Doyle, George Kaiser Family Foundation senior program officer, said. “It is our goal with these awards to recognize great artists in all stages of their career. In addition, we feel that providing housing and workspace in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District gives the non-resident fellows the opportunity to experience the treasures of our art community and share their talents with Tulsa.” The TAF is open to both local and non-resident artists and will provide awards for both early and mid-career artists. In an effort to help grow and shape Tulsa’s vibrant arts community, non-resident artists will be required to live in provided housing in Tulsa. In the first year, fellowships will be awarded to artists in the discipline of public and/or gallery-oriented visual arts with the possibility of adding other disciplines in the future. The program will reserve some of the fellowship positions for Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian artists. A screening committee and selection panel will follow the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 as a guideline in awarding Native American artists a fellowship. “In terms of Native American art, Tulsa has deep roots diverse artistic traditions represented in the extensive collections of many nearby tribal institutions as well as at the Gilcrease and Philbrook museums – and a vibrant community of contemporary Native artists working in various media and style,” Doyle said. Fellowships offered will be merit-based grants and will have a one-year term with an option to renew for a second year. Five to 15 fellowships will be provided depending on the quality of entries. Fellowships will be separated into two categories. Early Career Artists: Award of a $15,000 unrestricted stipend with free private housing and workspace during year one. Year two is optional and will include a stipend of $7,500 plus free housing and workspace. If the fellow wants to stay in Tulsa, housing, and workspace can be retained for a third year for $500 a month total. Mid-Career Artists: Award of a $25,000 unrestricted stipend with free private housing and workspace in year one. Year two is optional and will include a stipend of $15,000 plus free housing and workspace. If the fellow wants to stay in Tulsa, housing and workspace can be retained for a third year for $500 a month total. A coordinating committee consisting of local leaders in the Tulsa arts community will screen all fellowship applications for eligibility and coordinate community programs for the fellows during their time in Tulsa. Eligible applicants will be reviewed by a national panel of panel comprised of national artists, curators, reviewers and experts in the area of focus. Applications for the TAF are due on Feb. 2, 2015, and fellows will be announced on April 3, 2015. The fellowship will begin on Oct. 1, 2015. To learn more about the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and apply, visit <a href="http://www.gkff.org/taf " target="_blank">www.gkff.org/taf</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
12/21/2014 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a Dec. 8 luncheon for Cherokee National Treasures – the keepers of Cherokee arts, culture and language – learned of a $50,000 grant that will directly benefit them, as well as opportunities to sell their works or have them displayed. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, who became a Cherokee National Treasure for pottery in 2012, announced that the grant she helped procure took effect on Oct. 1 and the Cherokee National Treasure Advisory Committee is hoping to begin spending the money soon on treasures. Cherokee National Treasure and potter Jane Osti, who is part of the advisory committee, called the grant a “generous one.” “We want it to benefit National Treasures, and one way we hope it will is through their teaching. It will preserve the culture at the same time they will be able to make extra money by teaching,” she said. Osti said it is hoped that most of the $50,000 will be spent paying the treasures to teach their skills and to buy their artwork to display in Cherokee Nation buildings. Osti said nearly all of the 40-plus living treasures attend the annual luncheon. She said artists who are awarded the title excel in their respective crafts or arts and are recognized by the tribe as a master. There is also a category for those who help perpetuate the Cherokee language. Those selected are also involved with the preservation and revival of traditional cultural practices that are in danger of being lost. Since its inception in 1988, 84 CN citizens have been recognized for their art and preservation efforts. “Most of these arts are traditional. Some of them are kind of new, but most of them are ancient art forms,” Osti said. Osti, who is from Rocky Ford/Teresita, was named a treasure in 2005 for her pottery. Before that only one other potter had been named a treasure and that was Anna Mitchell, Osti’s mentor. Cherokee National Treasure Sue Thompson, of Woodall, was named a treasure for her work with the Cherokee language and teaching it to others. “What I enjoy most is speaking the language and seeing the kids relating to it. Hopefully it will cause them to learn the language,” Thompson said. She said Cherokee was her first language before she attended Woodall Schools. Her knowledge of the language allowed her to teach it in communities while working for the tribe’s Adult Education Program. She now mainly works with the public schools in the tribe’s jurisdiction to share the language. Gina Olaya, Cherokee Nation Businesses director of cultural art procurement, told the treasures that she is looking to buy Cherokee artwork for tribal clinics being built in Jay, Ochelata, Stilwell and Sallisaw, as well as for the new W.W. Hastings Hospital to be built in Tahlequah. She said Cherokee art is also needed for the tribe’s casinos and office buildings. Casinos are being constructed in South Coffeyville and Roland. Olaya brought one of her team members to show the treasures how to sell their art to CNB if they have not before. Olaya said she has also been tasked with creating a Cherokee National Treasures exhibit to be displayed in the lobby between the Cherokee Restaurant and the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop in Tahlequah. “It will have a piece or pieces of every National treasure that has been designated since the first one was designated (1988). We’ve been working for the past year and a half to try to find pieces (for the exhibit),” she said. Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Dr. Candessa Tehee said the treasures are an important part of the tribe’s future and present-day efforts to preserve Cherokee culture and announced that the CHC would host the inaugural “Cherokee National Treasures Art Show and Sale,” Oct. 3 through Nov. 8. “We want to do this in recognition of your artistic skill, and all of you have wonderful pieces that can be included in the show. Some of you may not wish these items to be for sale, that’s why it’s a combination exhibit and sale,” she said. She encouraged the treasures to inform the families of deceased treasures about the show so that their works can also be exhibited. The CHC will also try to contact the families of deceased treasures. Tehee said she understands the art show and sale would conflict with the annual Cherokee Art Market usually held in October in Catoosa, but she is willing to work with treasures to allow them to participate in both. Cherokee National Treasures are also invited to earn money by teaching classes at the CHC through its Education Department, Tehee said, and are invited to bring their works to sell at its gift shop.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
12/16/2014 02:17 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation was inducted into the Tulsa City-County Library Hall of Fame on Dec. 6 during a ceremony held at the Hardesty Regional Library. The honor is given annually to an individual or organization demonstrating leadership and exemplary contributions of time, talent and energy toward improving the library and its resources. The tribe was selected as the 2014 inductee for its partnership with the library to record the Cherokee language on computer software. The software allows TCCL patrons to learn to speak, read and write Cherokee on computers. “Since the library opened its American Indian Resource Center 15 years ago the Cherokee Nation has supported the center by providing presenters for educational program, as well as monetary donations for the library’s collections,” TCCL CEO Gary Shaffer. “Thanks to the hard work of the Cherokee Nation and the American Indian Resource Center, Mango Languages, which is one of our vendors that works with the library, will begin offering for the first time an indigenous language, the Cherokee language course, beginning in early 2015.” Shaffer added that the CN helped develop interactive lessons and provided speakers of the language to record the lessons. The lessons will be offered through a user-friendly language instruction tool on the library’s website, as well as 2,000 other libraries across the country. Accepting the award for the tribe were CN translators Anna Sixkiller and John Ross, Cherokee Language Program Manager Roy Boney, Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Candessa Tehee, Cherokee Nation Businesses Director of Strategic Investments Jay Calhoun and Tribal Councilors Cara Cowan Watts and Lee Keener. Sixkiller and Ross completed two chapters for the Mango Languages software. The chapters include audio recorded by Sixkiller and Ross and written lessons. Ross said he and Sixkiller worked with Mango personnel via Skype, which allows people to have conversations using a webcam and the Internet. “Anna and I worked with a linguist from Mango. We worked on a script in the Cherokee language, and we started translating greetings, gratitude and goodbyes. The second part was conversation on ‘how is the weather today,’ names, places, etcetera. When we completed the writing part we started recording,” he said. The project began in August and was completed Dec. 1. “Personally, I see this as an opportunity to teach the Cherokee language to non-Native communities and other parts of the world to learn our Cherokee language,” Ross said. “If the people like the Cherokee language, Mango would like to continue the translation and continue adding more. It all depends on how the Cherokee language is received by the public.” Boney said it is fitting the CN is working with the TCCL because the tribe has a long history of literacy. “Education has been one of our major goals as a people as long we’ve been a people. We had the first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi (the Cherokee Female Seminary),” Boney said. “We’re proud of our literacy, and this project is in keeping with that. The Cherokee language, like most Native languages, is endangered. We don’t want to lose our language, so we use every tool possible that’s available to us to keep it. A project like this using this language learning software is pretty big thing for us. It provides people access to hear fluent speakers of Cherokee speaking the language.” Shaffer also thanked Ross and Sixkiller for their efforts. “It’s really a remarkable collaboration...to develop this. One of Tulsa City-County Library’s goals is that the library be a center for community, reading, life-long learning and access to information for all,” Shaffer said. “For the Cherokee Nation’s outstanding commitment and longstanding support of the Tulsa City-County Library and for its diligence to preserve its Native language, we are proud to induct the Cherokee Nation into the Library Hall of Fame.” Mango Languages can be accessed online for free with the use of a library card or by paid subscription. An app is also available for download on smartphones so users can hear Cherokee pronunciation at home. The website is <a href="http://www.mangolanguages.com" target="_blank">www.mangolanguages.com</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
12/16/2014 08:24 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center is inviting people to experience a new exhibit that is open through March 1. The “1710 Cherokee Hands-On Exhibit” features a sandbox with animal paw print pads that helps people learn how to identify animal tracks. It also has coloring pages, animal puzzles, a magnetic wall where children and adults can arrange color designs for baskets, a weaving wall with ropes to teach people how a basket is weaved, a “Be an Archaeologist,” section where artifacts can be uncovered and a pottery section with pottery dating to the 18th century. “This is the first time the heritage center has tried to do a complete hands-on exhibit. We want to do something different that we’ve done in the past, but we want to make sure it complements Diligwa, our ancient village, so every activity in here is hands-on, family friendly and teaches people about Cherokee history and culture in the 1710s,” CHC Curator Mickel Yantz said. He said the exhibit is really for all age groups and meant to give visitors a hands-on experience for the things seen in the Diligwa Village next door to the museum. Diligwa is a replica of 1710 Cherokee village that opened in 2013 on the grounds of the CHC. The outdoor living exhibit provides guests with an enhanced experience of authentic Cherokee life and history in the early 1700s. Diligwa is a name derivative of Tellico, a village in the East that was once the principal Cherokee town and is now underwater. Cherokee Immersion Charter School first grade teacher Helena McCoy said she brought her class to the CHC on Dec. 5 to experience the hands-on exhibit and expose her students to basket making and other Cherokee-made crafts. She said she also wanted to give her students the opportunity to observe the Cherokee history displayed in the museum. “We wanted them to have hands-on experience. They are making baskets right now, and they’re excited to learn about (basket) patterns and learn about animals by looking at their tracks,” she said. “Every chance we get we try to take them somewhere to do something different besides being in the classroom.” CHC Executive Director Dr. Candessa Tehee said grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Humanities Council is funding the hands-on exhibit. “It sort of brings the Diligwa Village indoors. So, we have a number of activities that people can come in and put their hands on. Hopefully it gives people a little touch of culture, history and crafting,” Tehee said. For information about the CHC and its exhibits, call 918-456-6007 or 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
12/15/2014 08:35 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – In his 38 years of working at the Cherokee Heritage Center, Tom Mooney worked on numerous projects and held various titles, but he retired on Dec. 5 as the center’s archivist. He began his CHC career as its historical registrar in 1976, the same year the Cherokee people ratified a new tribal constitution and 10 years after work began on the center. “I’ve enjoyed every year here. A lot of my life has been spent here. When you spend that much time some place you make a lot of friends. I’ve been very pleased all the years I’ve been out here,” Mooney said. He assisted people with genealogy until 2000, when he began overseeing the center’s massive archive. The archive includes books, newspapers, photographs, Cherokee Nation records from 1948-75 and donated papers from former Principal Chief William Keeler and many other former leaders and CN citizens. “When I started here there was file cabinet and that was basically the archives,” he said. “It’s just been the past few years that we’ve really gotten things squared away in our collections.” After helping with genealogy, he said he was glad to be able to concentrate on the archives, which now make up two rooms in the museum’s basement. The 66-year-old said his favorite document in the archives is a letter written by Ellen Whitmore, the first principal of the Cherokee Female Seminary, which opened in 1851. The CHC nearly sits where the seminary once did. The seminary burned down in 1887, and the center has as its centerpiece the three remaining brick columns of the seminary. “She’s writing her family. She’s been offered a job out here. She’s in Massachusetts, and she’s having to make this decision about whether to come out to Cherokee Nation or not,” Mooney said of Whitmore’s letter. “Today, it’s a big challenge for a girl to come from Massachusetts to Oklahoma to take a job. Back then it must have been horrendous.” The perils of traveling to Indian Territory by boat in 1850 down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River through Memphis and then through Arkansas on the Arkansas River and into Indian Territory and Tahlequah, where Principal Chief John Ross greeted her, tested her will. However, Mooney said she enjoyed her time leading the seminary. Documents such as Whitmore’s letter and others are being scanned and made into digital files so they can be accessed easier without damaging the original document. Mooney said before documents were scanned it was up to him “to remember where some box was” to access certain documents. [BLOCKQUOTE]In 2011, Mooney became a certified archivist through the Academy of Certified Archivists. He said at the time he took the certification test as a method of self-evaluation to see if he could pass the ACA test. CHC Executive Director Center Candessa Tehee said Mooney has been more than the center’s archivist. “He’s really been the backbone of the institution. He has so much institutional knowledge,” she said. “Tom built the archives. He started with basically nothing, and now we’ve got thousands of documents, and he has dealt with so many challenges...it’s really amazing what he has been able to do with so little.” One challenge was dealing with flooding in the basement during heavy rains. Tehee said Mooney told her during those times he would sleep on a cot with his arm above his head and his hand touching the floor so when the water came into the basement and touched his hand he would know to get up and vacuum it before it reached the archives. “Tom has such a passion for the institution. He has such a passion for Cherokee history, Cherokee heritage, Cherokee culture that he has made innumerable personal sacrifices to be here as archivist to continue to safeguard this collection,” Tehee said. Mooney retired a day before his 38th anniversary, which fell on Dec. 6. On Dec. 5, Mooney’s coworkers gathered in the CHC’s museum atrium to honor him for his dedication to the archives and for being a friend. He was presented with an “Unbroken Friendship Mat” made from river cane and woven by Cherokee artist and coworker Betty Frogg. Under the mat, which was enclosed in glass and a frame, read: “Thank you for 38 years of your ‘Unbroken Friendship.’” His wife, daughter and grandchildren also attended the honoring ceremony. Mooney met his wife Robin when they both worked at the CHC. He said he would miss the people he worked with the most, but he would, of course, also miss the “old documents” with which he has become familiar. “It’s been a great place. I’ve enjoyed the ride,” he said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/14/2014 12:00 PM
VENORE, Tenn. – The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore is offering a beginning and an advance beginner Cherokee language class beginning Jan. 12. Classes will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Jan. 12, 19, 26 and Feb. 2. The cost of the class is $40 for all four evenings. Shirley Oswalt and Mary Brown, citizens of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian, will teach the class. The noted Cherokee linguist Sequoyah was born near the museum site in 1776. The mission of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, a property of the EBCI, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of the Cherokee Indians in Eastern Tennessee, particularly the life and contributions of Sequoyah. The museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits objects and data that support this mission. The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, located on Tellico Lake, features video, electronic displays and exhibits from various periods of Cherokee occupation in the Tennessee Overhill area. Its gift shop offers for sale many Cherokee and Native American crafts and jewelry as well as books on Cherokee history and culture. People interested in taking this class should contact the museum at 423-884-6246 to reserve space. In case of inclement weather, call the museum ahead of time to determine if the class is meeting.