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 JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/21/2017 03:30 PM
BELL, Okla. – Christopher Cojeen, a contracted archeologist with the Cherokee Nation, and a two other CN departments recently performed three site visits in Adair County near where a new federally funded road will be built near the community of Bell. Cojeen said during the last 20 to 25 years he has worked with the tribe to determine if there are homesteads or prehistoric sites located in the path of projects that use tribal or federal funds including road, community services buildings or housing projects. “Initially, we went out and did an archeological survey of the road. Just visually looking at the surface, looking for homesteads, prehistoric sites like you saw or cemeteries like you saw,” he said. “The Cherokee Nation has a lot of cemeteries that aren’t fenced, right up adjacent to the road…and today we were just coming back out with the roads department and Sheila Bird to determine how significant the sites were and whether we can go ahead and get funding to go to a second stage.” He added that the sites visited deserve to go to a testing level of recovery because there is so much lithic stone material on the surface as well as projectile points that are characteristic to a time period found at the sites. Two cemeteries were viewed in an effort to see the condition and state of the sites. Upon departmental recommendations, additional testing will occur around both cemeteries to determine if any burials are close to where the road will be built. Additional testing is warranted to ensure burials will not be disturbed during the construction. Another location visited he said would be an ideal location for a prehistoric site due to its location and relation to water tributaries. “You’ve got a first terrace like we were standing on over the creek and occupation like that would’ve happened during the archaic period for as much as 1,000 to 2,000 years (ago),” he said. “This would start roughly at 0 A.D. going back 1,000 to 2,000 years B.C.” At that age he said, it makes it difficult to determine a kind of “people” that may have inhabited the location. “That’s old enough that you’re really just looking at a time period. Many people do have a good idea of what groups were in this area at the time obviously, the Cherokee Nation brought in on the Trail of Tears wouldn’t be one of the tribes that would probably lay claim to this area prehistorically,” Cojeen said. Providing this type of service, he said, all people would benefit from with a better understanding of prehistory, but his involvement is due to a federal law protecting sites prehistoric and historic sites. “Aside from that, you’ve got an area which has a great number of stone tool recovery, and if we can find it in a dateable sequence, and this being right above the creek probably did have a lot of deposition that got laid over time. We might find archaic tools on the surface and as we go back middle archaic tools and early archaic or maybe even Paleo-Indian material resting at the bottom of the whole thing. If we have a good stratigraphic situation like that, then we can learn a lot about the changes in occupation over time.” Moving forward, Cojeen said, they’ll go into a testing phase of recovery where they’ll place areas in “one by one’s like you see on T.V.,” he said. Check back with the Cherokee Phoenix for updates on this story.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/10/2017 12:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – First Nations Development Institute, a national Native American nonprofit organization that works to improve Native economies and communities, on Feb. 2 announced it has received a $2.7 million grant for a three-year Native arts project. This award will position First Nations to expand its Native Arts Initiative, formerly known as the “Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative,” into 2019. Launched in early 2014, the purpose of the Native Arts Initiative is to support the perpetuation and proliferation of Native American arts, cultures and traditions as integral to Native community life. It does this by providing organizational and programmatic resources to Native-led organizations and tribal government programs that have existing programs in place that support Native artists and traditional arts in their communities. Since 2014, First Nations has awarded more than $600,000 in grant funds to various eligible Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to bolster the sustainability of their organizational and programmatic infrastructure as well as the professional development of their staff and leadership. Under the expansion, First Nations will continue to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. First Nations will begin to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in two new regions – the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest, including Washington and Oregon. First Nations expects to release a request for proposals in the coming days and will award approximately 45 Supporting Native Arts Grants of up to $32,000 each over the next three years to eligible Native-led nonprofits and tribal government programs in these regions. NAI recipient organizations and programs will utilize their grants to strengthen their organizational and programmatic infrastructure and sustainability, which will reinforce their support of the field of Native American artists as culture bearers and traditional arts in their communities. In addition to financial support, the NAI will offer individualized training and technical assistance opportunities for grantees as well as competitive professional development opportunities for staff members of eligible Native-led organizations and tribal programs. For a list of current and former NAI grantees, visit <a href="http://www.firstnations.org" target="_blank">http://www.firstnations.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/09/2017 04:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The 46th annual Trail of Tears Art Show is set to run from April 8 through May 6 at the Cherokee Heritage Center with categories including painting, sculpture, pottery, basketry, graphics, jewelry and miniatures. Artists will compete for more than $15,000. Artists must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe to enter the show. A submission fee of $10 is charged per entry and entries must be submitted to callie-chunestudy@cherokee.org by 5 p.m. on March 15. Artists who wish to enter their works should submit photographs of their completed works, an entry form and the fee. These items must be submitted at the same time or the entry will be disqualified. A list of accepted artwork will be posted on March 22 on the CHC website. An awards reception is set for 6 p.m. on April 7 to recognize winners in each category. The Trail of Tears Art Show began in 1972 as a means of fostering the development of painting as a form of expressing Native American heritage. Initiated before the completion of the museum, the art show was held in the rain shelter of the Tsa-La-Gi Theater. In 1975, it became the first major exhibition in the present museum. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For more information, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/05/2017 10:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Native American youths are invited to participate in the 2017 Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition and Show, scheduled for April 8 through May 6. All artists must be citizens of a federally recognized tribe, in grades sixth through 12, and are limited to one entry per person. There is no fee to participate in the competition. Entries will be received between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on March 31 at the Cherokee Heritage Center. All submissions must include an entry form attached to the artwork, an artist agreement form and a copy of the artist’s Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card or tribal card. Artwork will be evaluated by division and grade level. Awards include Best in Show: $250; first place: $150; second place: $125; and third place: $100. The Best in Show winner will also receive a free booth in October at the Cherokee Art Market. A reception will be held at 6 p.m. on April 7 at the CHC in conjunction with the 46th annual Trail of Tears Art Show. Winning artwork will remain on display throughout the duration of the Cherokee Art Market Youth Show, ending May 9. Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is hosting the Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition. For more information, call Deborah Fritts at 918-384-6990 or email <a href="mailto: cherokeeartmarket@cnent.com">cherokeeartmarket@cnent.com</a>. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/03/2017 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Museum officials said construction of the American Indian Cultural Center & Museum in Oklahoma City may resume as soon as this fall after a decades-long effort to create it. Fundraisers have collected $10.8 million in private donations, the Oklahoman reported. Fundraisers said they’ve collected enough funds to complete and open the museum, as outlined in a 2015 state law. Museum officials approved a plan to allow the acceptance of the donated money and give Executive Director Blake Wade authority to deposit the money in a state “completion fund.” According to Oklahoma City attorney John Michael Williams, depositing the private donations would start the process of issuing state bonds. He said the process would take four to five months. “I predict construction, if things go routinely, construction would start in October,” he said. The private donations are the first installment of the state’s $25 million pledge of matching funds to finish the museum. The cost to complete the museum is estimated to be at least $65 million. “This is a milestone resolution, a milestone day,” Williams said. The inside of the 162,000-square-foot museum remained mostly unfinished when construction came to a halt five years ago due to insufficient state funding, with the exterior of the museum nearly finished. In 2015, Oklahoma City leaders and the Chickasaw Nation partnered to complete and open the museum. Their partnership also includes the development of surrounding commercial property. Currently, the board includes $876,000 into its annual expenses to maintain the facility, secure the site and preserve warranties.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/30/2017 12:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism will host cultural classes to learn the art of making traditional pucker-toe moccasins. The Saturday workshops are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for March 11, July 15, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4 at the Cherokee National Prison Museum. Registration costs $35 and is available at <a href="http://www.cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeegiftshop.com</a>. Early registration is recommended, as class size is limited to 15 people. All materials will be provided to make traditional pucker-toe moccasins, which were historically worn by the Cherokee people. Participants are asked to bring their own lunches. The Cherokee National Prison was the only penitentiary building in Indian Territory from 1875 to 1901. It housed sentenced and accused prisoners from throughout the territory. It is located at 124 E. Choctaw St. For more information, call 1-77-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.