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
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

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Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/17/2014 11:37 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Oct. 2-3, students will have the opportunity to interact at the Cherokee Heritage Center and learn about Cherokee history as part of Ancient Cherokee Days. “This is a great opportunity for children to learn about ancient Cherokee life in a fun, interactive way,” CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said. “When they leave Cherokee Heritage Center, they will have a better understanding of what life was like for Cherokees 300 years ago.” The event is set in an outdoor classroom setting for students in grades kindergarten through 12 and is for public, private and homeschooled children. The event is primarily held inside Diligwa, which is the CHC’s authentic recreation of Cherokee life in the early 1700s. There are many Cherokee cultural learning stations available throughout the grounds that feature chunkey, marbles, stickball, blowguns and language. The outdoor cultural classes also feature interactive curriculum and games centered on Cherokee lifestyle in the early 18th century, including craft demonstrations in pottery making, basket weaving, food grinding, weapons or tool making and language. Admission to Ancient Cherokee Days is $5 per student. Accompanying adults are free. Face painting, which represents Cherokee tattoos from the early 1700s, is offered at $1 per design. Admission also includes tours of the Cherokee National Museum, the Trail of Tears exhibit and Adams Corner. Picnic tables are available for guests bringing lunches. The CHC has ample parking for school buses and private vehicles. The Murrell Home, one-half mile south, has additional picnic and playground areas. Registration for Ancient Cherokee Days begins at 9:30 a.m. The event will occur rain or shine, with an established curriculum in place for inclement weather that allows students to continue to enjoy the stations. For more information, call Weavel at 918-456-6007 or email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/15/2014 04:04 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Four Cherokee Nation citizens were given the designations of Cherokee National Treasure during an Aug. 28 ceremony in the Sequoyah High School gym. “Our 2014 awardees all exemplify the values that we hold dear as Cherokee people and they advance our culture in their respective disciplines,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Each and every one of these honorees deserves our deepest respect and gratitude. Their positive influence propels us all, as Cherokee people, forward.” David Comingdeer was named Cherokee Nation Treasure for his stickball stick making. He has been crafting his handmade sticks for 22 years from hickory wood that he cuts and then shapes using heat to make the wood flexible. He said he takes great care to perpetuate the art in the ways of his ancestors. Comingdeer’s family has lived in both Adair and Cherokee counties since their arrival in Indian Territory. He resides in the community of Spade Mountain, where he cultivates a pine tree plantation. Comingdeer is of the Paint Clan and is a member of the Echota Ground at Park Hill where he is head chief. He and his children have an active ceremonial life and spend much of their time traveling to ceremonial stomp dances across eastern Oklahoma. A lifelong resident of the CN, Clesta J. Manley was born on her father’s allotment land on the banks of the Grand River. For 30 years, Manley has shared Cherokee culture and art with the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club where she encourages members to learn more about history and culture. She started drawing at age 9 and continues to paint in a variety of media. Manley has participated in exhibitions throughout the state, won numerous awards, as well as a grant for a month to paint in Italy provided by the University of Tulsa Art Department. She has participated in juried shows at Philbrook Art Museum, Gilcrease Art Museum, Walton Art Center and the Cherokee Homecoming Art Show. Eddie Morrison, a native of Tahlequah, is a contemporary sculptor who has worked in wood and stone for 38 years. He is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M. Morrison often uses red cedar in his works for the variations in color provided by the wood. Another favored material is Kansas limestone that he collects himself. Much of this limestone contains fossils from a prehistoric sea that once covered much of North America. These fossils are often visible in the rough portions of Morrison’s stone sculptures. Morrison’s works are featured at the Department of Interior Building in Washington, D.C., on the Chisholm Trail monument at the Kansas-Oklahoma border, as well as in permanent collections throughout the country. Cherokee language specialist John Ross is a native of Greasy and a translation specialist for the tribe’s Education Services. Ross previously worked as a research analyst and grant writer for CN Community Services and served eight years as chief and four years as treasurer for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. Ross is bilingual and speaks Cherokee as a primary language. He serves as chairman of the Ethnobotany Publications board, which focuses on Cherokee cultural-environmental issues and is dedicated to the preservation of tribal environmental knowledge. Ross also serves on the Cherokee Elders Council. In 2013, Ross received the Perry Aunko Indigenous Language Preservation Award from the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
09/12/2014 12:42 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials announced a six-figure partnership with Gilcrease Museum on Sept. 11 to create a special Cherokee exhibition in 2017. The exhibition will display an estimated 100 items of Cherokee history from the museum’s collections. To help fund the exhibition, CN officials donated $100,000 to the museum during a ceremony. “We are celebrating a new milestone with the Cherokee Nation with an effort to provide more education about the emergence of the Cherokee Nation following removal – a very amazing story of unification that has led to growth that has led to a remarkably vibrant Cherokee Nation today,” University of Tulsa President Steadman Upham said. “We take seriously the stewardship charge of all of the records we keep.” The City of Tulsa owns the museum, but the university has operated it since 2008. The museum possesses 11 lineal feet of the John Ross Papers that chronicle major events during the former principal chief’s life, including the tribe’s struggle against forced removal to Indian Territory in 1838-39, internal violence with post-removal factionalism, the tribe’s unification, the Nation’s rebuilding in Indian Territory and the American Civil War that devastated it. Duane H. King, director of the museum’s Helmerich Center for American Research, said the dates that will be covered by the “Emergence of Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory” exhibition are 1828-66, which coincide with Ross’ tenure. Ross was principal chief for 38 years, longer than any other person in tribal history. “It’s commendable that the leadership of the Cherokee Nation...understand the importance of education and the importance of sharing the Cherokee story with the world,” King said. “Our partnership and collaboration with the CN will last many years.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the donation is a way he and the Tribal Council can fulfill part of their oaths of office to carry on “the culture, heritage, traditions and language” of the Cherokee people. “This is one small way we can help fulfill our obligation with good partners that we know will tell the story accurately – will tell the story that will allow people to come and learn a little more about who we are as a people, about who we are as a tribe, about where we came from and about where we’re going,” Baker said. “It’s absolutely our honor and privilege to work with Gilcrease and with TU to carry on a mission that is a passion to all concerned.” Most items for the exhibition will come from the Gilcrease collection, but museum officials also plan to showcase significant Cherokee items from other museums. Among the items slated for display are portraits of famous Cherokee leaders and other art and artifacts reflecting the emergence of the CN in Indian Territory. Museum officials will work with Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism in the exhibition’s development. Much of CNCT’s work during the past six years has been on the time period in Cherokee history that will be showcased in the exhibition. In November 2013, CN officials contributed a collection of more than 2,000 pages handwritten by Ross for preservation. The project complements an ongoing partnership between Cherokee language translators and Gilcrease Museum to translate Cherokee documents to English for the first time. “The story of the emergence of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory is the story of triumph over adversity. It’s the story of success in the face of tragedy, and it’s one of the most poignant accounts in the annals of recorded history,” King said. “It’s a story we want to share with the public, and we believe it will generate considerable interest locally, regionally and nationally.” Gilcrease Museum is one of the country’s leading facilities for the preservation and study of American art and history. It houses a large collection of Native American art and artifacts as well as thousands of historical documents, maps and manuscripts. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.gilcrease.utulsa.edu" target="_blank">www.gilcrease.utulsa.edu</a> or call 918-596-2700.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
09/10/2014 08:35 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The annual Cherokee Holiday Art Show continues to grow both in entries and categories. The Cherokee Nation and its Commerce Department sponsored the ninth annual art show held Aug. 29-31 in the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center. The show had 112 artists who entered 178 pieces of paintings, jewelry, pottery, sculptures, photographs, textiles and baskets. The artists competed for $12,000 in prize money with $900 going to the Best in Show winner. Troy Jackson of Grandview won Best in Show for his clay sculpture “The Gift,” which he said symbolizes the industrial revolution and how it affected Native Americans. “I’ve been wanting to learn more about the industrial revolution and the effect it had on Native Americans. I’ve taken gears and cogs to represent the revolution, but we also have a more Native theme with nature, so I used the fish as a symbolism for nature,” he said. “When I put those two together I get this sense of irony because the industrial revolution went so fast that it caused a disturbance with our nature. The irony is now we use industry to maintain what was once self-sufficient. Nature was once self-sufficient. We just continually tear up and we continually repair.” The sculpture is 43 inches tall, 15 inches wide and is 5 inches in depth. Jackson said the top portion of his piece symbolizes his faith. “I think that we’ve been given a gift from God almighty. The industrial revolution was a gift because it created jobs for everybody and it made life easier and we were also given nature, so that (top portion of sculpture) symbolized God above,” he said. Cherokee Holiday Art Show Coordinator Marie Smith said this year jewelry got its own category after being included in the diverse arts category. “We saw that we were starting to get a lot of jewelry entries. We wanted to separate those out of the diverse category because the diverse category is hard to judge already,” she said. Youth entries were separated into three categories to “spread the prize money around” and to encourage youth to enter the show, Smith added. “We have a lot of new artists coming up and a lot of younger artists coming up,” she said. “We’ve really got some spectacular pieces and over the years, and what I’ve seen, is that some of these artists come out stronger and stronger each year.” Also, the Deputy Chief Award was added to the mix to go along with the Principal Chief and Speaker of the Council awards, which are chosen by Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Speaker of the Council Tina Glory Jordan, respectively. “We added the Deputy Chief’s Award, again, to spread the prize money,” Smith said. Judges for the competition were also allowed to choose their favorite youth and adult entries during the art show. Jolie Morgan of Tahlequah won a Judge’s Choice Award for her maroon and white acrylic yarn, finger-woven belt. She said the colors represent Sequoyah Schools, where she is in the eighth grade. Morgan said she learned how to finger weave from her mother, Candessa Tehee, and wants to continue finger weaving and learn how to do bead work and make baskets. Ten-year-old Tanner Williams of Broken Arrow has been entering the Cherokee Holiday Art Show for five years. This year he won the Principal Chief Award for a “Cherokee Shield” made from clay. Williams said it took him about four days to finish the shield. For its designs, Williams said he put “random symbols on it that looked really cool.” He said he wants to keep working with clay and also works with gourds that his grandmother, Cherokee artist Verna Bates, grows and uses for art. “When he first began entering the Holiday Art Show, he was simply excited to have his art on display. As he has become older, his interest in his Cherokee heritage has grown, which thrills me,” Bates said. “I try to share what I know about our culture and heritage so that both grandsons, Tanner and Tucker, will understand and continue to explore our history and Cherokee arts. I can’t wait to see what they do with their talents as they grow older.” Smith said she appreciated the volunteers from CN departments and community members helped with the show to make it a success again. Cherokee Holiday Art Show winners are: Traditional: Roger and Shawna Cain – “Old School: GWY Fishing Set” Contemporary Pottery: Troy Jackson – “Contemporary Marriage Vase” Paintings: John Owen – “Early Journalists” Drawings and Graphics: Bryan Douglas Parker – “Broken Promises” Sculpture: Bill Glass Jr. – “Birdman” Contemporary Basketry: Rodslen Brown-King – “Lace Moxie Purse” Textiles & Weaving: Dorothy Ice – “Loom Woven Diamond Weave Pattern” Diverse Arts: Leslie Gates – “Deer Clan Vessel” Photography: Elizabeth Hummingbird – “Waking Up to Mother Earth” Jewelry: Toneh Chuleewah – “Hollywood Bracelet” Youth 14-18: Angelica Cricket Bohanan – “River Cane Basket” Youth-Judges’ Choice Judge Mary Beth Nelson: Jolie Morgan – “Si-Quoya Adadlosdi” Judge Traci Rabbit: Sofia Bohanan – “Southern Plains Bag-Kiowa/Comanche style” Judge Tim Nevaquaya: Treyton Pruitt – “Dagsi Watching Over the Bloodroot” Adult-Judges’ Choice Judge Mary Beth Nelson: Beverly Fentress – “Near Extinction to Distinction...Tell The Story” Judge Traci Rabbit: Tony Tiger – “Transcendent Rapture of Being” Judge Tim Nevaquaya: Curtis Sewell – “Cherokee Stripes” Chief’s Choice Youth: Tanner Williams – “Cherokee Shield” Adult: Jeffrey Watt – “Deer Horn Eagle” Deputy Chief’s Choice Youth: Treyton Pruitt – “Dagsi in the Bloodroot” Adult: Bill Glass Jr. – “Birdman” Speaker of the Council Youth: Treyton Pruitt - “Dagsi Watching Over the Bloodroot” Adult: Matt Anderson – “Carved Gourd with Split Oak Pattern”
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/09/2014 12:37 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will host a free 8-week course starting on Sept. 16 on the Cherokee language at the Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs. Classes will be held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each Tuesday. According to the Grove Daily Sun, Lawrence Panther, who also teaches Cherokee at Northeastern State University, will teach the classes. “Participants will be taught the Cherokee syllabary and phonetics, as well as how to read and write Cherokee words,” the Grove Daily Sun reports. The class is limited to 25 people. Registration is required. To register send a request to Lawrence Panther by email at <a href="mailto: pantherl@nsuok.edu">pantherl@nsuok.edu</a> or call 918-353-2980.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/05/2014 11:57 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Stickball, cornstalk shoots, Cherokee marbles, blowgun competitions, and powwows were all a part of the 62nd Cherokee National Holiday. Cherokees matched their traditional skills while spectators learned about Cherokee culture.