CHC to present J.B. Milam exhibition

10/04/2012 09:35 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will present the J.B. Milam exhibition from Oct. 15 through Dec. 31 to honor the legacy of the former Cherokee Nation principal chief, businessman and father.

Jesse Bartley Milam, commonly known as J.B., served as principal chief from 1941 to his passing in 1949. Milam is one of eight chiefs appointed by the president of the United States. These “principal chiefs,” many holding the title for only a day, signed documents and performed other pro forma (pure formality) duties as required by the federal government.

Milam was born in Texas in 1884 to William Guinn Milam and Sara Ellen Couch, who was a member of the Long Hair Clan. In 1887, the Milam family moved to the CN in Indian Territory where they farmed and ranched. The family later moved to Chelsea in what is now Rogers County, in 1893, where William opened a hardware store.

Jesse was educated at the Cherokee Male Seminary and then the Metropolitan Business College in Dallas. When he returned home, he went to work for the Bank of Chelsea where his father was vice president. He married Elizabeth Peach McSpadden in 1904. Four years later, he, his brother James and his father bought the controlling interest in the Bank of Chelsea. Jesse became bank president in 1915.

In 1947, along with a goal of restoring the tribal government, Milam had goals of preserving Cherokee heritage and pursuing Cherokee claims. He actively researched Cherokee history and culture and legal issues affecting the tribe. He also was involved in cultural, historical and ceremonial activities.

In the 1920s, Milam underwrote the expenses of writer Emmet Starr who wrote several books on the Cherokee, including the “Early History of the Cherokees.” Milam also did extensive research on the life of Sequoyah and financed an expedition into Mexico to find Sequoyah’s burial place.

He located the original mold for the Cherokee syllabary and began working to get the print type made again with a goal of publishing materials in the syllabary. He also pursued the establishment of Cherokee language classes in area schools and universities.

On May 8, 1949, at 65 years old, he died in Kansas City, Mo. Many of the goals Milam had pursued for the tribe as principal chief went unfinished, but some were picked up by later chiefs and completed.

The Milam exhibition will be shown from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is $8.50 per adult (19 and older), $7.50 per senior (55 and older) and college students with proper identification, $5 per child (5-18 years old) and free per child (4 and under) with paid adult. Admission price includes all attractions. Entry to the grounds and museum store are free.

The show features 113 traditional and contemporary Cherokee artworks.

For more information, call 1-888-999-6007 or email or visit


Senior Reporter
03/27/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dan HorseChief began creating artwork almost as soon as he was able to hold a pencil. The Cherokee-Pawnee is a natural artist, but he also had influences all around him. His older siblings are also artists and his mother worked as an art teacher when he was young. “My first memory is drawing in church. I would draw the Alamo (battle) while they were teaching about peace,” he said laughingly. “I just mimicked my brothers and sisters. I’m the youngest of four. And my mother, later on, was an art teacher. I just basically watched and observed. I was the little guy in the corner watching everybody do their thing. That’s how I started.” Later, he began entering art shows “for fun” and watched his mother, Mary Adair HorseChief, partake in art exhibits with her works. He received formal art training at Bacone College in Muskogee, and at the Institute of the American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “The people I looked up to in the art world were my female relatives. So, I have a lot of respect for my mother, our family and friends,” he said. He also credits his high school art teacher for helping him with learning how to create art and credits his sister Mary. He said when he started learning how to draw pictures he was inspired by sports and pop culture, and Mary taught him how to properly shade mountains when he drew landscapes. “She told me how to hold a pencil and how to use it, how to use my fingers,” he said. As a young man he read National Geographic magazines and history books and would draw photos he saw, which helped him learn to draw the muscles of people and animals while they were motion. Eventually he transitioned from drawing black and whites to painting colors on canvas and sculpting figures. However, he still sketches his ideas on paper before painting or sculpting them, he said. Today, he paints using gouache, acrylic and oil, and said his paintings have helped his sculpting. His paintings and sculptures have won awards at local and national art shows. A photography class he took while attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah also helped him with creating artwork, he said. “I just say try everything you can,” he said. “I actually had a job as a woodcarver for two years carving images on furniture. That actually transformed my sculptures. That gave me confidence. I used to paint toy soldiers for a job in the summer and that helped me to mix paint. So you never know how all these little things are going to add up.” He may be the only Cherokee artist working on large sculptures of human figures. He is responsible for the bronze 9-1/2 foot tall Sequoyah statues that stand at NSU and Sequoyah High School, the stickball sculpture titled “The Seeker” in front of the SHS gymnasium and the “Resurgence” sculpture at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill. He is also working on five-figure sculpture that will be placed in front of the Cherokee Veterans Service Center on the CN Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The five figures will represent the five branches of the United States military: Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. A falcon will be fixed over the figures to symbolize a “guardian” over the service people. “So the whole groups swirls up to that falcon,” he said. The figures of the sculpture are a World War II bomber crewman, Marine recon member in Vietnam, Army infantryman from World War I, modern-day female Coast Guard member and a modern Navy officer. “So you have different ages, genders ranks, backgrounds, but they all represent the diversity of Cherokee people in the Cherokee Nation,” he said. He said this sculpture is a “mixed-media” piece that has the figures mixed with objects the figures would have worn or used such as a helmet, hat, rifle or binoculars made from clay, plastics and resins. He said he prefers to be “hands-on” with his large sculptures, so he sculpts them at full size to ensure it’s “the vision” he wants that’s going to be the final product. HorseChief said it’s a good time to be a sculpture artist and feels he has arrived at the right moment. However, creating sculptures are time consuming. He figures it will take two years to complete the veterans sculpture, which he hopes to have completed later this year. He is also working on a painting for an addition being built at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell. The painting will be computer-enlarged to a 16-foot-by-20-foot piece that will go with two similar-sized pieces being created by his sister Mary and brother Sam. The three pieces will tell the Cherokee story “The Origins of Strawberries.” “They’re (Mary and Sam) the perfect choices for doing these pieces, Sam with his detail and my sister with her passion and flare,” he said. One can view his work on Facebook by searching for Daniel Milton HorseChief.
03/26/2015 02:00 PM
CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) – Certified teacher Rainy Brake learned Cherokee as a second language after she began teaching elementary classes at New Kituwah Academy six years ago. She works alongside Louise Brown, who is fluent in Cherokee. In the beginning, Brake interacted very little with students. She took the student quizzes and did projects alongside them to become more fluent. Now, however, she’s animated in class. On a recent morning, Brake raised her arms and used her voice dramatically to teach a kindergarten class about snakes in South America as they used construction paper to make anacondas. Here are excerpts from the session, taken from an audio recording translated by Brake: “My name is Rainy,” she says, first in Spanish, then in Cherokee. She tells the children her name in Spanish sounds like the word for soap. The kindergarteners find that hilarious. Except for Brake giving her Spanish name, she and Brown conduct the rest of the class in Cherokee. “This is a rain forest,” Brake says, reading from a book. “What is ‘rain forest?’” asks Brown. “You read it” Brake instructs, and the children read together. “What is ‘agasgi?’” asks Brown. “Dance!” says one child — but the answer isn’t right. “Water going down,” Brake says, correcting the answer. “It is always wet in a rain forest,” Brown says. “Outside it looks warm, but it is always wet.” “This is called the ‘Amazon,’ Brake says. “It is a very big forest. And these are Native Americans. This is their home. Are they the same as Cherokees?” “No,” the children reply. “And there, this is a canoe,” Brake says. “This is a long canoe.” “That is long!” the children say, gasping. “Look here. Do you know this picture?” Brake says. “This is the South American natives’ blow gun. But, this is the Cherokee blow gun.” “Are they the same? Who has made one of these?” asks Brown. “I have! I have!” the children chorus. “Whose dad or granddad has made one of these?” says Brown. “My father made one!” says one child. “My mom made one,” says another. “OK, here are South American animals,” Brake says. “What is this one?” “A big snake!” the children reply, gasping again. “That’s right. It’s an anaconda.” “Anaconda,” the children repeat. “A big, long, snake,” Brake says. “What do snakes say?” The kids hiss. “This will be your snake,” Brake says, passing out paper. “First, choose your color. Hmm, I think mine will be green first. Here, just a bit of glue. Do you see it? And here, we make a circle. Now in this circle — “ “Oh, I know how to do this!” says one child. “You know how? Great,” Brake replies. Together, they cut out paper and paste together their snakes.
03/26/2015 12:00 PM
CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) – Kevin Tafoya grew up hearing Cherokee all around him — his mother, a grandmother and grandfather, aunts and an uncle all spoke the language that now is teetering on the edge of extinction. Yet his mother purposely didn’t teach him. “She told us she had a hard time in school transitioning from Cherokee to English,” Tafoya said. “She didn’t want us to have the same problem so she never really taught us when we were younger.” Now the 37-year-old wants something different for his 6-year-old son, Moke, and his 2-year-old daughter, Marijane. Both are enrolled at New Kituwah Academy, a Cherokee language immersion school. The language is “probably only the last real thing about being Cherokee that we have left,” he said. “I mean, we have our different arts and stuff. But I think our language really defines us as it does any people.” With fewer than 300 native Cherokee speakers remaining in North Carolina, the clock is ticking to preserve not just the language, but a culture too. For the Eastern Band of Cherokee, hopes lie first with six fifth-graders who have attended New Kituwah (pronounced gi-DOO-wah) since they were babies. “That’s a big thing to hold on the shoulders of kids, that they’re carrying the language,” said Kylie Crowe Shuler, principal of the private school operated by the tribe. “And I don’t want to beat that on them. I want them to enjoy it. And I think that they do.” The school, which opened in 2004, has about 90 students, with 55 in elementary and 35 in early childhood. Kituwah is a powerful word for the Cherokee and the name that they call themselves. The word can have different meanings, including mother town or the center. The area called Kituwah is located about 10 miles west of Cherokee. From their earliest years, students learn only in Cherokee. Only in the higher grades is English introduced, mostly as a bow to parents concerned about what happens after their children leave the school. The fifth-graders, members of the first class to attend New Kituwah, seem to grasp what’s at stake. “We’re trying to keep a culture going,” Haley Smith, 11, said in a recent interview. Bo Taylor, 45, directs the Museum of the Cherokee Indian; he learned the language as an adult. One of the fifth graders is his 10-year-old daughter Abigail. “I cannot emphasize enough this first class,” he said. “These first kids, these parents that were willing to risk their child’s futures and gamble with the belief that Cherokee was important, that’s amazing because they were guinea pigs.” Next year, the fifth-graders will get to continue that schooling, thanks to a decision by the tribal council to fund New Kituwah Academy for grades 6-12. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accredited New Kituwah in January. Cherokee had no writing system until the early 1800s, when the renowned Sequoyah wrote a syllabary to put its sounds on paper. While English has one symbol for every letter, Cherokee has one symbol for each of its 80-plus syllables. Unlike many other languages, which focus on nouns and adjectives, Cherokee focuses on verbs. One verb can reveal how many people are talking, what they’re doing and how near they are. The near demise of the language came largely thanks to the U.S. government. Most Cherokee were forced to make a brutal march from the Southeast to Oklahoma in the 1830s. A few stayed behind, keeping a desperate grip on their way of life. Then, beginning in the late 1800s, officials set up boarding schools to eradicate the American Indian languages. Teachers punished students for speaking their native tongues. Without New Kituwah or something like it, “the Cherokee language will for sure die,” said Walt Wolfram, director of the North Carolina Language and Life Project at N.C. State University. “Lots of people remain skeptical about whether languages can be revived. But the (other) option is certain death. In that sense, Kituwah Academy is the only antidote for what will be inevitable.” New Kituwah is one part of the Eastern Band’s effort to preserve the language, said Annette Clapsaddle, director of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, which has given almost $2 million to the school. Other initiatives include Cherokee language programs at public schools and a Cherokee studies program at Western Carolina University, she said. Throughout the U.S., Native American tribes in recent years have launched efforts to preserve their languages. The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma opened the Cherokee Immersion Charter School in 2002, said Julie Hubbard, a spokeswoman for Cherokees there. Students start at age 3 and go through eighth grade, when they can transfer to a public school or to Sequoyah High School, where the Cherokee immersion students study together, she said. New Kituwah has had problems finding teachers fluent in Cherokee. Most native speakers are in their 60s and 70s and struggle with health issues, school administrators said. Tafoya said he worries that his children may fall behind in some subjects, but the benefits of New Kituwah outweigh any downsides. His 2-year-old, Marijane, is picking up some Cherokee words, Tafoya said. When Tafoya picks her up at school, she’ll ask “Gah-ZUH a-GAH-shgaa?” meaning where is Rain, which is Moke’s Cherokee name. And she knows a favorite word of 2-year-olds in two languages: “No.” In Cherokee, that’s “Ha-DEE.” Taylor said he believes the immersion school was the right choice for his girls. “Cherokee, it goes to the core of who we are,” he said. While some American Indian cultures are in jeopardy, New Kituwah offers hope, he said. “We’re singing our songs again,” he said. “We’re telling our stories. And the one thing that we have is hope.” Even though she forgets words sometimes, Haley is certain that she and the other fifth-graders will never abandon the Cherokee language. “A lot of people ask us, what if we forget our language,” she said. “And all you can tell them is it’s a part of life. You can’t just forget that.”
03/21/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A bronze bust honoring the first female Cherokee National Treasure celebrated for reviving Southeastern style pottery is now on display at the Nation’s W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. Cherokee artist Jane Osti sculpted the bust of the late Anna Belle Sixkiller Mitchell. The tribe and Northeastern State University commissioned the bronze sculpture in the 1980s. After its unveiling in 1990, the statue was kept at NSU’s Bacone House. It’s now displayed at the Tribal Complex. “The essence of bringing the bronze statue to the Cherokee Nation to share with Cherokee citizens in honor of the 25th anniversary of its completion warms my heart,” Tribal Councilor Victoria Mitchell Vazquez, the daughter of Sixkiller Mitchell, said. “Having this statue so prominently displayed publicly shines a light on the achievements of my mother, who was a pioneer in her field, and restored what could have been a lost tradition.” Sixkiller Mitchell grew up in Jay. She was a self-taught artist who began in 1969 after her husband requested she make a replica of Sequoyah’s pipe. That single project and an encounter with the University of Arkansas’ archeology museum archives led her to decades of studying, researching and reviving Southeastern style pottery. Southeastern style pottery is the traditional art of the Woodland Indians, including Cherokees, who originated from Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama. Artifacts include animal effigies, ceremonial objects and wood-fired vessels stamped with unique designs such as water symbols. “She didn’t know how to fire pots so Dad built her a three-sided fireplace, and she would fire pottery in metal tubs using wood, letting the coals burn down and fire all four sides, which was as close to traditional as possible,” Vazquez said. “She would dig the white yellow clay from the pond or creek bank in Craig County, and what she learned from more than 35 years of trial and error did revive it.” From start to finish, it would take several weeks to process the clay, dry it, grind it, mix it with water and design and fire it. Sixkiller Mitchell not only revived Southeastern pottery tradition but also passed it on. Young artists asked to work with her since she was a Johnson-O’Malley Program director in Vinita schools. In 1988, she was designated a Cherokee National Treasure. In 2008, CN Education Services presented her with the Educator of Arts and Humanities Lifetime Achievement Award. Sixkiller Mitchell died in 2012. Her art is displayed at the Vinita Health Center, at Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs and in permanent collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Cherokee Heritage Center and Fred Jones Museum at University of Oklahoma. Osti was an NSU student working on her fine arts degree when she met Sixkiller Mitchell to interview her for an assignment. Sixkiller Mitchell later became Osti’s teacher and mentor. The bust was Osti’s first major piece of work, which she took on for free. The tribe and NSU paid to have it bronzed. “My great admiration and friendship with her is how the sculpture came about. I admired her work and how she revived Cherokee pottery,” Osti said. “She was my mentor for all the years I knew her. Anna Belle was the first person to teach me the Native American way of making pottery.” In 2005, Osti followed in Mitchell’s footsteps by becoming only the second person to be recognized as a Cherokee National Treasure for pottery. Vazquez also received the Cherokee National Treasure award for traditional pottery in 2012, following in her mother’s footsteps. She and Osti established a Cherokee National Treasures’ mentoring program that is funded with Tribal Council dollars. So far, four artisans now teach their skills to other Cherokees in the Tahlequah and Locust Grove area. The tribe will display the statue for at least the next year. The Nation displays Cherokee art in each of its buildings, casinos and health centers to educate citizens about Cherokee history, culture and heritage through visual art.
Senior Reporter
03/19/2015 08:56 AM
NEW ECHOTA, Ga. – The New Echota State Historic Site near Calhoun is a significant site in Cherokee history and is still used to teach that history. In 2009, it faced budget and staff cuts from Georgia and has relied more on the volunteer group Friends of New Echota for maintenance and staffing. “Without them the site would have really taken a much bigger and negative impact from the 2009 budget and staff reductions. There are lots of places people can go to see old cabins, old houses, and artifacts from around the western (North) Carolina, northern Georgia areas, so it is really the people working here that can make an impact on a visitor's experience,” New Echota Site Manager David Gomez said. “With a trained and knowledgeable Friends volunteer filling in where staff is no longer available, the visit can become a great experience again. Seeing the print shop is not nearly as good as going in the print shop and having someone knowledgeable about printing history and the Cherokee Phoenix story. That makes all the difference in the world.” [BLOCKQUOTE]Visitors to the site can see 12 original and reconstructed buildings including a council house, courthouse, print shop and an 1805 store, as well as outbuildings such as smokehouses, corncribs and barns. A legislative act in 1825 by the Cherokee National Council established New Echota as the tribe’s capital. The Cherokee Phoenix, the first Native American newspaper, was established at the capital, and on Dec. 29, 1835, what remained of Cherokee lands in the East were illegally signed away by men led by Major Ridge, his son John Ridge and Elias Boudinot, who had served as the first Cherokee Phoenix editor. FONE President Elaine Wheat Watkins said FONE is a nonprofit organization that operates as a chapter of Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. FONE assists Gomez with planning, organizing and implementing special events. FONE also promotes awareness, support and involvement with the site. “We regularly clean and staff the buildings for group tours to enhance the visitor experience,” she said. Recently the group planted flowers, purchased materials to build a security/privacy fence adjacent to the center, worked on new walking trails at the site, donated bee traps to help protect buildings and donated purple martin gourd birdhouses. FONE also got a $10,000 grant to develop electronic-based tour enhancements for smart phones and tablets. “This will provide video based tours for the six major buildings on the site: middle-class cabin, council house, supreme court house, Worcester house, tavern and print shop, and provide upgrades and enhancements for the museum,” Watkins said. “We plan to add additional items such as authentic Cherokee baskets and pottery. With budget cuts limiting interpretive rangers, electronic tours will greatly enhance the guest experience for both individuals and group tours, including student field trips.” FONE also hosts the Remember the Removal bicycle riders from the Cherokee Nation and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who begin their nearly 1,000-mile ride from the historic site each June. “I can’t imagine the pain of being forced to leave one’s beloved home and the hardships endured because of the removal. If we can help preserve the site, we can use it as a way to share the story, as well as the culture and let people know that the Cherokee not only survived but thrived,” Watkins said. Gomez said FONE members have a good online presence and use social media to promote the site. They also work festivals, fairs and other regional events by setting up a “New Echota and Chief Vann” table to share information about the site’s significance. Chief James Vann was a wealthy Cherokee leaders who owned a two-story brick home, which is now a part of the Chief Vann House Historic Site about 20 miles northeast of the New Echota site. “As stakeholders, they (FONE members) are a sounding voice that can keep New Echota in the thoughts of our local and state elected officials. We have recently added an additional day of open operations at New Echota and Chief Vann House Sites due in part to support from our Friends organizations,” Gomez said. The new operating hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. People can join FONE by visiting the New Echota site or by visiting <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and designating New Echota as their chapter preference. For more information, call 706-624-1321. FONE may be emailed at <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Senior Reporter
03/18/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Native Arts and Cultures Foundation representative visited the Cherokee Arts Center on March 10 to reach out to area Native artists and share information on applying for NACF grants. Andre Bouchard, NACF program officer, said this year the NACF will give out 30 artist scholarships of up to $20,000 in six disciplines: literature, film, music, performing arts, traditional arts and visual arts. The NACF gives grants to Native American artists in 50 states. Bouchard said the foundation hopes to provide more than 30 grants next year. Bouchard told the artists at the meeting what the NACF looks for in grant applications. He said 80 percent of the score given to an application is based on the artist’s work sample submitted with it. The artist’s project description and “vision” makes up the remaining 20 percent of their score. Native artists are allowed to submit one application per cycle to NACF. “The need is great. There are a lot of extremely talented Native artists out there and unfortunately not all of them apply every year. Visual arts are admittedly the most competitive of those (disciplines). We did twice as many visual arts applications,” Bouchard said. “We hope to keep expanding in the future and helping out more Native artists wherever we go.” Bouchard recommended multi-disciplined artists apply in the discipline in which the artist is strongest. Another reason Bouchard visits tribal areas is to help demystify the idea of grant seeking and lend some skills and “strategic approach” for Native grant seekers. He said there are also family foundations and community foundations that provide grants to artists. He said it’s important to know a foundation’s cycle or when it is accepting grants. “Almost all foundations out there will not accept proposals out of cycle, so sending in your information or an application when they are not accepting sometimes can put you on their radar and can sometimes also annoy them,” he said. Another important part of seeking grants from a family or community foundation is to make sure the application is read thoroughly. Are they giving to artists like you? Are they giving to people who are doing the things you are doing? Bouchard said many municipal and public libraries have a tool called Foundation Center that helps artists research the foundations in their state, which ones are giving to artists, and what type of disciplines they are giving to. He also recommended researching where other Native artists are getting grants. Cherokee Nation citizen Rodslen Brown King of Fort Gibson is a multi-disciplined artist but is “really involved” in weaving baskets. She said she went to the NACF presentation to learn about the grants available to Native artists. “I just wanted to find out what all I need to do to try and maybe get an award,” she said. “It was really interesting.” She aid she would take the information she gathered back to her community. The deadline to apply for a NACF grant is 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on April 6. Artists who are members of federally and state-recognized U.S. tribes, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities can review criteria and complete an application for the fellowship at before the deadline. The foundation will announce award recipients in August. For questions and support, email Bouchard at <a href="mailto:"></a> or call 360-314-2421. To learn more about the foundation, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.