WESTVILLE, Okla. – At the April 18 Goingsnake District Heritage Association meeting at the Westville Library, Cherokee historian Marybelle Chase spoke about the early Cherokee Nation school system.
With her presentation, “Public School System in the Cherokee Nation,” she said the tribe’s school system was a result of the Principal Chief John Ross’s goal of “independence and prosperity for the Cherokee people.”
“He believed their security laid in education. In his annual message to the Cherokee Legislature in the fall of 1840, Chief Ross recommended that they come up with a plan for a free public school system,” she said.
At this time there were missionary schools in the CN that Cherokee children attended, but Ross did not seek the help of missions or the United States government to form a tribal public school system. Chase said the tribe’s Public Education Act of 1841 called for the appointment of a school superintendent to be paid from the national treasury to supervise the new school system.
“In each community, the people were required to elect three local school directors whose duty was to see that the community built and maintained a school building. The schools were built of logs by the Cherokee people in each district,” she said.
In the beginning, most teachers were white from the East and their pay matched those of teachers in eastern states, she said.
“As more Cherokees became educated, many of them took over as teachers, replacing the whites,” Chase said. “The superintendent selected the teacher of each school with the advice of the three directors. Schools were to have a minimum of 25 students who lived within walking distance.”
She said if the local directors could not maintain a minimum of 25 students, the superintendent had the right to move the school to a more-populated location in the district.
Chase said the school system experienced some problems because full-blood Cherokee parents “saw no need for education” while the mixed-blood Cherokees were accepting of the school system.
“The Cherokee-speaking children of full-blood parents found it difficult to learn from teachers who did not speak Cherokee,” she said.
In 1843, the council increased the number of Cherokee schools from eight to 18, and in 1846 three more schools were added. By 1860 there were 30 public schools in the Nation.
“An editorial in the Cherokee Advocate on March 7, 1874, stated, ‘we now have 67 common schools at an average expense of $400 each and with a total school population of 1,800 out of perhaps 3,600 school-age children,” Chase said.
She said the Cherokee Advocate editor believed the cost needed to be re-evaluated because the average attendance at each school was 15 students and five students at the 20 schools in the full-blood areas.
“At any rate, even with the problems at hand, the schools flourished, and out of the public school system, and that included the missionary schools, (Cherokee Nation) Male and Female Seminaries, came future citizens and leaders of the Cherokee Nation,” she said. “This was due to the vision of Chief John Ross and other leaders who saw the need for the education of the Cherokee people, so that they would be able to take their place in the world.”
Along with being a member of the Goingsnake District Heritage Association, Chase is a member of the Oklahoma chapter of the Trail of Tears Association and the Tulsa Cherokee Community Organization.
She has been researching Cherokee historical and family history records for nearly 35 years, has published 18 books of Cherokee claims and rolls and was editor of the “Cherokee Tracer” for 15 years.
The Goingsnake District Heritage Association exists for the purpose of researching, preserving and disseminating knowledge of Cherokee history, culture and lineage, for the old Going Snake District (which includes most of Adair County) as well the Cherokee Nation.
PARK HILL, Okla. – Bill and Demos Glass of Locust Grove took home the 44th annual Trail of Tears Art Show’s grand prize for their stainless steel, ceramic and wood piece titled “Warrior’s Doorway” during an April 17 reception at the Cherokee Heritage Center.
The piece has a ceramic centerpiece with seven hands circling a face and a seven-pointed star. Behind the ceramic centerpiece is a mirror to allow the back of it to be viewed. The centerpiece is attached to a stainless steel hand, which is attached to cherry wood.
For winning the grand prize, the Glasses received a copper gorget necklace made by Cherokee artist Toneh Chuleewah, ribbon and prize money.
“We just got an opportunity to collaborate, and we bounced some ideas off of one another and also embraced the warrior spirit and created a piece that would embraces the warrior spirit,” Demos said. “It’s got a stainless steel hand. It has a ceramic tile insert, and it’s got some nice hidden things inside there. There’s a mirror behind it to kind of show the back of the piece.”
The art show is the longest-running Native American art show in Oklahoma and features authentic Native American art. Artists competed for $15,000 in prize money in the categories of paintings, graphics, sculpture, pottery, basketry, miniatures, jewelry and a Trail of Tears theme. The show runs to May 23.
“Each year, the Trail of Tears Art Show showcases breathtaking art created by Native American artists from across the country,” CHC Executive Director Candessa Tehee said. “Last year, the show featured 144 pieces from more than 75 artists who come from 14 tribal nations. This is a must-see show for Native American art enthusiasts.”
CHC Curator Mickel Yantz said the annual show is “excellent.”
“One category people love is the miniatures category. It’s pieces of artwork from all mediums, but they’re smaller than four inches in any direction. They’re always wonderful, and they’re great starters if people want to get into Native art collecting. It’s a great category to check out,” Yantz said.
Regina Gayle Thompson of Rose entered her double-walled baskets in the basketry category. She said she gives all the credit for her basket-making skills to Bessie Russell, who taught her how to weave baskets.
“This is my second year of entering. I got brave enough to enter my baskets. Last year I placed with an honorable mention. I thought I’d enter another basket,” she said. “I enjoy mostly what comes out of it when you start weaving. It just totally heals you as you start weaving. You just feel relaxed and calm.”
The art show began in 1972 as a means of fostering the development of painting as a form of expressing Native American heritage. This year, the Bank of Oklahoma, Chickasaw Nation, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Rabbit Studios sponsored the art show.
The other winners for the show were Stephen Wood, who won the “Trail of Tears Award” for his piece “For Those That Have Walked on Before Me;” Verna Bates, who won the “Bill Rabbit Legacy Award” for her piece “Come a Little Closer;” and Luther “Toby” Hughes, who won the “Betty Garner Elder Award” for his tree of booger masks titled “Tree of Tradition.”
Shan Goshorn won the basketry competition for her basket “One Names Make Thunder.” Jeff Edwards won the graphic category for his poster of Sequoyah titled “Hope.” Norma Howard won the miniature category for an untitled piece. Kenny Henson won the painting competition with his piece “A Sign of Promise,” and Chase Earles won the pottery category for his piece Natchitaches Bit “Place of the Pae Paw Eaters II.”
Troy Jackson won the sculpture competition again with his piece “Endurance of Changing Times.” Joseph Erb won the jewelry category for his piece “Thunder and Lightning;” and Jacob Waytula won the “Emerging Artists Category” for his piece “The Raven Mocker.”
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center’s archives for 2-D and 3-D collections are in dire need of a new storage location, CHC officials said.
At a March 26 Tribal Council meeting, CHC Director Candessa Tehee said the archives located at the center have four threats working against them: temperature, humidity, light and pests.
Unfortunately, temperature is a threat that CHC Curator Mikel Yantz and the center’s interim archivist cannot currently control, Tehee said.
Yantz, who runs the permanent collections as well as the temporary and permanent exhibits in the museum, said the museum’s basement houses the archives and collections.
“We have two separate areas downstairs. One is for archives, which is where we have our two-dimensional objects – so newspapers, letters and photographs,” he said. “We also have a separate area for collections, and that’s our three-dimensional objects – so pottery, basketry and stickball sticks. Anything that need to be put on larger shelves.”
He said temperature control is the biggest concern when trying to preserve and maintain the archives and collections.
“The building that we have wasn’t created four decades ago to sustain the temperature and humidity, so we’re looking forward to trying to fix that by possibly having a new building,” Yantz said. “If you have a higher temperature and higher humidity, it’s very susceptible to fabric or porous materials like wood and especially paper because what it will do is it will increase the moisture, and so it will start growing mold and start deteriorating those much faster than if it was a cooler temperature.”
The average temperature for the basement is about 70 degrees, which Yantz says is too high. He said the humidity is OK in the winter, but in the summer as the humidity climbs so does the possibility of damage to the archives and collections. He said the ideal temperature is 60 degrees with 40 percent humidity.
“And sometimes it fluctuates here in the building with the temperature outside,” Yantz said. “And as we know in Oklahoma, the temperature ranges from 20 to 120 (degrees) sometimes. And for us to sustain that year-round isn’t possible with what we have.”
Yantz said space is another issue facing the CHC archives and collections.
“We’re looking to create is around 7,000 square feet, which would double our size, but we’re also going to make sure that building is expandable so when we grow that room and building can grow with us,” he said. “The building will be right next to this museum. So if we need to transfer anything from that building to our exhibit area – because we do display a lot of our archives and collections – we’ll be able to do that and keep the document safe.”
Tehee said there have been two recommendations. One is to refurbish the interior of the basement with the other being to build and on-site, metal-fabricated building that would be double the size of the basement.
Yantz said the Cherokee National Historical Society board, which governs the CHC, is raising money through granting agencies and possibly the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses with hopes of creating a new storage area.
Yantz said the CHC’s mission is to preserve, promote and teach the Cherokee history and culture.
“And the documents and objects that we have here and that we preserve at the museum support that mission. It’s vital to make sure that these last for generations,” he added.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism and Preservation Oklahoma are partnering to teach people how to restore historical remains etched in stone.
Professional gravestone and masonry conservator Jonathan Appell, member of the Preservation Trades Network, will lead the gravestone conservation workshop from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on May 7-8 at the Tahlequah Public Cemetery.
An expert in cemetery preservation planning, Appell will lead the interactive training while covering topics on how to reset stones, repair fragmented stones, repoint and clean masonry and use infill material and appropriate repair materials. Tools and most materials will be provided for the workshops. Attendees are encouraged to bring a folding chair for comfort.
Appell has performed gravestone preservation and planning projects on historic cemeteries throughout the U.S., including the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C.; The Granary in Boston; Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York; The First Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Greensboro, North Carolina; and The New Haven Crypt in New Haven, Connecticut.
Lunch will be provided and the cost to attend is $45. The workshop is limited to 25 people on a first-come, first-served basis. To reserve space or get more information, go to <a href="http://www.preservationOK.org" target="_blank">www.preservationOK.org</a>.
WICHITA, Kan. – Meredith Radke-Gannon, a Cherokee artist and high school art teacher in Wichita, is taking part in a public-art project called “Keepers on Parade” that will place 10-foot tall fiberglass sculptures throughout the city.
The sculptures are inspired by the “Keeper of the Plains” sculpture in downtown Wichita. Kiowa artist Blackbear Bosin created the sculpture, and the group “Together Wichita,” made up of businesses and organizations, has recruited artists to paint the sculptures to showcase the city’s qualities.
Radke-Gannon is completing a second painted sculpture, which is part of 50 to 75 sculptures city officials hope to place in the next year. “Keeper” sculptures are decorated with Native American themes or Kansas-themed paintings. Radke-Gannon chose to use Native American themes.
She said the sculpture’s design could symbolize reaching toward the sky, sending prayers up to the heavens with smoke, a star symbol or even a sunflower facing its top toward the sun.
Radke-Gannon grew up in McPherson, but her family originated in Chelsea, Oklahoma. She may have grown up in Kansas, but she said her interest in Native art began in Oklahoma.
“A moment that really began my journey in Native American art was when I was 8 years old. My grandparents took me on an art adventure trip to the Cherokee Heritage Center, and I’ll never forget the artwork that was portrayed there and the Willard Stone wood-carved sculpture entitled ‘Exodus,’” she said. “After viewing the artwork, they drove me to Mr. Stone’s home and art studio. It was a moment I’ll never forget that really inspired me to explore art. He worked in a number of mediums and showed us the wood-carved sculpture project he was working on at the time. His warm spirit and creativity blessed me and inspired me to keep learning more about Native arts and culture.”
She attended Kansas State University for art education before studying textile weaving and printing at the Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I was first drawn to weaving and textiles because of the process and colors that could be achieved but also because of the textile traditions in Cherokee culture,” she said.
Later she did commercial weaving and weaving for her artwork before having children and staying home to raise them.
Eight years ago she began teaching art, first as an elementary art education teacher and then as an art teacher at Northeast Magnet High School. She has also started taking oil-painting classes.
“That was a year and a half ago and ever since then I’ve been painting non stop. I do some wood sculptures, too. As a weaver it’s so labor intensive. Like when I’d weave it would be an inch an hour or half an inch an hour. It was so time consuming that it was really hard to get out what was in my head onto fabric, so that’s why I’ve gone really crazy with painting because it’s a lot faster and it gets out what I’m wanting to portray in each piece,” she said. “And then the (“Keepers on Parade”) project came along, and I submitted designs for that.”
She was among the first eight artists chosen to create designs and decorate the initial “Keepers on Parade” sculptures. Her first design was based on designs from the Wichita tribe. Her design for the second sculpture is based on the Kansas state flag and its symbols.
The “Keepers on Parade” project is similar to a project in Cherokee, North Carolina, where bear sculptures were painted and placed throughout the town or the project in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where artists painted guitar sculptures.
“They are trying to bring community pride together, something that will make a lasting impression. They are really trying to focus now on the town’s symbol with the ‘Keeper of the Plains.’ It is one of the most visited places in town,” she said.
She entered a painting in the 2014 Trail of Tears Art Show at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma, and entered a painting and two wooden sculptures for this year’s show, which was slated to open on April 18.
“I really want to do more entries and keep showing. That’s my goal,” she said. “I think as a teacher, I think students are really interested in what I’m doing because I’m creating along with them; I’m not just teaching them something. I’m also showing them art is a such viable medium, and I can express deep meaning things related to my culture.”
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will hold its spring meeting from 10 a.m. to noon on April 11 at the Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs.
The public is invited to attend the meeting to listen to keynote speaker Jay Hannah speak about how Cherokee people coped and survived following their removal to Indian Territory from their eastern homelands.
Hannah is a Cherokee Nation citizen who grew up in Adair County. His family traveled on the Trail of Tears in 1839 and settled 20 miles from where he grew up in Peavine. Hannah holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University. He is also the executive vice president of financial services for BancFirst Corporation in Oklahoma City.
This year’s “Remember the Removal” bicycle riders will also be guests at the meeting.
At 2:30 p.m. on April 18 the Oklahoma Chapter of TOTA will hold a marking and honoring ceremony for three Cherokee people who survived the Trail of Tears but later died in Indian Territory. The ceremony will be held at the Round Springs Cemetery in Eucha in Delaware County.
Removal survivors Charlotte Chopper, Chief Charles Thompson and Anderson Springston will be honored and TOTA plaques will be attached to their graves.