http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgThe musical production “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” makes its Tahlequah, Okla., debut on Aug. 27 at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts. One of the highlights of the production was a traditional stickball game. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The musical production “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” makes its Tahlequah, Okla., debut on Aug. 27 at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts. One of the highlights of the production was a traditional stickball game. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Nancy Ward musical debuts at Cherokee National Holiday

Kingfisher, played by Josh Stacy, and Nancy Ward, or Nanyehi, played by Michelle Honaker, sing “O Great Spirit” during the Cherokee wedding scene of the musical production “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee.” The musical made its Tahlequah, Okla., debut on Aug. 27 at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Nanyehi, played by Michelle Honaker, picks up her husband’s rifle after he is killed in the Battle of Taliwa during the Aug. 27 performance of “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts in Tahlequah, Okla. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX  Cherokee Peace Chief Attakullakulla, played by Michael Stopp, places a turkey feather cape around Nanyehi after the Battle of Taliwa while Cherokee War Chief Oconastota, played by Tommy Cummings, says the cape symbolizes her as the beloved woman of the Cherokee. The musical production “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” made its Tahlequah, Okla., debut on Aug. 27 at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Nanyehi sings “Donadagohvi, Until We Meet Again,” at her husband Kingfisher’s grave during the Aug. 27 production of “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts in Tahlequah, Okla. Nanyehi was named Beloved Woman after taking the place of her husband in battle after he was killed. She later married white trader Bryant Ward. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Kingfisher, played by Josh Stacy, and Nancy Ward, or Nanyehi, played by Michelle Honaker, sing “O Great Spirit” during the Cherokee wedding scene of the musical production “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee.” The musical made its Tahlequah, Okla., debut on Aug. 27 at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Former Reporter
09/09/2013 08:18 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The musical “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” made its Tahlequah debut on Aug. 27 at the Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts.

Written by Becky Hobbs, the musical is about the life of a Cherokee woman named Nanyehi, later known as Nancy Ward. Ward, a Wolf Clan member, was born in Echota, Cherokee Nation, now Georgia, and was named Beloved Woman after taking the place of her husband in battle after he was killed. She later married white trader Bryant Ward. She died in 1822.

Hobbs said she hoped to inspire and make a difference with people after they watched the production.

“There are a lot of people who have given up hope today and especially young people,” she said. “We look around and they’re living in a virtual world. I want to inspire people to do better to make this world a better place.”

In 1776, after the illegal sale of lands in Tennessee, Ward’s cousin, Dragging Canoe, organized a series of attacks against white settlers. However, Ward sent runners to warn the whites of the approaching attacks. Dragging Canoe was wounded and three of the attacks were unsuccessful.

“That Nanyehi could be such a strong woman back then when woman weren’t considered, weren’t important, but this just shows in the Indian culture they were,” CN citizen Linda Wing Garrett said. “So just having that strength all the way through the show, even to her death, that people still listened to her.”

Highlights from the musical include the Battle of Taliwa, a Cherokee marriage ceremony, Ward saving the life of a white settler and a stickball game.

The two-act production also included several dance numbers and songs such as “Song of the Nunnehi” or spirit people, “Pass the Whiskey,” “This Land is Not Our Land” and “There Will Be Blood.”

CN citizen Jenna Stocks choreographed the dances.

“The songs are really contemporary and they use contemporary instruments, so the dancing has been more contemporary and less traditional,” Stocks said. “It’s a very meaningful play. It’s meaningful to the Cherokee Nation because she was a strong leader, and so I think it’s very touching, Michelle (Honaker), the lead, does a really great job of acting and portraying Nanyehi.”

Hobbs came up with the idea of telling Ward’s story via a musical after writing some of the songs now in the production in the 1990s. It was after meeting Nick Sweet, who directed the Cherokee Heritage Center’s Trail of Tears drama that the musical “Nanyehi, Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” was set into motion. Today, the production contains 17 songs.

Hobbs of Bartlesville is best known for writing “Angels Among Us,” recorded by Alabama, as well as writing and recording her hits, “Jones on the Jukebox” and “Honky Tonk Saturday Night.” Her co-writer, Sweet, is a freelance stage director who has directed more than 100 productions, including the historical outdoor drama “Trail of Tears” in 2002 at the CHC.

For “Nanyehi,” Sweet directed the musical production and Hobbs served as musical director.

“We have a cast of over 40 and we have great, great people,” Hobbs said. “We have a lot of talent.”

New York-based actress and Hawaiian-born Michelle Honaker played the role of Ward, which she was cast for the musical’s premiere in Georgia in 2012 and for the past two summers. Honaker has also played the female lead in “Unto These Hills,” the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ outdoor drama in Cherokee, N.C.

Other characters included Dragging Canoe, Ward’s mother Tenia, Cherokee chiefs Attakullakulla and Oconastota, Ward’s first husband Kingfisher and second husband Bryant Ward and Ward’s friend Sequina.

Hobbs said she believed that almost all of the cast members, aside from Honaker, are from within the CN’s 14-county jurisdiction or surrounding area. She added that a majority of the members are CN citizens.

One of the CN citizens is Derrick Branson of Tahlequah. Branson, 18, plays a Cherokee warrior named John Stuart and Muscogee Creek warrior named Issac Thomas.

Branson said in high school he performed in productions but none were as deep as the Ward musical.

“It’s deeper emotionally than the other musicals that I’ve been in and it gives a message,” he said. “Other musicals that I’ve been in haven’t really given a clear message to society about struggles. It delivers a message about the struggles of the Cherokee Nation and struggles along the way and Nanyehi and her story of the Cherokee Nation.”

918-453-5000, ext. 6139


Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
10/22/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With its 2017 annual homecoming T-shirt now for sale, the Cherokee Phoenix is calling for Cherokee artists to submit design concepts for the news organization’s 2018 T-shirt. In 2016, the Cherokee Phoenix staff introduced a T-shirt to differ from the tribe’s Cherokee National Holiday T-shirt. Phoenix staff members contracted with artist Buffalo Gouge for the shirt’s initial design. For this year’s homecoming shirt, Phoenix staff members selected Daniel HorseChief’s concept out of approximately 10 designs from artists. The Cherokee Phoenix then contracted with HorseChief to create the 2017 shirt. HorseChief said his concept comes from a four-panel painting that features Selu, the Corn Mother in Cherokee lore. The image shows the bust of Selu, who is looking down into a Southeastern art pattern. Behind her on the left side are seven ears of corn with water under it. Behind her on the opposite side is a phoenix with fire below it. Above the phoenix is the Cherokee seven-pointed star. Above the image, written in Cherokee, are the words “Cherokee Phoenix.” Below the image, in English, is “2017 CHEROKEE HOMECOMING.” The limited-quantity, black shirts are short-sleeved, ranging in sizes small to 3XL and sell for $20 plus tax. The shirts are available at the Cherokee Phoenix office in Room 231 of the Annex Building (Old Motel) on the Tribal Complex. For more information, call 918-453-5269. They are also available at the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop, als0 on the Tribal Complex, or online at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Phoenix staff members will also have shirts available at the Cherokee Phoenix booths at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex and Capital Square during the Cherokee National Holiday in September. The Cherokee Phoenix is accepting concept ideas from artists who are Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band citizens until midnight on Jan. 1. Artist can email detailed concepts to <a href="mailto:"></a>. For artists contemplating submitting design ideas, please note that if your concept is chosen and you sign a contract, the Cherokee Phoenix will own the artwork because we consider it a commissioned piece. As for what Phoenix staff members look for in a concept, we ask that artists “think Cherokee National Holiday” and include a phoenix.
10/19/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Thanks in part from an Oklahoma Arts Council grant, the Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies will host the Indigenous Arts Education Series in November for American Indian Heritage Month. The series will include the following: <strong>Nov. 2</strong> Marcus Harjo (Pawnee/Seminole) will present “Creative Writing and Music Production Workshop” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Harjo uses writing, music production and live performances to promote his passions of youth outreach, cultural awareness and promoting healthy, drug-free lifestyles, specifically among American Indian populations. His workshop will focus on teaching participants how to use writing and music composition skills to enhance the delivery of their message. His workshop will conclude with a live performance. <strong>Nov. 8</strong> Sandy Fife Wilson (Muscogee Creek) will present “Shell Carving Demonstration” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Wilson is an experienced artist having learned her art techniques through both formal education and traditional means as she comes from a long line of family artists. Wilson specializes in Southeastern design shell carvings, finger-woven items and Creek basketry. She will host a demonstration that will educate the audience on this traditional form of art and lead participants through the process using a direct, hands-on approach to instruction. <strong>Nov. 14</strong> Yatika Starr Fields (Muscogee Creek/Osage/Cherokee) will present “Becoming a Mural Artist” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Fields’ presentation will highlight his experience and work as a mural artist and provide attendees with some insight into the highly specialized field of mural art. This event will include a live art demonstration. The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. Additional information is available at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
10/18/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee National Youth Choir’s album “Celebration” was named Best Pop Recording during the 17th annual Native American Music Awards on Oct. 14. This year’s award marks the fifth honor – referred to as a NAMMY – the Cherokee National Youth Choir has garnered since the choir’s inception in 2000. The youth choir was also nominated for Group of the Year and Record of the Year for its latest album. “We were so excited to win Best Pop Recording at the Native American Music Awards,” Mary Kay Henderson, Cherokee National Youth Choir director, said. “Our CD, ‘Celebration,’ is a collection of Motown music and has been a fun way to encourage our young people to learn our language. Language teacher and choir coordinator Kathy Sierra and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for the Cherokee National Youth Choir.” The “Celebration” record is a combination of the 2017 Cherokee National Youth Choir and its soloists and members of the 2006 youth choir. Songs on the “Celebration” album include “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Celebration,” “Lean On Me,” “My Girl,” “Respect,” “My Guy,” “Stand By Me” and “We Are Family.” Sierra translated the lyrics from English to Cherokee for the recording. The Cherokee National Youth Choir has performed dozens of songs in the Cherokee language in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and at venues across the country, including the Oklahoma State Capitol. The choir also previously performed with such legendary artists as Foreigner, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Roy Clark, Kenny Rogers and the Oak Ridge Boys. The choir is made up of 30 to 40 young Cherokees from northeastern Oklahoma communities. Members are middle and high school youth in grades 6-12. The students compete in auditions every year for inclusion in the group. “The Cherokee Nation Youth Choir has proven time and time again to be excellent cultural ambassadors for our tribal government and our people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We are so proud of them for bringing home another NAMMY honor. The accomplishments of these young people should be celebrated, as they are learning and utilizing the Cherokee language. Additionally, they have volunteered their time and talents to be part of the youth choir, which is an opportunity to grow their leadership skills. Congratulations to everyone involved with this wonderful achievement.” The choir’s newest album, “Just Jesus,” as well as past albums will be available for purchase later this year at Cherokee Nation Gift Shop locations and online at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/17/2017 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Navajo artist Ric Charlie won Best of Show for his jewelry piece “Navajo Bling” at the 12th annual Cherokee Art Market held Oct. 14-15 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Artists from throughout the nation competed in eight categories: painting, sculpture, beadwork/quillwork, basketry, pottery, textiles, jewelry and diverse art forms. Sixty artists received awards, and 150 artists displayed and sold their art during the event. Charlie, 59, of Tuba City, Arizona, makes jewelry, paints and sculpts. “I can’t make a living with those (painting and sculpting), but I do it for therapy,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed all kinds of art, ever since I was a kid.” He said his winning necklace was inspired by “a nice summer day” when he was out of school and had time on his hands. “Navajo Bling” is a 14-karat gold jewelry set featuring more than 1,700 individually set diamonds and is valued at $75,000. “As a kid I was always involved in creating things because on the reservation you had to. I learned a lot from my grandfather because he was the creator of many things,” he said. “The work that I do now is something I only dreamed about doing. When I started making jewelry, I said, ‘I really want to get into gold. I really want to get into diamonds. I really want to do this type of work.’ It’s just a dream come true.” Charlie said he “dreamed big” as a child. “If you don’t dream big, it won’t happen.” He’s participated in other art shows such as the Santa Fe Indian Market, but this was the first time he entered the Cherokee Art Market. He said he plans to enter his work again. “I find it (Cherokee Art Market) really personal. People here are very, very friendly and welcoming, too. The level of artwork here is incredible,” Charlie said. Cherokee artist Bryan Waytula won Best of Class for Class 1: Painting, Drawing, Graphics & Photography for his painting titled “We Stand as One.” Cherokee sculpture Bill Glass Jr. won Best of Class for Class 2: Sculpture for his piece “The Discussion Revolves.” In the Class 5: Pottery Division, Cherokee artist Troy Jackson won Best of Class for his work “Bird Effigy.” Cherokee Art Market Manager Deborah Fritts said one artist came from Alaska and another came from Maine and other artists from in between. She said the show has come a long way from its first year in 2005 when it was held under tents in the casino parking lot. It has been held inside the casino since 2009. Fritts attends other art shows to “scope” out artists and to network. She also meets with other art market coordinators. “A lot of the people that win at the other shows, like at Santa Fe (Indian Market) or the Heard Museum (Phoenix), they come to our show,” she said. Dallin Maybee is chief operating officer for the Southwest Association for Indian Arts, the nonprofit association that produces the Santa Fe Indian Market. He said the Cherokee Art Market has its own “personality,” and he wouldn’t compare it to Santa Fe but “it’s a great show.” “This brings an incredible competitive field of artists. It’s a nice show. It’s intimate. You see a lot of your friends here, and the prize money helps,” Maybee said. “I come to this show every time that I can just because it’s a good time.” For a full list of winners, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
10/17/2017 12:00 PM
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 11 at the Bartow History Museum. The speaker will be Jim Langford, and his topic will be “Impact of de Soto on Southeastern Native Americans.” Langford is a member and former officer of the Society of Georgia Archaeology and has been doing research on the Native American presence in the Southeast for many years. The Bartow History Museum is located at 4 E. Church St. Its phone number is 770-382-3818. The TOTA was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. It is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. GATOTA meetings are free and open to the public. People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For more information about the November meeting, email Tony Harris at <a href="mailto:"></a>.
10/12/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Families looking for a fun, educational adventure for their children during fall break should plan to visit the Cherokee Nation museums on Oct. 20.  Museums participating are the Cherokee National Prison Museum, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and the John Ross Museum. Enjoy free admission and special activities at all three locations. There will be paper bandolier bags at the Cherokee National Prison Museum, Cherokee syllabary lessons at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and make your own clay beads at the John Ross Museum. The educational activities occur from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 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. The interpretive site and museum give visitors an idea about how law and order operated in Indian Territory. The site features a working blacksmith area and reconstructed gallows, exhibits about famous prisoners and daring escapes, local outlaws and Cherokee patriots, jail cells and much more. Built in 1844, the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. The 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits on the Cherokee National Judicial System; the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers; and the Cherokee language, with various historical items, including photos, stories, objects and furniture. Touch screen kiosks offer visitors documentary-style learning on various legal topics as well as teaching conversational Cherokee. The John Ross Museum highlights the life of John Ross, principal chief of the CN for more than 38 years, and houses exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and Cherokee Nation’s passion for the education of its people. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building known as School No. 51 and sits at the foot of Ross Cemetery, where John Ross and other notable Cherokee citizens are buried. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is located at 122 E. Keetoowah St., and the Cherokee National Prison Museum is at 124 E. Choctaw St., both in Tahlequah. The John Ross Museum is located at 22366 S. 530 Road in Park Hill. For more information, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.