CHC to host 16th annual Cherokee Ancestry Conference

03/15/2017 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Discover your family history and Cherokee ancestry at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 16th annual Cherokee Ancestry Conference June 9-10 at the Tribal Complex.

The event provides participants with the tools to research their ancestry with Cherokee historical records and features a variety of discussion topics, including historical events before and after the removal, inter-tribal relationships and advancements in social media and its effect on genealogy research.

Participants will also learn about various CN records available online as well as resources available in their local area for Cherokee ancestry research.

A discount is given to those who register before June 3. Pre-registration is $60 for Cherokee National Historical Society members and $75 for nonmembers. The deadline is June 3. Registrations after June 3 are $70 for CNHS members and $85 for nonmembers.

The Cherokee Ancestry Conference will be held in the Osiyo Room at the Tribal Complex. It is located at 17725 S. Muskogee Ave. in the same building as Restaurant of the Cherokees.

For more information, including accommodations and registration, call 918-456-6007, ext. 6162, or email


Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
08/20/2017 10:00 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.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/18/2017 12:45 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Heritage Center visitors had the chance to get a glimpse into the CHC’s permanent archive collections with the “Preserving Cherokee Culture: Holding the Past for the Future” exhibit that was set to run Aug. 14-19. “We want to just feature things that people don’t get to see very often. On average only about 1 percent of a museums holdings are on display at any given time, so this will give people a little inside look into more of the items that we have,” Callie Chunestudy, CHC curator, said. Nearly 60 historical artifacts were selected for the exhibit, including Gen. Stand Waite’s bowie knife, a hand-written first draft of the Articles of Agreement between the Cherokee Nation and U.S. governments in 1866, photographs and more. Chunestudy said the goal is to find a way to create a new archives and collections building. “We are in need of a new archives and collections building, so we want to feature some of the rare and special items that we do hold so the people can understand that we really need updated housing for these,” she said. “We’ve outgrown our space immensely, and it’s time for an up-to-date archives and collections building that we’re hoping to raise money for.” All the archives and collections are stored in the CHC basement, which Chunestudy said doesn’t allow for proper preservation techniques. “It’s a little difficult to climate control and things like that just because of the structure of the building, and so we’re looking at building a new facility that will be up-to-date and in line for best practices for housing these items,” she said. “Without a new archives and collections building the items that are currently housed in the basement of the (Cherokee) Heritage Center are in danger of becoming damaged. It’s a secure space, but it’s not up to best practices for archives and collections so our goal is to bring that up to par.” CHC Director Charles Gourd said those at the CHC have a “responsibility” to preserve and protect the tribe’s history. “One of the primary functions and purposes of the Cherokee National Historical Society, and then now the (Cherokee) Heritage Center, is the preservation of our material culture. Those objects of cultural patrimony and things that are important to our history,” he said. “In the (19)95 Constitution, we were mandated and specifically designated as the repository. Now, we’re the designated repository as an act of the (Tribal) Council in 1985 to back that up. So we have a responsibility to preserve and protect all of these objects that are important to Cherokee history, government and the Cherokee people.” According to a CHC press release, the Cherokee National Archives has more than 40,000 items in collections and 200,000 items in archives dating back to pre-European contact. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For more information, call 918-456-6007 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
News Writer
08/16/2017 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For more than 40 years, Cherokee National Treasure and Cherokee/Muscogee (Creek) artist Knokovtee Scott has transformed local purple mussel shells into jewelry. To keep the art form alive, he now teaches it at the Cherokee Arts Center. “My goal is to establish a foundation of students that will get this type of jewelry to grow, and eventually it will be as well recognized as any jewelry from any region of the country,” he said. The Rose native comes from an artistic family that enriched his life in Cherokee and Muscogee arts at an early age, which made him strive for an art career. In 1972, while studying Southwest jewelry at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, he said he realized that people’s perspective of Native American jewelry was turquoise and silver. “If you asked anybody there, ‘what was Indian jewelry?’ they’d say turquoise and silver. But what I was always wondering is how come people don’t have anything from the Southeast. Why isn’t our artwork as recognized as the Southwest?” Scott said. He began searching for an artistic direction that would lead to his Cherokee roots. He said it wasn’t until he visited a medicine man that he found the art form. “A cousin of mine said ‘we need to go talk to a medicine man so you can find a direction to follow for today.’ So we went, took medicine, went through the sweat lodge ceremony, and when we got back to his house and I asked him, ‘can you help me find a direction to go in my art career today?’ and he said, ‘if you look in the past you’ll find your direction today. Our people made jewelry out of shell.’ And from that moment on I started working with shell,” he said. Recognized for his shell art, Scott is described as the “Southeast shell revivalist” for resurrecting the art after 400 years. He said by teaching students he can ensure it’s not lost again. “I need to pass this on because this was one of the most advanced, highly elaborate, most decorated type of artwork that came out of the Southeast,” he said. “Most say it’s the finest design north of Mesoamerica that the Cherokees once did.” During his classes, students learn the art’s history, how and where to find the mussel shells as well as how to cut, carve and buff them into jewelry. CN citizen Candice Byrd said she fell into Scott’s class by an accident but was quickly intrigued. “Just listening to Knokovtee and learning about the Southeastern iconography, pre-Mississippian shell carving and learning to work with the organic materials, I fell in love with it,” she said. “I didn’t realize it would take hold so strongly, but you start to develop a real love for the piece and for the art.” Scott said the art comes from the Mississippian period, stretching from 800-1500 A.D. “I was always interested in a type of art that didn’t have any outside influences, so I was looking for an art form that came from the traditional people, and the Cherokees were a part of the culture,” he said. “All the archeological evidence shows the Cherokee people were part of the Mississippian period. They used shell in ceremonial usage, but they also made shell jewelry and shell utensils.” However, he doesn’t use just any mussel shell he finds to make the jewelry. He uses the purple mussel shell, also known as the Mankiller Pearl shell. The Tribal Council renamed the shell that can be found in local rivers, lakes and creeks the Mankiller Pearl shell in 1988 in honor of then-Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller. However, being in poor health, Scott said he isn’t sure how much longer he will offer classes. But his goal is to teach as many students as he can. “I want every one of my students to learn this art form well enough to teach another person to continue it on. That is my main goal.” For more information, visit or call 918-453-5728.
News Writer
08/09/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Keli Gonzales found joy in art as a child from watching her father and cousins draw and paint. As she grew, she developed her modernized art style using Cherokee culture. Gonzales recently opened an online store called Keladi, her Cherokee name, to sell prints, original paintings and buttons that are affordable and “accessible” after realizing people wanted to buy her designs. She said people who know Cherokee culture are intrigued by her drawings because they identify with it. “I think that a lot of people like to see the syllabary on stuff, and they like to own things that…(are) Cherokee-specific items.” Gonzales incorporates Cherokee syllabary, stories, animals and sports into her art. Her drawing “Anejodi” portrays stickball players vying for a stickball in the air. “In (the) stickball drawing, I was told that there’s a story about a guy; he cheated in stickball because he picked the ball up with his hands; and you’re not supposed to do that. And he threw the stickball really hard, and it got stuck in the sky and it became the moon. That’s like a reminder to not cheat. So in that drawing, it’s got little…moon bursts because of that story,” Gonzales said. Gonzales said she doesn’t like to be “overt” in her drawings and uses hints of Cherokee culture to leave it open for interpretation. “I like things that don’t look like real things, if that makes sense. It’s like an interpretation of a real thing instead of copying it. I like to interpret.” Her painting “Digvyaluyv” (Pieces) features body parts such as an arm and a leg that she said are a “comment on how fragmented our culture is” and that “hopefully one day we can unite all the pieces.” Gonzales also has an affinity for comic-style illustrations with characters speaking in Cherokee. She does not translate the syllabary because the viewer should translate the language and learn in the process. Her drawing “Nigohilv” (Constant) is a comic about a pair of skeletons caught in a conversation with the dialogue in the Cherokee language. To her, it represents being constant. To others, she has heard it meant the language being constant or someone not growing up being a second-language learner. Gonzales said her style is influenced by her love of cartoons such as The Simpsons, using graphite and ink as a medium. Many of her drawings include bold lines and bright colors. “I love colorful things because of The Simpsons or just cartoons in general. I love defined lines around things…(cartoons) influenced my style quite a bit, bright colors and bold lines,” she said. Gonzales also draws inspiration from Cherokee artists such as Dan HorseChief, Roy Boney Jr. and Joseph Erb because their art features more “modern spins.” “In my head I always thought of Native art as being something very specific…like dreamcatchers,” she said. “I always promised myself I would never do a Trail of Tears painting because we’re doing more now. That’s not what I want to focus on is this horrible thing that happened, and it did happen, but we made it through. We went across and finished. We’re stronger because of it. I like to show that we’re innovative and that we’re doing more and we’re doing better.” Gonzales earned a fine arts degree from Northeastern State University and hopes to expand her art by entering more shows, attending art markets and learning more about screen-printing to start selling her designs on T-shirts.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/08/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Language Program is teaming up with the Cherokee Phoenix to offer readers a look at some of the first stories printed in the Cherokee language when the newspaper began publishing in 1828. “A lot of people, when they talk about the Cherokee Phoenix they say that it was printed in English and Cherokee, but a lot of people don’t realize that it wasn’t a straight translation,” Roy Boney, Language Program manager, said. “So what was in English wasn’t in Cherokee. It was different content for different readers. So most of that stuff hasn’t ever been translated, or if it has, it’s been a real long time since anyone has ever actually read what it was.” The idea stemmed from Translator David Crawler reading some of the paper’s old articles. “At times when we’re not doing so much translations, I read them and thought, ‘these are real interesting,’” he said. “Well, some of the stories in there I thought was kind of funny, and then some of them were kind of serious talk. And I thought, ‘there’s nobody living today that’s actually read this piece,’ and I thought it would be good to maybe put that back into the Phoenix today so people would know what was going on back then.” Brandon Scott, Cherokee Phoenix executive editor, said when he was approached about the project he “didn’t hesitate” to say yes. “I really think it’s important to reflect on our history, and look at things through the eyes of our ancestors,” he said. “To some these may be old forgotten tidbits of information that carry no real historical value, but to others these are a glimpse of days gone by, things that would otherwise be forgotten. I, for one, think those little things can be just as important as the big things.” Boney said Crawler is the translator for the project, and by doing this it brings back history “that was kind of lost along the way.” “So we have all the Cherokee syllabary from the original Cherokee Phoenix. We have a copy of it. So David’s been going through it and finding little bits and pieces of things that are interesting, and he’s going to translate some of it and we’ll have it in the Phoenix,” he said. Boney said the project is “still in the works,” but the intent is for it to run in the Cherokee Phoenix’s monthly publication. “So there will be bits and pieces in each issue,” he said. “It will have an image of the original text with the translation in it and kind of talking about what issue it came from and all those kind of things.” Boney said some of the pieces are longer format stories while others are short. “I remember one was like a notice of a man looking for his wife or something. So you get a little slice of life back then with what was going on,” he said. Boney said Crawler typically translates stories for the paper, so in a way the work the translators are doing now is a “continuation” of how it was done before. “I just like the idea of the Cherokee Phoenix is still being published today in Cherokee and in English, and David’s one of the translators that does the stories for the paper, so it’s a continuation to kind of what happened before,” he said. “Even though now they’re translating stories straight from English into Cherokee. The difference here is these other articles in the original run of the Phoenix were written in Cherokee. They were specifically Cherokee stories, so seeing that connection, the differences and the similarities there are pretty interesting.”
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
08/04/2017 08:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center hosted its first on-site print action and gallery tour on July 29, using artists who have work in the traveling “Return from Exile” Native American contemporary art exhibit, which opened May 13 at the CHC and ends Aug. 11. “A print action is an event that you can attend where artists are screen-printing live,” CHC Curator Callie Chunestudy. “So you can bring items such as shirts or tote bags and they’ll print on those for you or we’ll be giving out paper prints of the images they’ve designed for us today.” Participating artists were Bobby C. Martin (Muscogee Creek), Tony Tiger (Sac and Fox/Seminole), Margaret Roach Wheeler (Chickasaw/Choctaw), as well as Cherokee artists Toneh Chuleewah, Demos Glass and Roy Boney. “It’s a chance for patrons to come out and meet the artists of the exhibit whose works they’ve seen over the summer. We’re also giving out free prints so it’s an opportunity for free art and to learn more about contemporary Native American art,” Chunestudy added. Boney said he was proud to be a part of the traveling exhibit. “The ‘Return from Exile’ show has traveled across the country and features contemporary art of Southeastern tribal artists.” As for the print action, Boney said it gives those in attendance a new perspective. “I think when people see and think of Native American art, it’s usually very static. It’s something hanging on a wall or behind a case and that kind of thing. So for this show having people come out and actually see artists make art before their eyes is a really good experience.” The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on upcoming events and attractions, call 918-456-6007 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.