http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgDr. Charles Gourd stands in front of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. Gourd was recently named as the new CHC director. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Dr. Charles Gourd stands in front of the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. Gourd was recently named as the new CHC director. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Gourd named new Cherokee Heritage Center director

News Writer
07/17/2017 09:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Dr. Charles Gourd, a Cherokee Nation citizen with a background in nonprofit fundraising and Native American affairs, was recently appointed as the Cherokee Heritage Center’s new director.

Gourd is now responsible for overseeing the CHC’s operation as well as preserving the tribe’s collection of documents, artifacts, photos and books. He is also expected to uphold the CHC’s mission to preserve, protect and teach the Cherokee history and culture.

“Our primary and major function is to be the archives,” Gourd said. “We have a responsibility to protect our most sacred documents and the preservation and teaching of those for future generations.”

Before stepping into the role, Gourd retired from the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission, on which he served as the director. He has also worked on economic development projects with Native American tribes.

But he said it has always been a goal to return to the CHC, where he worked as a tour guide and dancer in the “Trail of Tears” drama in the late 1960s.

“One of the first jobs I ever had was here, and I have always maintained and retained an interest in the heritage center,” Gourd said. “I wanted to give it one shot as the director to make improvements and advance it to its best capabilities.”

Born and raised in Tahlequah, Gourd said he became interested in history at an early age. That interest led to a bachelor’s degree in history. He later earned a master’s degree in public school administration from Northeastern State University.

“At the time I wanted to teach history and coach basketball, so I immediately got a job teaching history and coaching basketball,” he said. “But I wanted to do more.”

Eager to broaden his knowledge, Gourd earned a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and a doctorate from the University of Kansas in anthropology, as well as training in entrepreneurship from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

In 2007, he received the lifetime achievement award for anthropology in non-academic settings from the American Anthropology Association. Gourd was one of only three Native Americans to receive the award.

“For the acknowledgment that the award was for, anthropology in non-academic settings, to me was greater than any award they could give,” he said. “Because we didn’t teach anthropology in universities, we went out in the world and worked, and to see that being recognized was great.”

He credits the experiences he’s had for eventually leading him to where he wanted to be.

“I believe all my background and experiences I have had throughout these years has led me to be ready to take on the responsibility as the new director,” he said. “If I can take all the collected knowledge from the experiences I have had and make them work to make this a better place so we can show the world why we are the most unique people, then I can say I served a good purpose.”

Gourd said he intends to work on business plans for the CHC that will create jobs, generate revenue and add more cultural activities to engage visitors.

Gourd said one project he and the Cherokee National Historical Society are working on is a new archives building that will house and preserve all of the archives at the CHC.

“We have a couple of designs for the building that we are looking at, but it will need all of the environmental controls,” he said. “Some of the stuff we have, like papers, are going to require contained rooms with special gasses to keep it from getting further in degradation.”

Gourd said the project is in its planning stages and that the CNHS is working on funding.

He said the main question he gets as the new director concerns the old amphitheater that was used for the “Trail of Tears” drama.

“This is a project that needs to happen, but there is a lot of maintenance that needs to done,” he said. “The amphitheater was the crowning jewel for the heritage center and Cherokee Nation for years, so our goal is to identify and figure out how to make that a viable function again.”


News Writer – @cp_bbennett
09/20/2017 08:00 AM
OSAKA, Japan – Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger is putting together her inherent love for Japan with her newfound love for education so she can teach English for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. “I am going to be paired with a Japanese teacher of English, so hopefully we will be able to cover each other’s weaknesses,” Hardbarger said of the yearlong program that began in August. “Ideally what will happen is we will team teach, the Japanese teacher giving explanations in Japanese when necessary, and me speaking only English to give them exposure to what native English speakers sound like and to get them to use the language in class more.” The Sequoyah High School and Stanford University graduate first entertained the idea of living abroad after two visits to Japan, during one in which a host mother mentioned the JET Program. After seeking her advice and that of a friend who had applied, Hardbarger completed the program’s three-phase application process. The first phase requires the applicant to write a personal statement detailing what he or she would bring to the program and two recommendation letters. The second phase encompasses personal interviews that must be conducted at Japanese embassies or consulates around the United States. The final phase is acceptance and placement before orientation in Tokyo. Hardbarger said that while the process takes nearly 10 months, it “makes sense” because of the program’s reputation and the responsibilities of being a participant. “The JET Program is pretty competitive as they offer some of the greatest benefits for teaching abroad and are often employed by local governments,” she said. “Not only are JET participants expected to teach English, but they need to also expose students to different cultures and countries. I have had to do a few introduction PowerPoints and usually talk about my family camp at Stokes (ceremonial ground in Sequoyah County in Oklahoma), show pictures of me and my family at powwows, my graduation photos where I have beaded caps and a feather, traditional foods, our flag, what the Cherokee written language looks like and how it is on street and store signs around Tahlequah (Oklahoma) and pictures from Diligwa at the (Cherokee) Heritage Center.” Though Japan and the CN are more than 6,000 miles apart, Hardbarger said her third visit abroad is revealing surprising similarities between the two cultures. “Both lifestyles are more interdependent-oriented compared to independent,” she said. “Relationships and working together are highly valued. Both cultures also have a high respect and honoring of nature. Another thing is the respect and value of elders. Something else that I’ve recently noticed is that during spring and summer, we have a lot of powwows and gatherings, and Japanese people have festivals and Cherry Blossom viewings, all of which are very social gatherings and celebrations.” Hardbarger encourages anyone interested in teaching abroad to apply for the program and reach out to past participants for application help. “Teaching abroad is one of the most rewarding, challenging experiences you can go through,” she said. “You will grow so much as a person, but you will also more than likely have some really difficult rough patches. The short times I had been to Japan before have been so memorable and life-changing that I am excited to see what happens when I have a whole year to spend here. Also, get as much help as you can with your application if you want to apply to a competitive program like the JET Program.” Hardbarger earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2016, but hopes that the JET experience will help determine if a teaching career is in her future instead. “If I really enjoy teaching and am able to develop and grow that skill set while here, then I would consider doing a master’s program to get certified to teach in the U.S.,” she said. “If I do decide to become a teacher, then this experience will be great to share with students and show them that they can do more and explore the world if they work towards that goal.”
09/19/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Candice Byrd recently attended the 2017 Next Generation Program hosted by the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People in South Africa. The association advocates for a safe collaboration space for different cultures and indigenous peoples from more than 100 countries. Out of 200 applicants, Byrd was the only Cherokee Nation citizen attendee and storyteller to attend, she said. “The purpose was to throw strangers together from all different nationalities. There were about 10 people from South Africa, 10 people from the African continent,” Byrd said, “There were about eight of us all from different countries, I was the only indigenous North American there.” Byrd attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in film, drama and television. She later earned a master’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Her master’s thesis focused on Native American storytelling. “I noticed in my very fancy art school none of these stories were about Native Americans, ever. I had grown up around that and I found that strange, I wanted my thesis to shed a light on that,” she said. She also dedicated her thesis to Oklahoman storytellers. A section was dedicated to Ardeena Moore, her Quapaw and Osage grandmother, and Cherokee storytellers Choogie Kingfisher and Robert Lewis, she said. “My thesis was a one-woman show. I was using the acting techniques that I learned in graduate school and put it into Native American storytelling. It forms my style along with all the other influences,” she said. Byrd applied to go to South Africa when her former undergraduate professor, Courtney Sanders, sent her an email to apply. While in South Africa, Byrd attended shows with her fellow classmates to compose a report for the upcoming next generation class. She also focused on workshops and team-building activities. “It (Next Generation Program) is also for the pure hope to spark international collaborations. A lot of the shows that we saw were international collaborations. I saw a piece that was a collaboration between Senegal and the Mariana Islands,” she said. “This international festival forges international and intercultural dialogue.” The trip allowed her to mingle with other indigenous cultures while learning about her culture and heritage through the arts. Byrd said she especially enjoyed being able to represent the CN while abroad in South Africa. “As a Cherokee person visiting other indigenous people it was heartening to see these places for Native voices to be heard again, to promote our culture, heritage and stories of survival,” she said. Being involved with the CN runs in her family. Joe Byrd, her father, is the Tribal Council’s Dist. 2 representative. He said he believes his daughter’s storytelling opportunities with the CN and the trip to Africa have led to many exciting things. “That trip led to her being around so many indigenous people in the area of performing arts. She has met so many people and learned about the rights of indigenous people, which fits right in with the Cherokee Nation people,” he said. He said his daughter storytelling abilities would allow the stories of the CN to be told in a truthful way. “I think now we’re able to tell our own stories through the performing arts. She was able to travel and learn about other indigenous people, and now she is able to tell our story correctly.”
09/15/2017 08:15 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Dwight W. Birdwell, a former chief justice of the Cherokee Nation’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites. Birdwell, a Specialist 5 while in Vietnam, was awarded two Silver Stars for gallantry and two Purple Hearts for wounds received during battles. Now a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City, Birdwell will be inducted with 10 other honorees. Birdwell was born Jan. 19, 1948, in Amarillo, Texas, but grew up in Bell in Adair County. After graduating Stilwell High School in 1966, he entered the Army. In Vietnam, he was assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, and 25th Infantry Division. Birdwell received the Silver Star for heroism on Jan. 31, 1968, when his unit rushed to defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which came under attack during the Tet Offensive. Cavalry Troop C was the first American ground unit from outside the airbase to respond to the attack. Unknown at the time, the attack by Troop C split the North Vietnamese regiment into two elements of about 300 enemy troops on one side of the American force and about 700 enemy troops on the other side. Heavy anti-tank fire from both enemy elements caused significant casualties among the American force. The C Troop tank commander and many of its other leaders were killed or wounded. Birdwell took command and placed intense fire on the enemy causing heavy Viet Cong losses and forcing them to seek protection. His Silver Star citation states Birdwell placed heavy fire on the enemy until his machine gun ran out of ammunition. He then retrieved an M-60 machine gun and continued to place fire on the enemy until his weapon was damaged by enemy fire, which wounded him, according to the Silver Star citation. “With complete disregard for his own safety, he then ran through the hail of enemy fire to get ammunition from other damaged vehicles and distributed it to his comrades,” the citation states. Birdwell then aided in the evacuation of wounded men, the citation states. He would earn a second Silver Star on July 4, 1968, when he risked his life to rescue more Americans, some of them who were wounded and stranded in a battle zone. Seeing a damaged American vehicle, Birdwell, with complete disregard for his safety, exposed himself to a heavy fire to maneuver his vehicle to the stricken vehicle. He loaded all the wounded aboard and evacuated them to safety, according to his Silver Star citation. Learning a second vehicle was damaged and stranded in the killing zone, Birdwell again exposed himself to hostile fire to evacuate the crew of a besieged vehicle, his second Silver Star citation states. After returning from Army service, Birdwell attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, graduating with distinction in 1972. Birdwell then attended the University of Oklahoma School of Law and graduated with honors in 1976. He has practiced law in Oklahoma City since 1976. Birdwell was a member of the tribe’s JAT, which is now called the Supreme Court, from 1987-99, serving as chief justice from 1995-96. To obtain a reservation for the banquet, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or email <a href="mailto:"></a> or call 405-424-5313. The deadline for reservations is Oct. 11.
09/13/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Raymond Vann, a Cherokee Nation Veterans Center employee and longtime advocate of the less fortunate, died on Sept. 9 in Tulsa at age 74. Vann was born on Aug. 15, 1943, in Watts to Pete and Nanny (Gibson) Vann. He joined a family of three brothers and seven sisters. He attended school at Oaks Mission and Collinsville High School. On Oct. 13, 1966, he enlisted into the U.S. Army, serving in B Battery as a Pershing Missile Crewman. He was honorably discharged in September 1968 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Upon leaving the military, he attended University at Mountain View College in Texas, attaining his associate’s degree. He then worked at General Motors and retired after 30 years of service. Vann served as chairman for the nonprofit group Warpony for 19 years, helping the less fortunate in the CN jurisdiction. For the past five years he served as an outreach coordinator at the CN Veterans Center, and was still employed at the time of his death. He had previously serve as a CN Election Commissioner for four years, ran for principal chief, deputy chief and Tribal Councilor. Vann also co-owned and co-operated Vann Gallery and Gifts for several years. He was honored as the AARP Elder of the Year in 2010 and was awarded the CN Medal of Leadership in Washington, D.C., in 2013, Grounds Up from the Cherokee Heritage Center and served as curator for “Deferring To The Elders” art show. His talents were varied and many, including clay sculpting, stone sculpting, co-authoring a Native American book and watercolor. He loved long drives in the Cherokee communities and time spent with the people. He leaves a son, Daniel Ray Vann, of Fort Worth, Texas. His son, Larry McIntyre, preceded him in death. He also leaves three grandsons and other grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, cousins and other relatives. He leaves Pamela Dodd-Ramires, constant companion, caretaker, “partner in crime” and faithful friend. He also leaves his ex-wife, Sioux Smith-Vann. Funeral services for Vann will be held at 2 p.m. on Sept. 15 at Souls Harbor Church in Chewey with Rev. D.J. McCarter officiating. Visitation will be held from noon to 6 p.m. on Sept. 14 at Reed-Culver Chapel in Tahlequah. Online condolences for his family may be left at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Pallbearers are Jackson Hummingbird, Albert Ketcher, Sidney Wilder and Jerry Gallop.
09/06/2017 12:00 PM
CUSHING, Okla. – Organizers of the third annual Native American Heritage Festival on Sept. 9 will honor the late Cherokee author and Cherokee Nation citizen Robert J. Conley as its grand marshal. Conley – who was born on Dec. 29, 1940, in Cushing – died in 2014 at age 73. However, in the 1970s he served as assistant programs manager for the CN. He also served as director of Indian Studies at Eastern Montana, Bacone and Morningside colleges. He taught English at Morningside, Southwest Missouri State University and Northern Illinois University. He also held teaching and administrative appointments at the University of New Mexico and Lenoir-Rhyne College and served as elder-in-residence at the University of North Carolina. In 2008, he joined Western Carolina University and served as the Sequoyah Distinguished Professor in Cherokee Studies and founding director of its Tsalagi Institute. His poems and short stories have been published in periodicals and anthologies during the years, including some in Germany, France, Belgium, New Zealand and Yugoslavia. His poems have been published in English, Cherokee, German, French and Macedonian versions. He said his first novel, “Back to Malachi,” was published in 1986 “out of anger” rooted in misrepresentations of Ned Christie, “a Cherokee who was falsely accused of murder and hounded for 4-1/2 years before he was killed by a huge posse.” At the time, publishers did not believe they could publish a Western with an Indian protagonist, but his work broke the threshold as he went on to assist in the early development of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers. Since that time he had more than 80 books published, a collection of short stories and several books on tape. He also wrote the novelization of the screenplay, “Geronimo: An American Legend.” He was a Western Writers of America member and won two of its Golden Spur awards for his novels “Nickajack” and “The Dark Island” and another Spur award for his short story “Yellow Bird: An Imaginary Autobiography,” published in “The Witch of Goingsnake.” In 1997, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Professional Writers Hall of Fame and a recipient of a lifetime achievement award in 2009 from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. He was also named the 2014 recipient of the WWA’s Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Contributions to Western Literature. Evelyn Conley, his wife of 38 years and a United Keetoowah Band citizen, will accept the grand marshal honor for her late husband at a Sept. 8 luncheon in Cushing. Past grand marshals have been the late Dr. Bill Rice, a Native American law professor at the University of Tulsa who was also a UKB citizen, and actor Saginaw Grant, a Sac and Fox citizen. The festival begins at noon on Sept. 9 and features a juried art show, vendors and a competitive powwow. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
09/05/2017 08:15 AM
PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. – Former “Forged in Fire” contestants are set to compete in the inaugural “Iron Mountain Metal Craft Grudge Match” forging competition Sept. 22-24 at the 14th Annual Old Mill Heritage Day. Around 18 former “FIF” contestants, including Cherokee Nation citizen and master bladesmith Ray Kirk, will demonstrate their bladesmith skills in the “Grudge Match.” The audience will choose the winner. “What we want to do is just share our time and meet the people that are ‘Forged in Fire’ fans, and sell some of our stuff,” Kirk said. “The thing that is exciting is that there’s that many of us from all over the country that will be there to play in the fire.” During the three-day event, the bladesmiths will set up booths to sell their products, have forging demonstrations and take photos with fans. After the competition, the contestants plan to give away their knives through a free drawing for festival attendees. “Forged in Fire” is an original competition series aired on the History Channel where world-class bladesmiths compete to create historic weaponry and put their skills on the line to be called a “Forged in Fire Champion.” Kirk appeared on Season 1 of the show and again in Season 4 as a fan favorite. For more information, visit the Iron Mountain Metal Craft Facebook page.