Cherokee artist Keli 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 how many people wanted to buy her designs. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Gonzales showcases interpretive Cherokee art
Cherokee artist Keli Gonzales displays an original drawing titled “Anejodi” from her sketchbook. The drawing’s inspiration derives from the Cherokee sport of stickball and a story she once heard about stickball. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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.
ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. – ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ Keli Gonzales ᎠᏲᏟᏃ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᎵᏉᏕᎢ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎤᎦᏙᏍᏛᎢ ᎤᏙᏓ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎾᏓᏤᎵᎢ ᏓᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏂᏑᏫᏍᎬᎢ. ᎤᏛᏏᏗᏒᏃ, ᎤᏩᏌᏊ ᎤᏬᎷᏩᏛᎲᎢ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏙᏗᎢ ᎢᏯᏛᏁᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ.
Gonzales ᎾᏞᎬᏭ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᏍᏚᎢᏒᎢ ᎠᏏᎳᏕᏫᏒᎢ ᎠᏓᎾᏅᎢ ᎨᎳᏗ Ꮓ ᎤᏬᏎᏗ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎬᏗ ᏚᏙᎥᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏗᏅᏗ ᏗᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎢᎬᏱᎢ ᏧᏑᏫᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏰᎵᎢ ᏗᎬᏩᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ “ᎠᎯᏓ ᏗᎬᏩᏛᏗ” ᎤᏕᎶᎰᏏ ᏚᎾᏚᎵᎲᎢ ᏧᏩᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ.
ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᏃ ᎠᏂᏏᏴᏫ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᎦᏔᎭ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᏂᎬᏓᏁᎰ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏃᏟᎬᎢ. “ᏂᎨᎵᏍᎬᏃ ᎤᏂᎪᏗ ᏴᏫ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎤᏂᎪᏩᏛᏗᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏕᎪᏪᎸᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏤᎵᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ... (ᏥᎩ) ᏣᎳᎩ-ᎤᏤᏟᏓᎭᎢ.”
Gonzales ᏓᏠᏯᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ, ᏗᎧᏃᎮᏗ, ᏅᎩ ᏗᏂᏅᏌᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏁᏦᏗ ᎥᎿ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᎤᏤᎵᏃ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ “ᎠᏁᏦᏗ” ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎬᏁᎭ ᎠᎾᎳᏍᎦᎵᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏁᏦᏍᎩ ᏓᎾᎵᎪᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏁᏦᏗ ᎦᏃᎯᎵᏒᎢ.
“ᎥᎿᎾᏂ (ᎾᏍᎩ) ᎠᏁᏦᏗ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎥᎩᏃᎯᏎᎸᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏏᏴᏫ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ ᎤᏂᎬᎮᏗ; ᎤᎶᏄᎮᏢᎢ ᎠᎾᏁᏦᏍᎬᎢ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎤᏬᏰᏂᏊ ᎬᏗ ᎤᏟᏔᎩᏒᎢ ᎠᏁᏦᏙᏗ: ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏝ ᎥᏍᎩ ᎢᏯᏛᏁᏗ ᏱᎩ. ᎠᎴ ᏍᏓᏱ ᏭᏗᎾᏒᎢ ᎠᏁᏦᏙᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏗᎨᏒᎢ ᎬᏩᎬᏘ ᏫᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏅᏓ ᎤᏒᎢ ᎡᎯ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏁᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏅᏓᏗᏍᏙᏗ ᎥᏝ ᎦᎶᏄᎮᏗ ᎢᎩ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Ꮎ ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏥᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏂᎤᏍᏗ ᎤᏍᏗᎢ...ᏅᏓ ᎤᏒᎢ ᎡᎯ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᏦᎩᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎧᏃᎮᏗ,” Gonzales Z ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ.
Gonzales Ꮓ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎥᏝ ᏳᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ (ᎬᏂ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗ) ᎥᎿ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏲᎵᏉ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎪᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᎢᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏛᎢ. “ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏙᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎰᏩᏭᏊ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᏥᎨᏐᎢ, ᎢᏳᏃ ᎬᏰᎵᏍᏗ ᏱᎩ.
ᎾᏍᎩᏯᏃ ᏯᏁᏟᏔᏂ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎰᏩ ᏱᎩ ᎠᏏᏅ ᎤᏣᏘᎾ ᏱᏮᎩᎠ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ. ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎠᏆᏁᏟᏙᏗᎢ.”
ᎾᏍᎩᎬ ᏧᏤᎵᎢ ᏧᏑᏫᏒᎢ “ᏗᎬᏯᎷᏴᎢ” (ᏗᎬᏯᎷᎨᎢ) ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᏛᎬᏁᎲᎢ ᎥᏰᎸᎢ ᏂᏚᏍᏛᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᎩ ᏗᎧᏃᏱᎨ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᏅᏍᎨ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮓ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ “ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗᎭ ᎤᏲᏨᎢ ᏥᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏲᎦᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ” ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᎤᏚᎩᏃ ᎬᏗ ᎠᏮᏐᎢ ᎢᎸᎯᏳᎢ ᏥᎨᏎᏍᏗ ᏌᏉᎢ ᏱᏗᎬᏩᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᎨᏎᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎬᏯᎷᎨᎢ.”
Gonzales Ꮓ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏅᏌᏁᏍᎪᎢ ᎰᏩᏭᏊ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ - ᏗᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮓ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏴᏫ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ. ᎥᏝ Ꮓ ᏱᏓᏁᏟᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᏗᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ Ꮎ ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏍᎩ ᎠᏎ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎤᏁᏟᏙᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎯᎵᏒᎢ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ.
ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ “ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ” (ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ) ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ ᏧᎾ ᎪᎳᎭ ᎠᎾᏟᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎬᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏁᎵᏍᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ. ᎠᏂᏐᎢᏃ ᎨᏒ, ᎤᏛᎦᏅᏃ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎦᏛᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ ᏂᎬᏩᏍᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᎩᎶ ᎥᏝ ᎤᏛᏒᎢ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏔᎵᏁᏃ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ.
Gonzales Ꮓ ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᎵᏉᏛᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ The Simpsons, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎧᏅᎦᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏁᎯ ᏗᏙᏪᎵᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏥᎩ ᏩᎦᏲᏢᎢ. ᎤᎪᏗᏃ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ ᏂᏙᏳᏍᏗ ᏧᎵᏏᎩ ᏓᏍᏅᏅᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏍᎪᏍᏗ ᏚᎵᏑᏫᏒᎢ.
“ᏓᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᏧᎵᏑᏫᏓᎭ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗ ᏥᎩ The Simpsons ᎠᎴᏱᎩ ᎠᎾᏗᏁᎵᏍᎩᏭ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏗᎢ. ᏓᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᏧᎵᏍᏓᏅᏂ ᏕᎦᏕᏱᏍᏛᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ... (ᎠᎾᏛᏁᎵᏍᎩ) ᏙᏧᏓᎴᏅᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏗᏆᏟᎶᏍᏙᏗᎢ, ᏧᏍᎪᏍᏗ ᏧᎵᏑᏣᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏧᎵᏏᎩ ᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏂ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
Gonzales ᏃᏍᏊ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᏚᎸᏉᏙᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏍᏗ Dan HorseChief, Roy Boney Jr. ᎠᎴ Joseph Erb ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏧᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎬᏁᎰᎢ “ᎪᎯᏴᎢ ᏥᎩ ᏥᏄᏍᏗᏓᏂ.”
ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎦᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬᎢ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᎢ ᏅᏁᎯᏯᎢ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏗᏍᎩ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎤᏤᏟᏓ... ᎾᏍᎩ ᏳᏍᏗ ᎥᏍᎩᏓᏍᎬᎢᏗᎦᏂᏱᏍᎩ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᏃ ᏂᏥᏪᏍᎪᎢ ᎥᏝ ᎢᎸᎯᏳᎢ ᏗᎨᏥᎢᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᏅᏃᎯ ᏚᎾᏠᎯᎢ ᎠᏑᏫᏒᎢ ᎤᎪᏙᏃ ᎾᏊ. ᎥᏝᏃ ᏯᏆᏚᎵᎰᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏆᎦᏎᏍᏙᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᏲᎢᏳᎢ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎣᎩᎦᏛᎴᏒᎢ. ᏙᎩᎾᏗᏫᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎣᎩᏍᏆᏛᎢ. ᎣᎦᏟᏂᎩᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᎬᏩᎵᏍᏔᏅ. ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏙᎢᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᎢᏯᏋᏁᏗᎢ ᎢᏤᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎪᏙᎢ ᏃᏣᏛᏁᎭ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏤᏝ ᏃᏣᏛᏁᎭ.”
Gonzales Z ᎤᏁᏎᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏚᏍᏆᏛᎢ ᎪᏪᎵ ᎤᏁᏎᎢ ᎥᎿᎾᏂ ᎤᏴᏢᎢᎧᎸᎬᎢ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᎬᎢ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏚᎩ ᎤᏌᏐᎢ ᎤᏁᏉᎢᏍᏗᎢ ᏓᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏖᎳᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᏓᏅᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏚᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ, ᎤᏖᎳᏗᏍᏗᎢ ᏗᎾᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏅᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎤᎪᏗ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎠᏱᏙᎳᏛᎢ-ᏓᏂᎴᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎴᏅᏗᎢ ᏕᎦᎾᏕᏴᎢ ᏧᏟᎶᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏗᎿᏬᎢ.
– Translated by David Crawler
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday December 14, 2017 from 12:30 - 4pm. We will meet in the Community Ballroom that is located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. If you want to bring a side dish or a dessert, feel free to bring it. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship.
For further information about the event, please contact: the Language Program at (918) 453-5151; John Ross at (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney, Jr. (918) 453-5487.
Tsalagi aniwonisgi unadatlugv dodvnatlosi Nvgineiga Vsgiyi 14, 2017, ganvsulvi 12:30pm adalenisgi 4:00pm igohida. Na Anitsalagi tsunalisdayetiyi tsigotlv unaditli wayvsdi onadilvyvi utani kanvsula dodvnatlosi. Naniv Anitsalagi aniwonisgi otsitayohiha uniluhisdii. Alisdayvdi ayohisdi yodulia. Dodayotsadatlisani ale dodayotsalisdayvna hilutsvi.
Ugodesdi tsadulihesdi tsadelayohisdi hiina wigehiyadvdi: Tsalagi Gawonihisdi Unadotlvsv (918) 453-5151; John Ross (918) 453-6170; or Roy Boney, Jr. (918) 453-5487.
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="http://cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">http://cherokeegiftshop.com</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: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</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.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasure Tommy Wildcat recently released a CD tilted “Donadagohv’i” or “See You Again,” which consists of 10 original flute compositions that are either studio productions or recorded performances.
The Native American Music Award-winning flutist said he’s been playing for 25 years and has traveled across the nation and abroad sharing Cherokee culture via his music.
“It’s important to share my music with people to promote the beautiful word of our American Indian heritage, but it also inspires those around me and those who are just finding their Cherokee heritage to get involved,” Wildcat said.
Wildcat has performed at historical sites, festivals, powwows and CN at-large community events. He’s made 18 trips to Hawaii, visited 37 universities and taken four European tours. He’s also been a featured performer at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Stockholm Water Festival and Cherokee Days at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
Before gaining recognition as a flutist, Wildcat made Cherokee crafts such as blowguns, darts, clay bead necklaces and river cane flutes. While making flutes and perfecting their sounds, Wildcat taught himself to play and developed a love for it.
“I was already making blowguns, but I was really interested in trying to make the river cane flutes, so I just kept trying to make them and after probably a hundred of them, every flute I made would make a sound. Every time I made a flute I would have to tune it up, so it gave me a lot of practice,” he said. “I enjoyed it so much, and it became the strongest tradition that helped me help my family and promote our heritage.”
In 2013, Wildcat was named a Cherokee National Treasure for his flute making, which remains one of his proudest accomplishments. The title is bestowed to CN citizens who have dedicated their lives to teaching, mentoring and advocating traditional Cherokee arts.
As a way to fund his travels, he began selling cassette tapes of his music, which later transitioned to CDs. Soon individuals and businesses were requesting his CDs, and within the first year Wildcat sold 10,000 CDs. For “Donadagohv’i,” his eighth CD, Wildcat dedicated it to his late father, Cherokee National Treasure Tom Webber Wildcat, and his mother, Annie Wildcat. He said the title is his thank you to his family and friends for their love and support. “Donadagohv’i, which means I’ll see you again, is my personal wado (thank you) to all my family and friends that helped me from my very my first venue and small venues to the big venues.”
Wildcat’s family and friends inspired each song on “Donadagohv’i.” He said he titled the songs after Cherokee words and phrases that have significant meaning to him.
“I’ve titled my songs after Cherokee words that are used throughout our Cherokee-speaking communities, which is something I wanted to really promote. Inspiration is in our Cherokee words, like my song ‘Osda,’ which means much more than good or fine. When our elders tell our young people osda it inspires them that they did good or something about them is great,” he said.
Wildcat said he wants to perform and compose music as long as he can, but it’s also important the younger generations take initiative to keep traditional music alive. “It’s very important to me and our heritage that the next generation continue on with the pride we always have had in our parents, grandparents, ancestors, with flute music and all of our music.”
“Donadagohv’i” can be purchased at the Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Heritage Center, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Roland Casino gift shops or by ordering directly from Wildcat via Facebook.
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Heritage Center genealogists Gene Norris and Ashley Vann agree that knowing one’s genealogy is important for various reasons such as giving people a look into their ancestors’ lives, bringing light to certain traits or even genetic illnesses or diseases.
“The importance of genealogy is finding out who your family is, and that’s the baseline of any genealogy regardless what minority that you may find within the research,” Vann said.
Common questions that arise when beginning genealogical research are people wanting to know from whom and where they come, Vann said.
“The aspect of genealogy most people are into, the knowing of ‘where do I come from? What are the quirks that that ancestors is? What makes me, me?’ I see a lot of people do that, especially on television because they will start revealing their family genealogy and maybe a special eye effect,” she said. “Maybe they have two different colors of eyes and they realize that’s passed down from generation to generation.”
Norris, who began conducting genealogy research 35 years ago, said one thing that interested him about researching his ancestors were the “connections” he found.
“My mom was adopted at 3, so I didn’t know my birth uncles until later. Turned out one was an artist, and I like to do art. So, you know...there’s also (these) kind of connections you find with these ancestors and those are what fascinated me,” he said. “I think that’s why you should get into genealogy is because of that reason, of wanting to know more about who they were, where they came from, not to have a specific purpose in mind.”
As for diseases or illnesses passed down genetically, Norris said he learned a commonality between a client’s great-grandfather and father’s deaths.
“I got on Ancestry (.com) and started looking at these records. They were in Texas. They weren’t here at the time of Dawes (Rolls). But I came across a Texas death certificate of her great-grandfather, and when I printed that off for her she saw the cause of death, and that is what her dad had died from and she got very emotional about it because she didn’t realize that it was genetic,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that, but for her to actually see it there in print, in front of her, it made her step back and she had that ‘ah ha’ moment and got very emotional about it.”
Although Norris and Vann have strong interests in genealogy, that’s not the case for everyone. Norris said his interest stemmed from a fascination with history.
“It’s interesting that in regards to genealogy that those that are into genealogy, that are really into it, usually are the only one in their immediate family that is interested in it. The reason behind that, I do not have any idea,” he said. “For me, history is very fascinating. Not just family history, but general history and learning about who our ancestors were in a sense of what they did on a daily basis, where they came from. Try to flesh them out, so to speak, where they’re not just a name and a date on a piece of paper.”
For more information, call 918-456-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
CATOOSA, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasures will be signing copies of a book about themselves from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Dec. 1.
The signing is scheduled for the Cherokee Gift Shop inside the casino. Treasures will sign the recently released “Cherokee National Treasures: In Their Own Words,” which can be purchased for $49.99.
The book gives readers an opportunity to get to know each Cherokee National Treasure through their own stories and what motivates them to teach and carry on Cherokee language and traditions.
The Cherokee National Treasure award was established in 1988 by the tribe and Cherokee National Historical Society. To date, the tribe has awarded 94 CN citizens the honor of Cherokee National Treasure to those who have shown exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art and culture. Those selected actively work to preserve and revive traditional cultural practices that are in danger of being lost from generation to generation.
The CN published the book with Pamela Jumper Thurman and Cherokee National Treasure Shawna Morton Cain serving as editors. Cherokee National Treasures Kathryn Kelley, Betty Jo Smith, Lorene Drywater, Dorothy Ice, Al Herrin, Bessie Russell, Edith Catcher Knight, Thelma Vann Forrest, Durbin Feeling, Donald Vann and Betty Christie Frogg served on the Cherokee National Treasures Book Review Board.
To buy a copy, visit any CN gift shop or <a href="http://www.cherokeegiftshop.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeegiftshop.com</a>. Copies can also be purchased at most major book stores and online at <a href="http://www.amazon.com" target="_blank">www.amazon.com</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Fewer and fewer Cherokee people are speaking their native language, and the Cherokee Nation is losing elder speakers each year, so a monthly gathering of speakers is important for keeping the language alive, Cherokee Speakers Bureau officials said.
On Nov. 9, the CSB held a gathering for Cherokee speakers in the Tsa-La-Gi Community Meeting Room for lunch, fellowship and to speak Cherokee.
The CSB formed in 2007 to give Cherokee speakers an opportunity to speak the language with others. Ten years later, the CSB continues to be important for the language’s preservation.
“This event is very important because we don’t get to talk in Cherokee very much anymore because like places where we work not all co-workers can speak it. So this event allows us to all come together to speak the language,” Kathy Sierra, CN Cherokee Language Program assistant, said. “I come to speak Cherokee, to see all my friends and just be together, you know. One of my speaker friends works at (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital) so we don’t get to see each other and speak Cherokee until this event.”
Along with speaking Cherokee and having lunch, the event consists of storytelling, singing, community reports and word translation.
CN translator specialist Dennis Sixkiller, who serves as the meetings’ facilitator, said attending the CSB and talking with other Cherokee speakers has refreshed his memory of the language.
“I was kind of forgetting how to say some things in Cherokee. But from having a job (at Cherokee Nation) and being around people at the Speakers Bureau that speak Cherokee has really helped my language,” he said. “I just visited with a guy I grew up with, and a few years back I probably couldn’t talk to him in as much Cherokee as I did today, so it really has helped me out, and I really enjoy it.”
For CN translator specialist Bonnie Kirk keeping the language alive is “crucial.” She said not only is it important for the older speakers to keep speaking the language, but it’s also important to teach others so CSB meetings continue.
“I think right now it’s crucial to carry on the language that the Creator gave us. If we don’t, it’s going to be a lost art. We are fighting to keep that culture and teach our kids to speak Cherokee because if we don’t it’s going to be an end to a lot of our culture and to events like this,” she said. “This is our tenth year, and to this day we try to spread the word to different communities, and hopefully it will continue a long time because we really enjoy seeing each other once a month and speaking Cherokee with each other, and I hope that for the next generations, too.”
Although the CSB is designated for Cherokee speakers anyone is welcome to attend, but only Cherokee is spoken.
“We have a lot of students from different areas that just sit and listen, so everyone is welcome,” Kirk said.
The next CSB meeting will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 14 in the same meeting room. For more information, call Roy Boney Jr. at 918-453-5487.