“After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation” is a new exhibit at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that examines how the Cherokee Nation came to prosper after removal to Indian Territory. The museum collaborated with the CN and its citizens to interpret and approve the material, including the syllabary text that greets museum visitors. The exhibition will be on display through Jan. 21 and can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Gilcrease exhibit examines post-removal CN prosperity
A Cherokee hunting coat, circa 1850-60, is on display as part of the exhibition “After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation” at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The coat is made from tanned deerskin and printed cloth lining with a dark brown velvet collar and silk threading. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TULSA, Okla. – With the new “After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation” exhibit, Gilcrease Museum visitors can see how the Cherokee Nation has come to prosper after its removal to Indian Territory.
The time before, during and after Cherokee removal from the Southeastern United States is highlighted through 64 items in the Gilcrease collection and 14 loaned items. The exhibit’s items include paintings, a hunting coat, a bandolier bag, a knife used to kill former Cherokee Phoenix Editor Elias Boudinot and fine china used at Rose Cottage in Park Hill when former Principal Chief John Ross entertained guests.
Digital exhibits are also used detailing the land that once belonged to the Cherokee people and what daily life was like in Indian Territory for students at the Cherokee Male and Female Seminaries.
The collaborative project between the museum’s Helmerich Center and CN, with several CN citizens acting as consultants to interpret and approve the material, is the culmination of two years of work.
“Our former director for the Helmerich Center for American Research at Gilcrease Museum, Duane King, this was his idea,” Natalie Panther, program center officer, said. “It’s really a story of resilience in the face of tremendous adversity, and he wanted to tell the story of how the Cherokee Nation was able to overcome incredible odds to rebuild their nation and create a successful society in Indian Territory.”
The first part of the exhibition examines removal politics.
President Andrew Jackson ordered Southeastern tribes to remove to Indian Territory by signing the Indian Removal Act on May 28, 1830. The Cherokee and other tribes were subsequently forced to move west into modern day Oklahoma. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced on the journey, now known as the Trail of Tears, approximately 4,000 died of exposure, starvation and disease.
“It was a highly contentious topic at the time, and it barely passed the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate,” Panther said. “There were central figures, American heroes and writers and Founding Fathers who both argued for and against Indian removal, so that’s what’s going to be highlighted in that section.”
The exhibition also walks visitors through the removal-induced factionalism that occurred between the Cherokees supporting Ross and those supporting Major John Ridge. Ross resisted removal while Ridge believed it was inevitable. Ridge was part of a group that signed Cherokee lands over to the U.S. government in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota.
“When you go through factionalism, you’re talking about how Major Ridge and John Ross were fighting, and there was violence after the signing of the Treaty of New Echota because a lot of the tribe blamed the Treaty of New Echota for the entire tribe having to move west,” she said. “There was a lot of fighting and murder, and finally all the factions signed a peace treaty in 1846 to stop the violence and agreed to forgive all previous crimes committed against each other and just to move forward.”
Panther said while the period after removal was “one of the most tumultuous periods in Cherokee history,” the Cherokees’ eventual reunification ushered in a period of prosperity dubbed the Golden Age.
“The Cherokees had built up a very independent republic, and that’s what was kind of dismantled because of forced removal,” she said. “Once they got to Indian Territory, there was factionalism and infighting, but they were able to overcome that and rebuild their government, rebuild their economy. They created an extensive public school system with 144 public schools and two institutions of higher learning, so they were really able to overcome obstacles and rebuild their nation, and that’s kind of the highlight of the Golden Age. It’s a success story, and I think it’s a story that, when you go through it, you’re going to feel confident about your tribe and being a Cherokee.”
The exhibit runs through Jan. 21 and can be viewed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free for CN citizens on Sept. 24 during the museum’s annual “Cherokee Day.”
For more information, visit www.gilcrease.org/exhibitions/cherokee/
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them.
“Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said.
Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill.
Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection.
“One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.”
In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment.
“I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.”
The location itself was also a factor.
“Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.”
In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways.
“I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.”
The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team.
“To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.”
Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble.
“To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.”
For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit <a href="http://www.discovery.com" target="_blank">www.discovery.com</a>. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.
PARK HILL, Okla. – Approximately 1,800 elementary school children from 25 Oklahoma schools attended the third annual Cherokee Heritage Festival Nov. 2-3 at the Cherokee Heritage Center.
Children participated in various Cherokee cultural activities during the two-day festival.
“It’s a celebration of not only Native American (Heritage) Month but of Cherokee culture. We’ve invited schools to attend to experience Cherokee culture with their eyes, their ears and their hands,” CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said.
Activities consisted of visiting the Diligwa-1710 Cherokee Village, Adam’s Corner Rural Village, the Cherokee National Museum, shooting blowguns, playing stickball and chunkey, watching bow and flint knapping demonstrations, hearing the Cherokee language and learning about loom weaving, twining and basketry.
“In the past we’ve had people really enjoy this, bringing their children, their students to this event. We have public school, private school and home-schooled children that come and enjoy the event. We’ve had really positive feedback,” Weavel said.
Cherokee Nation citizen and Tenkiller Elementary teacher Sinea Girdner said it is important to teach her students about the Cherokee culture and that is why they attended the event.
“We brought out students out here today because we are local, and we think it’s important that our children see why our town was founded and what originally started here. They need to know the history of our town,” Girdner said. “What I get out of bringing my students to an event like this is seeing their minds expanding and the light bulb moments that click on when they see things in Tahlequah and they can make a connection with it, that they’re actually here and it’s not just something they read in a book. They actually have the experience.”
Girdner said at Tenkiller Elementary, children take part in after-school programs to learn more about Cherokee culture.
“If they weren’t taught it in school it would probably be lost,” she said.
Weavel said it’s important for the CHC to “share the culture with the world.”
“The authenticity of the event means everything to me so that kids experience a real Cherokee event,” Weavel said.
CATOOSA, Okla. – More than 100 Tribal Employment Rights Office-certified vendors gathered on Nov. 2 to highlight and grow their businesses at the Engage Expo inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
“It’s just a great chance for our TERO vendors and then our Cherokee Nation entities and then some other outside businesses that do minority procurement to come together and show off their business and network with other people,” Stephen Highers, Cherokee Nation Commerce department entrepreneur and development manager, said.
To be TERO certified, businesses must be Indian-owned by constituting no less than 51 percent ownership. There are more than 800 TERO-certified vendors.
Highers said vendors spanning various businesses come from across the United States to attend the expo, bringing sample products and information.
“We have artists in the room that are here today. We have big construction companies. We have small businesses that are in the room, and then we also have a lot of resource partners,” he said. “So we have different Native American tribes here. It’s just kind of a great day to celebrate all that is being a certified Indian-owned business.”
Vendors also took part in free workshops on capacity building and received information about bidding on projects with CN and other businesses.
The TERO helps businesses working with the CN fill contractor vacancies by referring TERO-certified businesses. In 2017, TERO vendors earned more than $36 million in contracts.
“We hope that this whole day is about capacity building and growing their capacity, whether that is networking with another TERO vendor and they form a relationship and now they can grow together, or figuring out how they can get their foot in the door with the federal government or another procurement agency,” Highers said.
CN citizen Greg Stice, owner and designer of Cherokee Copper, a jewelry-based business, attended to promote his work as a TERO-certified artist.
“I’m proud to be a TERO-certified artist,” Stice said. “It gives credence or credibility out into the world that we are a Native American company, a Cherokee company, and we’re proud of that.”
The company is also family owned and operated and uses copper, silver, brass, hemp and deerskin to create each handmade piece.
“In Oklahoma everybody thinks silver and turquoise, but that’s Navajo,” Stice said. “Cherokee (art) is simple – the copper, the pearls, the gemstones, the things that are coming from Mother Earth. It’s either under the land, on the land or in the water.”
Stice said Cherokee Copper products begin at $20 for items such as earrings and pendants. More intricate pieces can cost upwards of $400 or more. Custom orders can also be placed.
Also on site was Cooper Construction owner Brian Cooper, who started his business more than nine years ago at the urging of several co-workers familiar with the TERO program.
“TERO has helped me start, and they’ve helped me grow,” Cooper said. “The program has just been great for us. Without TERO, there’s no way we would be where we are today.”
Cooper said more than 96 percent of his business comes from tribes that have found him through the TERO, including the CN to work on the Cherokee Casino & Hotel Roland.
He encouraged any Indian-owned business to become TERO certified.
“It allows me to stay within the tribe and work with our own,” he said. “You just have to ask for help if you need it and don’t panic whenever you see all the paperwork.”
For more information about becoming TERO certified, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeetero.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeetero.com</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and CN One Fire Victim Services officials proclaimed October as “Domestic Violence Awareness Month” on Oct. 24 with a proclamation signing and a “Flowers on the Pond” ceremony.
Domestic violence is defined as when a person is an intimate relationship with another, such as a spouse, and an abuser attempts to gain and maintain control of the victim by using physical violence and psychological intimidation.
The proclamation, signed by Principal Chief Bill John Baker in the Tribal Complex, states CN officials support One Fire Victim services in the protection of victims, gaining access to legal and psychological support structures, gaining financial independence and being safe.
“And whereas the social responsibility inherent to the intervention and prevention of this crime is recognized and is an essential measure for the safety and protection of domestic violence victims and the future generations of the Cherokee Nation,” the proclamation states.
After the signing, the public was invited to attend a “Flowers on the Pond” ceremony at the One Fire pond east of the Tribal Complex to release flowers into the water as a way to honor victims and survivors of domestic violence.
The ceremony was inspired by a poem from the viewpoint of a domestic violence victim leading up to her funeral where she received flowers.
“That’s an event we don’t want to receive flowers for, and so we hope to bring awareness to the purpose of fighting domestic violence,” One Fire Victim Services Director Nikki Baker-Limore said. “Domestic violence touches everyone. It doesn’t matter what walk of life you have, what job, the color of your skin, if you’re old, if you’re young. However, Native Americans do suffer domestic violence at a higher rate. Eighty-four percent of Native American women will suffer domestic violence sometime during their lifetime compared to 35 percent of the general population.”
One Fire Victim Services provides aid to people through civil legal assistance, advocacy, divorce, and other services, and are available 24 hours a day. For more information, call 1-866-458-5399.
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Jeff Cawhorn discovered his love for working with stone after being fascinated with arrowheads and flint napping as a boy. However, it wasn’t until a year ago that he turned his love for stone art into a side business out of his Sallisaw home.
“I was just fascinated by (arrowheads), so I started toying around with making my own just in my spare time. I would pick up a piece of flint or something like that and start chipping away at it and everything, and that’s kind of what lead me to where I’m at now,” he said. “I’ve always had a knack for making stone tools. I was fascinated just looking at them from an early age and I still am.”
Since Cawhorn began selling his handmade products such as arrowhead necklaces and earrings, spears, tomahawks and knives, his business has taken off. He said most costumers are local and from Oklahoma, but occasionally he receives orders from states as far as New York and Hawaii.
“For a long time I was never confident enough to sale anything I had. I would make a necklace with a point on it for my own personal use or for my grandkids then everyone seemed to want one, so it kind of took off from there. After a while I started feeling confident in what I was making to actually sale it,” Cawhorn said.
When making his products, he likes to use the rocks and stones found in local creeks and rivers as well as antler sheds that he finds on his whitetail deer farm.
“We raise white tail deer to breeders, hunting ranches and individuals that want to purchase to turn lose on their property to enhance the deer genetics that are already there,” Cawhorn said. “A lot of the materials I use come from the animals I raise. I pick up their sheds and use them to make handles for the knives and for some of the displays and for the knife stands.”
To create a knife, Cawhorn searches for a large piece of “chert” or “river cobble” along the creeks and rivers. Next he buries the stone under sand below a fire and cooks it for a couple of days to change the color and to give it a glossy effect. Then he breaks up the stone with a copper mallet or a hammer stone and shapes the broken stone into a point. For the finishing touches he adds an antler shed as the handle, and depending on the customer, Cawhorn will carve designs or words into the antler handle for a custom finish.
“Everybody seems to really like (my products). I stay busy filling orders and everyone seems to be happy with what I do and I enjoy doing it too,” he said.
As a full-time teacher at Central High School, he stays busy teaching humanities, psychology, physical education and drivers education. But with his home business, he’s able to continue his love for working with stone.
Cawhorn is a Tribal Employment Rights Office-certified artist. To view his works, visit his personal Facebook page. To request a custom order, call 918-869-2597.
LOST CITY, Okla. – Cherokee language classes recently started online and in communities across the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction, as teachers encourage students to read, write and speak the language to save it.
Part of the CN’s Cherokee Language Program, the free classes are held each spring and fall for 10 weeks.
“It’s preserving our language,” instructor Rufus King said. “We are all losing it, some of them say. There’s not that many speakers anymore here in Cherokee Nation. It’s an everyday business, and I’ve said this before, but we need to get into this business a little deeper than what we are now if we’re really going to stay up with it.”
King, a CN citizen and first-language speaker, teaches at the Lost City Community Center. His classes meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. He became certified to teach Cherokee in 2001 and stresses practicing the Cherokee syllabary daily and the idea that learning takes time.
“Even after 20 lessons, you have to come back the next term,” he said. “You can’t quit. Those (symbols) are the most important things in the Cherokee language. You’ve got to know them if you’re going to write or read.”
Only those who attend community classes like King’s receive a copy of the book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1,” which was introduced this past spring.
The “See, Say, Write” book, which was previously used in classes for more than 20 years to teach beginners, was designed to teach fluent Cherokee speakers, Cherokee Language Program Director Roy Boney said.
“The previous book was mainly a lot of simple word lists for those that could already speak Cherokee and wanted to learn how to write it,” he said. “This new book is more designed for people that are learning the language, so we have things like grammar rules and how to make something possessive or plural. This way people actually create their own thoughts about what they would want to say to somebody, rather than just rote memorization.”
Boney said the new book took more than a year to develop and accompanies free supplemental material found online. “If you look in the text, you’ll see things that are highlighted in blue. Those items have been recorded, so on the <a href="http://www.cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org</a> website we have the link where students can download all of the audio files that go along with the book so they can listen to it on their phone, their computer, if they want to make CDs.”
While the book provides structure, Boney said language instructors could teach as they see fit.
CN citizen Helena McCoy, instructor at the Brushy Community Center near Sallisaw, holds class from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.
Though she uses the new book, she also asks students what they are interested in learning. “At the beginning, I try to teach what they want to learn, that way they’ll be more interested in coming back. I don’t try to push anything on them. I just ask them, ‘What do you want to learn?’”
She said students asked about Cherokee names for family members and how to order foods at a restaurant.
“We write everything in syllabary and phonetics to let them know what it sounds like,” McCoy said. “It’s important to me for someone that is a fluent speaker to teach them the sounds because I hear so many people saying, and I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I hear so many people saying words different from what I’ve heard. Cherokee is my first language, that’s why it’s so important for me they hear it from me. I don’t tell them it’s wrong, but I tell them, ‘This is how we say it from my area.’”
This is the second year McCoy has taught language classes. She previously taught at Marble City Public Schools for 20 years and the Cherokee Immersion Charter School for six years.
“I always try to make them say the words because you have to see it and say it, and if you want to write it in the syllabary, you have to hear yourself saying those words,” she said.
CN citizen Melvin McCoy, Helena’s brother-in-law, said he hopes attending classes will help him with the language and syllabary.
“My parents were fluent, I mean really fluent, but they just didn’t teach us,” Melvin said. “They taught us English first, but we should have learned Cherokee first because it’s a whole lot easier to learn when you’re young. I can speak a little bit, but not fluently so I come here to try and learn a little bit more and we do have a really good teacher. I think if you can learn the syllabary, you can probably learn to talk Cherokee pretty good.”
CN citizen Gary Bolin was also raised in a fluent-speaking environment but moved from the area as a child and is now trying to reconnect with the language.
“I’m not around speakers every day,” he said. “About the only time I get to hear any (Cherokee) at all is when we’re in class, so that helps me, too.”
Bolin said anyone interested in learning should consider the community classes. “You kind of get your foothold at class, but you’ve got to take it home with you to really learn it. It’s really something that everybody should know. It’s a part of who you are and where you came from, and it’s something that nobody should want to lose.”
For more information, call 918-453-5151.
<strong>Locations for Fall Classes</strong>
• Tulsa: Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma
• Jay: Jay Community Center
• Hulbert: Lost City Community Center
• Porum: Oak Grove Baptist Church
• Webbers Falls: Webbers Falls Museum
• Tahlequah: Elm Tree Baptist Church
• Salina: New Jordan Baptist Church
• Sallisaw: Brushy Community Center
• Locust Grove: Ballou Baptist Church
• Salina: Salina Early Learning Academy
• Muldrow: Muldrow Cherokee Community Organization
• Kenwood: Kenwood Community Center
• Tahlequah: Northeastern State University
• South Coffeyville: Tom Buffington Heights
• Marble City: House of Praise Church