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
09/23/2017 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.
09/22/2017 08:00 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The 12th annual Cherokee Art Market, featuring more than 150 elite Native American artists from across the nation, returns Oct. 14-15 to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The Cherokee Art Market is one of the largest Native American art shows in the state and one of the finest Native art markets in the country. More than 50 tribes are represented at the event that includes artwork available for purchase. Pieces include beadwork, pottery, painting, basketry, sculptures and textiles. As part of the two-day event, there will be cultural demonstrations open to the public from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Demonstrations include shell jewelry, screen printing, kachina dolls, sculptures, Native fashion, gourd art, painting, storytelling and music. Artists are competing for their share of $75,000 in prize money awarded across 25 categories. An opening reception will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct 13 in the Sky Room to welcome artists and award prize money. The public is welcome to attend the reception for $25 per person. Tickets will be available for purchase at the door. Best of Show for the 2016 Cherokee Art Market was awarded to Glenda McKay, Ingalik-Athabascan, for her seal-skin basket “Ingalik Charm Basket (Traditional).” Cherokee Art Market is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Sequoyah Convention Center. Admission is $5 per person. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is located off Interstate 44 at exit 240. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call 1-800-760-6700.
09/20/2017 04:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Area students have two opportunities to learn knowledge of Cherokee history and culture with an interactive day at the Cherokee Heritage Center. Ancient Cherokee Days is set for Oct. 5-6, and Cherokee Heritage Festival is set to run Nov. 2-3. Both events feature similar curriculum for school-age children and are presented inside Diligwa, the CHC’s authentic re-creation of Cherokee life in the early 1700s. “While we understand that public education is in a budget crisis, we can’t lose sight of the importance of programs like these,” CHC Executive Director Dr. Charles Gourd said. “We offer this experience at a low cost in hopes that students are able to get out of the classroom and experience Cherokee history and culture firsthand. It is the best way to ensure that they develop a thorough understanding and appreciation for the history and culture of the Cherokee people.” Admission for each event is $5 per student and accompanying adults are only $2. Teachers and bus drivers are free. Admission includes entrance to the Cherokee National Museum, the Trail of Tears exhibit and Adams Corner Rural Village. The outdoor cultural classes feature interactive curriculum and games based on Cherokee lifestyle in the early 18th century, including craft demonstrations in pottery making, basket weaving, food grinding, weapons or tool making and language. Additional stations feature Cherokee games such as chunkey, marbles, stickball, blowguns, language activities and more. Face painting is offered at $1 per design and represents Cherokee tattoos from the early 1700s. Groups are encouraged to make their visit a daylong event. Picnic tables are available for guests bringing lunches, and there is ample parking for school buses and private vehicles. The Murrell Home, one-half mile south, has additional picnic and playground areas. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. and the event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information or to register, call Tonia Weavel at 918-456-6007 or <a href="mailto:"></a>. The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.
09/14/2017 08:00 AM
CUSHING, Okla. – Three Cherokee Nation citizens performed well on Sept. 8 at the third annual Native American Heritage Festival Art Show at the Cushing Community Theater. Mike Dart, a 2017 Cherokee National Treasure, won Best of Show and first place in basket weaving for his burden basket titled “The Burdens We Carry.” He also won first place in the Cultural Crafts category for his “Hunter’s Arrow Quiver.” His Best of Show award came with $1,000, while he earned $300 each for his first-place finishes. CN citzen Rene Hoover took second place in basket weaving for her piece titled “My Mother’s Basket.” The award earned her $200. Also earning $200 with a second-place finish in textiles was CN citizen Julie Brison for her “Earth Meets Rust” piece. The art show’s categories consisted of painting, graphics, photography, sculpture, pottery, jewelry and cultural crafts. The Native American Heritage Festival Art Show abides by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 and Oklahoma’s American Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1974 and 2016 Amendment.
News Writer
09/11/2017 12:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee National Treasure book-signing tour made it’s way to the Cherokee Heritage Center on Sept. 2 during the 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday. The book “Cherokee National Treasure: In their Own Words” was released in April. A group of about 12 Cherokee National Treasures sat the atrium to autograph the books. “The Cherokee National Treasure book was recently published, so they’re kind of doing a book tour and the (Cherokee National) Treasures council scheduled several dates in several different areas around the Cherokee Nation. For the (Cherokee National) holiday, since we get the most business…they scheduled them to be here in our atrium with our gift shop where you can purchase the books as well,” CHC Curator Callie Chunestudy said. Cherokee National Treasure Eddie Morrison, who was named a treasure in 2014 for his work in carving, signed books for visitors. “This book they put out about all the National Treasures past and present, I think, is very, very good. I hope they have a lot of success with it. The way they’re doing it having all the signing for all the National Treasures is quite an honor to even be in that book. It’s a good deal,” he said. Also at the signing were two new Cherokee National Treasures: Jesse Hummingbird and Mike Dart. Hummingbird said he was speechless when he learned of his being named a Cherokee National Treasure for his work as a painter, graphic artist and commercial illustrator. Dart began learning basketry at the age of 16 and is “self-taught” with influences from other Cherokee basket makers such as Bessie Russell and Shawna Cain. The 40-year-old said he didn’t expect to become a Cherokee National Treasure until later in life. “This is something, I say, is in the back of every Cherokee artists mind that maybe one day that this might happen. But it was really something I thought I would get much later than at the age that I am,” Dart said. Though Hummingbird and Dart’s profiles did not make it into the book, they still signed it. “I think being a National Treasure is one of the best achievements an artist or storyteller or whatever you do that enhances or carries on the traditions of the culture of the Cherokee people that one person can have. I’m very honored to be a National Treasure,” Morrison said.
09/08/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During the 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday, Cherokee Nation citizens Mike Dart and Jesse Hummingbird were named this year’s Cherokee National Treasures, an honor given by the tribe for keeping Cherokee art and culture alive. Dart, of Stilwell, and Hummingbird, of Phoenix, received Cherokee National Treasure medals and plaques from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden during an awards banquet hosted at Sequoyah High School. Dart received the Cherokee National Treasure honor for his ability to produce Southeastern-style baskets from traditional materials. At age 16, Dart began weaving traditional honeysuckle, buckbrush and wood splint baskets. Largely self-taught, Dart works to preserve and share the basketry tradition with fellow Cherokees. In 2016, he exhibited a replica of a large traditional burden basket woven of hand-split oak and hickory at the Chickasaw Nation’s Artesian Art Market. The piece was awarded best of show and featured in the book “Oklahoma Cherokee Baskets.” “I have few words to describe how I feel other than honored and humbled,” Dart wrote in a Facebook post. “The possibility (of being named a Cherokee National Treasure) has always been in the back of my mind, however, I always figured that if I was to be designated that it would be at a much later date. If my health and the good Lord will it, I will have many years ahead of me with this title over my head…I feel motivated to push on, do much higher quality work so that I can represent our tribe well in art markets local and abroad. I promise that I will always do my best to behave in a manor befitting a national treasure, to treat people with the utmost of respect that all human beings deserve. And I will always, as long as my health allows, teach those who desire to learn from me so that our art of basketry, that has continued nonstop since pre-contact, will continue well past my time on this earth.” A painter, graphic artist and commercial illustrator, Hummingbird received the honor of Cherokee National Treasure for working to keep traditional Cherokee art alive. Born in Tahlequah, Hummingbird later attended high school in Nashville, Tennessee. He refined his skills as an artist within programs in various institutions, including the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Hummingbird became a full-time artist in 1983. His paintings depict Cherokee and wider Native American themes. He also produces mixed-media masks, giclée reproductions and children’s book illustrations. Among other accomplishments, Hummingbird’s work won a fellowship award from the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts Indian Market. “It was a surprise, and I was really speechless whenever I found out,” Hummingbird said. “I’m 65-and-a-half years old, and I’ve been doing my art for over 30-something years, and I just figured living the way I do it would never happen to me. My hometown is Tahlequah, and I was involved in Cherokee arts when I was back there. I have some deep roots out there.” Baker said the Cherokee National Treasures preserve and advance critical elements of tribal culture. “We will always honor these men and women because they ensure unique Cherokee knowledge is conserved for future generations,” he said. “Mike and Jesse absolutely deserve this special honor, along with our deepest respect for their expertise in their respective art disciplines.” <strong>Other Cherokee Awards</strong> Cherokee Nation officials also honored the following tribal citizens and organizations that made significant contributions for statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the tribe: <strong>Statesman Award</strong> • Julie Eddy Rokala • Todd Hembree • Becky Hobbs • Chuck Hoskin • Angela Jones • Jack Nelson Kingfisher (posthumously) <strong>Patriotism Award</strong> • Shannon Buhl • Tim Carter • Leah Duncan • Joe Rainwater • Crosslin Fields Smith • Curtis Snell • Joe Thornton <strong>Community Leadership Award – Individual</strong> • Ryan Dirteater • Roberta Springwater Gibson • David Hampton • Regina Ross Trainor • Debra West <strong>Community Leadership Award – Organization</strong> • Cherokees of New Mexico • Cherokee Cornstalk Shooters Society • Cherokee National Youth Choir • Cherokee Medicine Keepers • Remember the Removal Bike Ride <strong>Samuel Worcester Award for devotion to Cherokee Nation</strong> • Dr. James Lewis • Shawn Slaton