Cherokee National Treasure to create Tahlequah veterans memorial sculpture
The name of Troy Jackson’s sculpture to honor veterans will be “Dahnawa Ahiv Ajisonvhne Ayawisgi,” or “The soldier was wounded in war.” The sculpture will be placed at a veteran’s memorial in Tahlequah. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – With plans now mostly in place, a veteran’s memorial is expected to stand at the intersection of South Muskogee Avenue and the Bertha Parker Bypass by the end of 2020.
Cherokee National Treasure Troy Jackson will create the sculpture in bronze as it honors Cherokee military veterans, particularly Purple Heart recipients. Jackson said he’s completed the preliminary model.
The name of the sculpture is “Dahnawa Ahiv Ajisonvhne Ayawisgi,” or “The Soldier was Wounded in War,” literally translated.
“A few years ago, I was talking with Don Nichols, commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart No. 641 in Tahlequah,” Jackson said. “We were talking about creating a bust to honor (Jack C. Montgomery) who won the Medal of Honor, and we did do a bust to honor him, but we got to thinking about something that would honor all veterans. That’s how this came about.”
The 17-foot tall statue will depict two soldiers on the battlefield – one wounded and another signaling for a medevac helicopter. It will be placed on the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s property, and the unveiling is planned for Veterans Day 2020.
“We want this piece to remind the people of what our soldiers and warriors have done for us through the years,” Jackson said. “Because of what they did, most of us have not had to go to war. We’ve enjoyed our lives and freedoms here in Tahlequah because of what they have done, and the sacrifice they have given. It goes back to the old saying that with every great victory, there is great sacrifice. I wanted this piece to show the victory and the sacrifice.”
Jackson said several people requested that ODOT make the land available, among them U.S. House Rep. Markwayne Mullin, former Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols and Don Nichols. The ODOT was responsive and supported the idea.
Jackson said he hopes the sculpture will not only be a memorial but an educational resource.
“We are hoping to get more people involved,” he said. “After putting the sculpture up, we also want to have a repository or directory, which will be online. People can take a smartphone and pull up stories. We want to tape and film these soldiers and their stories, so our children and grandchildren can hear them. We would like to set up a QR (code) at the memorial itself, so those stories can be downloaded. That is where we would need a lot of support and help to get that done. We think it would benefit Tahlequah and be an honor to our veterans.”
Named a Cherokee National Treasure in 2018 for pottery and sculptures, Jackson is a well-documented artist who holds many awards, including 17 grand prizes for clay and steel sculptures.
“I grew up in Tahlequah,” Jackson said. “I always knew from an early age that I was an artist. I started painting when I was attending Bacone College in Muskogee where I earned my associate’s degree. I was working on my bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University when I took a pottery class from (Jerry) Choate. I became a ceramist. I got my master’s degree from the University of Arkansas, and after that I joined a group called the Cherokee Artists Association. I became a sculptor. I was doing pottery, but they were so sculptural that I started doing that.”
As a former instructor of art at Arkansas, NSU and Bacone, he’s dedicated time to sharing his culture. He also volunteers in the artist community, serving as president of the Tahlequah Art Guild and the Cherokee Artists Association, and most recently serving on the Cherokee Art Center advisory board.
Jackson said he “pretty well” has the final sculpture in his head when he starts to work, and that he most enjoys the problem solving required as he sculpts in a medium. He added that he also has a personal stake in the veterans sculpture.
“Family is important to me,” he said. “I have a great family, and I want to leave a type of legacy to my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on. This memorial is also something I will leave to these children, and they themselves will honor our veterans.”