CN announces 2019 Cherokee National Treasures

09/08/2019 10:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Candessa Tehee
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Choogie Kingfisher
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Lula Elk
TAHLEQUAH – Three Cherokee Nation citizens have been named this year’s Cherokee National Treasures for their work in preserving and promoting Cherokee art and culture. The distinction is given by the tribe to individuals who are keeping the art, language and culture alive through their crafts and work.

Candessa Tehee, of Sallisaw; Choogie Kingfisher, of Tahlequah; and Lula Elk, of Stilwell, were selected as the 2019 recipients.

“The Cherokee language, culture and heritage is an invaluable part of our identity as Cherokee people. Those who dedicate themselves to the preservation and promotion of those portions of our identity deserve to be honored and revered as Cherokee National Treasures,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We are proud to honor the lifelong efforts of these recipients to promote and protect as well as educate the public about our Cherokee traditions, language and culture.”

Tehee received the distinction for her craftsmanship in the traditional art form of finger weaving in oblique and warpface styles. Made only by hand, these art forms use different colors and interlocks in the yarn to create designs, and occasionally incorporate beadwork. She has received many awards for her artwork from competitions such as the Cherokee Heritage Center Trail of Tears Art Show. She has a Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology and is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies and coordinator of Cherokee Language Education and Cherokee Cultural Studies at Northeastern State University.

Kingfisher was nominated for his work as a Cherokee cultural educator and storyteller. A well-known actor with several documentaries and voiceover work, he has traveled extensively for the past 35 years presenting Cherokee culture, history and stories to the public and CN. Kingfisher also serves as a master of traditional ceremonies such as powwows, gospel singing and other tribal events. He was the youngest recipient for the Cherokee Honors Award in 2005 and awarded Tahlequah’s Best Male Actor in 2003.

Elk was nominated for being a traditional Cherokee shell shaker. She has been immersed in tradition her entire life, first shaking shells at stomp grounds at the age of 5. Her grandfather was the chief of the stomp ground in her community, and she learned the art of making traditional turtle shell shakers from her mother and aunt. As a fluent Cherokee speaker, she taught at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School as a communication language instructor and passed down the art of shell shaking to girls at the spring and summer camps of the Cherokee Heritage Center. In 2001, she started work at the Cultural Resource Center and is employed with the CN.

The CN also honors tribal citizens, organizations and others who made significant contributions for statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the CN.

Medal of Patriotism Award

The Medal of Patriotism Award is given in recognition of those who answered the call of duty, made great sacrifices and risked their lives in service to CN and the United States, tirelessly defending and promoting freedom and liberty for Cherokees and all mankind. The 2019 Medal of Patriotism Award honorees are Earnie Frost, of Tucson, Arizona; Jerry Keener, of Locust Grove; and Meda Nix, of Tahlequah.

Statesmanship Award

The Statesman Award is given in recognition of those who, as public servants, epitomize the servant leader ideal, exemplifying Cherokee values and acting with respect, dignity and graciousness while working for the betterment of CN and its citizens. The 2019 Statesmanship Award honorees are former Principal Chief Bill John Baker, of Tahlequah; and former Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, of Stilwell.

Community Leadership Individual Award

The Community Leadership Individual Award is given in recognition of CN citizens who tirelessly have given their time to make their communities more vibrant livable places. Their example of servant leadership embodies Cherokee values and is held high esteem by their peers for strengthening the bonds of CN citizens. The 2019 Community Leadership Individual Award honorees are Cynthia Ruiz, of Los Angeles; Tom Belt, of Cherokee, North Carolina; and Sol Bird Mockicin, of Flute Springs.

Community Leadership Organization Award

The Community Leadership Organization Award is given in recognition of CN communities that have demonstrated the spirit of working together through servant leadership, as well as applying Cherokee values to make their communities a better place for CN citizens. The 2019 Community Leadership Organization Award honorees are Rural Communities Initiative Foundation, of Sequoyah County; Native American Fellowship Inc., of South Coffeyville; and Georgia Cherokee Community Alliance, of Marietta, Georgia.

Samuel Worcester Award

The Samuel Worcester Award is given to a non-Cherokee who has made substantial contributions to the preservation of Cherokee heritage, culture, community and sovereignty. The 2019 Samuel Worcester Award honorees are Joe West, of Pine Grove, California; Don Marshall, of Oaks; and Sherry Baker, of Tahlequah.


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