From beginner to bowyer, Fields learns bow-making skills

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
02/16/2016 08:30 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Fields has made handcrafted bows and arrows for more than 20 years. Here he strips a piece of Bois d’arc wood to form his bow. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Fields displays a unique bow he made for himself. Fields lives in Cherokee County and has made bows and arrows for more than 20 years. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Fields uses old automobile antennas for arrows, forging the tips himself. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Fields first learned to make handcrafted bows and arrows in the late 1980s from a family member, but it wasn’t until later that he found his true potential in carving a business out of being a bowyer.

“I used to travel around building restaurants all the time, and when I come home (I) didn’t have nothing to do. My older cousin said ‘hey how’d you like to learn how to make your own bow?’” Fields said. “I said ‘I don’t know, I don’t got enough patience for that. I started then.”

Fields said he was originally from Catoosa, and then moved to Kansas, Oklahoma, where his father’s family was from. Growing up, he said, he didn’t know much about making bows.

“It’s all new to me you know, back then. I learned a lot of things just through my family. I was more the type of kid that just like to run around and do things you know,” he said. “I wasn’t into this stuff and that’s what’s wrong nowadays. Not very many kids get interested in this stuff. We almost lost it for awhile.”

He said he began selling bows in the 1990s, and chose to work it as a business around 2012. That was at the suggestion of a student to whom he had been teaching bow-making skills.

“His name was Tom Nave. He was wanting to learn how to make a bow, so he come to my house to learn and he said ‘man you ought to sell these things,’” Fields said. “I said ‘I sell one once in a while’ and he said ‘man, you make fantastic bows.’ He said, ‘you ought to get into business.’”

After that, Fields said he sought out the Spider Gallery in Tahlequah and began teaching bow-making classes, as well as selling bows and arrows.

Fields uses seasoned Bois d’arc wood to make his bows. A long bow with an arrow rest whittled into the handle costs $900. A flat bow or “D-bow” and a regular-handled bow costs $500. He sells his arrows in a set of 3 for $45.

“Here lately I’ve been selling them all (the flat and regular) just for $500 because the economy was going down and not very many people can afford that,” he said. “In order to keep business going that’s what I’ve done.”

A bow, on average, takes Fields about 40 hours to complete.

About 20 years ago, Fields said he asked to take part in an elder camp where they taught cultural lessons. He asked a Cherokee elder what it would take to make a bow for himself, and the response he got was “you’ve got a long ways to go.”

“He said, ‘you’re not a bowyer until you got some years underneath your belt.’ I finally figured out what he was talking about because it don’t matter who you are or how good you are, there’s always going to be a busted bow,” Fields said. “Not everything is perfect. The Indian has never been perfect.”

Fields’ next class at the Spider Gallery is set to begin April 1.

“Because I take time out for January and February to cut and scout for next year’s wood and when I start classes, I like to have about six or seven (students),” he said.

For more information on classes, call the Spider Gallery at 918-453-5728. To inquire about purchasing a bow, contact Fields through his personal Facebook account.
ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏓᎵᏆ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ Richard Fields ᎢᎬᏱ ᎤᎴᏅᎲ ᏧᏬᏢᏗ ᏧᏬᏰᏂ ᏧᏙᏗ ᏧᏬᏢᏗ ᏗᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᏟᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎣᏂ ᎢᏗᏢ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏁᎵᏍᎪ ᎤᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏏᏓᏁᎸᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ Ꮭ ᎾᎯᏳᏊ ᎣᏂᏴ ᎤᏕᎶᎰᏒ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎬᏩᏲᏟᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎢᎦ ᎾᎿ ᏗᎬᏩᎾᏗᏅᏓ ᏧᏬᏢᏅ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ.

“ᎨᏙᎵᏙᎲ ᏓᏓᏁᎸ ᏧᎾᎵᏍᏓᏴᏗ ᏂᎪᎯᎸ, ᎠᎴ ᏱᎠᎩᎷᏥ ᏗᏇᏅᏒ (1) Ꮭ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏯᎩᎮ ᎠᏆᏛᏗ. ᎤᏓᏂᎵᎨ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎠᏋᎾ ᎤᏁᏨ ‘ᏱᏣᏚᎵᏍ ᏣᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏨᏌ ᏗᏦᏢᏗ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ?” ᏠᎨᏏ ᎤᏛᏅ. ᎠᎩᏁᏨ ᏝᏛ ᏯᏆᏅᏔ, Ꮭ ᎡᎵ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᎪᎯᏓ ᏱᎦᎦᎵᏍᏛᏡᎦ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏯᏆᏛᏁᏗᎢ. ᎾᎯᏳ ᎠᏆᎴᏅᎲᎢ.”

ᏠᎨᏏ ᎤᏛᏅ ᎾᎾ ᏂᏓᏳᏂᎩᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎦᏚᏏᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏃᏊ ᎤᏓᏅᏌ ᏭᎷᏤᎵ ᎢᎪᏓ ᎦᏅᎯᏓ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ, ᎾᎿ ᎤᏙᏓ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎤᎾᏓᎴᏅᎢ. ᎤᏛᏏᏗᏒ, ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Ꮭ ᎤᎪᏓ ᏯᏆᏅᏖ ᏗᎪᏢᏗ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ.

“ᏂᎦᏓᏃ ᎢᏤ ᎨᏒ, ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏥᎨᏒ. ᎤᎪᏓ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᏏᏓᏁᎸ ᎦᏥᏕᎶᏆᎡᎲᎢ. ᎠᏯᏃ ᏥᏲᏟ ᏥᎨᏒ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎠᎩᎸᏉᏛ ᎣᎦᏝᎢᏓᏍᏗ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎣᎩᎸᏉᏛ ᏲᎦᏛᏗ ᏣᏅᏔᏛ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᏝᏃ ᎯᎠ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏥᎾᎾᏛᏁᎰ ᎩᎳ ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᏱᏃᏣᏛᏁᎮᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᎩ ᎪᎯ ᏥᎩᎢ. ᏝᏃ ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᏗᏂᏲᏟᎤᎵᏍᎨᏓ ᏱᏄᎾᎵᏍᏓᏁᎰ ᎯᎠ ᎦᎪᏢᏅᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ. ᎠᎴᏃ ᏂᎩᏲᏎᎰ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ.”

ᎤᏛᏅ ᎤᎴᏅᎮ ᏕᎦᎾᏕᎬ ᏗᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᏐᏁᎵᏍᎪ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏑᏰᏎ ᏧᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎤᏩᏌ ᏱᏣᏓᎾᏂ ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᎤᏂᏃᎮᎴ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᏗᎪᏢᏗᎢ.

“ᏚᏙᎥᎢ Tom Nave. ᎤᏚᎵᏍᎬ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᏬᏢᏗ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ, ᎭᏩᏃ ᎤᏪᏙᎸ ᏗᏓᏁᎸ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏙᎯᏳᎧ ᏱᏘᎾᏕᎦ ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᎯᎠ ᏗᎦᎵᏣᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᏠᎨᏏ. “ᎠᎩᏁᏨ ‘ᏌᏊ ᏥᎾᏕᎪ ᎢᏴᏓᎭ ᎠᎴ ᎯᎠ ᏄᏪᏒ ‘ᎢᎦᏃ ᏦᏌᎾ ᏗᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᏕᎰᏢᏍᎪᎢ.’ ᎤᏛᏅ, ᎡᎵᏍᏗ ᎢᏨᏌ ᏱᏣᏓᎾᏂ.”’

ᎣᏂᏃ, ᏠᎨᏏ ᎤᏛᏅ ᎤᏯᎸ ᎤᏪᏙᎸ ᎾᎿ ᎧᎾᏁᏍᎩ ᏧᏂᏢᎾᎥᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎵᏆ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎴᏅᎲ ᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᏗᎪᏢᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ, ᎾᏃᏍᏊ ᏕᎦᎾᏕᎬ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᏟᏗ.

ᏠᎨᏏ ᎬᏗᏍᎪ seasoned ᏓᎶᏂᎨ ᎧᎶᏇᏗ ᎠᏓ ᏕᎪᏢᏗᏍᎪ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ. ᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏟᏓ ᎤᏠᏯᏍᏗ ᎠᏲᏞᏅ ᎪᏱᏅᏍᏗ ᏓᎬᏩᎶᏛ ᏐᏁᎳᏥᏊ. ᏌᎨ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ” ᎠᎴ ᎤᏠᏯ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᏚᎬᏩᎶᏛᎢ ᎯᏍᎩᏧᏈ. ᏗᎦᏟᏓᏃ ᏕᎦᎾᏕᎪ ᏦᎢ ᏗᎦᏛᎩᏓ ᏅᎩᏍᎪ ᎯᏍᎩ ᎢᏕᎸᎢ.

ᎯᎢᏃ ᎾᏞᎬ ᏕᏥᎾᏕᎬ ᏂᎦᏓᏊ (ᏗᏌᎨ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏐᎢ) ᎾᏍᎩ ᎯᏍᎩᏧᏈ ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏃᏊ ᏚᏂᎬᏩᎶᏛ ᎡᎳᏗ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᎡᎵ ᏗᎬᏩᏂᏩᎯᏍᏗ ᏱᎨᏎᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᏂᎦᏯᎢᏎᏍᏗ ᎨᎵᏍᎬ ᎠᏓᎾᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎾᏆᏛᏁᎵ ᎦᏲᏟᎨ ᏓᎬᏩᎶᏛᎢ.”

ᎦᎵᏣᏗ, ᎣᏍᏓ ᎢᎩᏓ, ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᏳᏲᏞᏂ ᎡᎵ ᏅᎩᏍᎪ ᎢᏳᏟᎶᏓ ᏩᏥ ᎤᏪᏅᏍᏗ ᎠᏱᎵᏙᎭ ᎠᏍᏆᏗᏍᎪᎢ.

ᎾᎿ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏔᎵᏍᎪ ᎾᏕᏘᏯ ᏥᎨᏒ, ᏠᎨᏌ ᎠᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏓᏛᏛᏅ ᎬᏩᏖᎳᏗᏍᏗ ᏧᎾᏔᎾᏯ ᏓᎾᏠᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᎿᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏂᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᏔᏅ. ᎤᏛᏛᏅ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᏔᎾᏯ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎬᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎪᏢᏗ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎤᏙᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᎦᏬᎢᎵᏴᎡᎸ ᎯᎠ ᎾᏥᏪᏎᎴ “ᎤᏓᏅᎯᏓᏛ ᏣᏂᎩᏍᏗ ᎩᎳ ᎢᎨᏣᏛᏗ.”

“ᎤᏛᏅ, ᏝᏃ Ꮟ ᏙᎯᏳ ᎯᎦᎵᏣᏛ ᏱᎩ ᏃᏊ ᎨᎳ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏗᏣᎵᏌᎳᏁᎸ ᏱᎩ ᏗᎦᎵᏣᏗ.’ ᎡᎵᏃ ᎤᏬᎯᏨ ᎦᏓᏅᏖᏍᎬ ᎨᎳ ᎠᏉᎵᏨ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬ ᎯᎳ ᎢᏲᏍᏓ ᏱᎩ ᏗᏦᏢᏗ, ᎠᏎ ᎢᎸᏢ ᏛᏲᏥ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏠᎨᏏ. “ᏝᏃ ᏂᎦᎥᎢ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏱᎩ. ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯ Ꮭ ᎢᎴᎯᏳ ᎧᎵᏬ ᏱᎦᎩ.”

ᏠᎨᏏ ᏙᏛᏕᏲᏂ ᎾᎿ ᎧᎾᏁᎵᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᏢᏅᏗ ᎠᏓᎴᏂᏍᎩ ᎧᏬᏂ ᎢᎬᏱᎢ.

“ᏅᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗ ᏙᎢ ᎾᏆᏛᏁᎸ ᎤᏃᎸᏔᏂ ᎧᎸ ᎠᎴ ᎧᎦᎵ ᏕᎧᎸ ᏓᏂᏯᎸ ᏐᎢ ᏩᏕᏘᏴᎲ ᏗᎬᏙᏗ ᎠᏓ, ᎠᎴ ᎢᎦᎴᏅᎥ ᏛᎦᎴᏅ ᏕᎦᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ, ᎤᏆᏚᎵ ᏑᏓᎵ ᎠᎴ ᎦᎵᏉᎩ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏗᎦᏥᏰᏲᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.

ᎤᎪᏛ ᏣᏕᎶᎰᎯᏍᏗ ᏱᏣᏚᎵ ᎾᎿ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬ, ᏫᏣᏟᏃᎮᏗ ᎧᎾᏁᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᏢᎾᎥᎢ ᎯᎠ ᏎᏍᏗ 918-453-5728. ᎤᎪᏛ ᎠᏕᎶᎰᎯᏍᏗ ᏲᏚᎵ ᎠᏩᎯᏍᏗ ᎦᎵᏣᏗ, ᎠᏛᎪᏙᏗ ᏠᎨᏏ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎤᏤᎵ ᎾᎿ Facebook account.

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