Dunhams continue chinkapin nut-harvesting tradition

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/04/2016 08:30 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Mark Dunham and his father Tad check a prickly bur or hull on a chinkapin tree to determine if it is ready to pick. After picking the bur, a pocketknife is used to open the bur to remove chinkapin nuts, which were once an important food source for Cherokee people before disease destroyed most of the chinkapin trees in Oklahoma. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Mark Dunham pulls down a chinkapin tree limb to determine if a bur holding nuts is ready to harvest near Eucha, Oklahoma. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Tad Dunham removes a chinkapin nut from a bur using his pocketknife. Tad and his son Mark compete with squirrels, deer and other animals for the small amount of nuts produced by the chinkapin trees on their land in Eucha, Oklahoma. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Tad Dunham holds in his hand a nut from a Chinese chestnut tree and nuts from an Ozark chinkapin tree to show the size difference. He has both trees on his land in Eucha in Delaware County. The Chinese chestnut produces a nut about the size of a quarter while the Ozark chinkapin produces a nut smaller than a dime. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
EUCHA, Okla. – Each year in late September, Cherokee Nation citizen Mark Dunham and his father Tad check chinkapin trees, which were once plentiful in the area, for prickly, green burs that hold nuts.

Logging practices and a chestnut disease in the 1950s and 1960s nearly wiped out the Ozark chinkapin or Chinquapin. The Dunhams now compete with squirrels, deer and other animals for the small amount of nuts produced by the chinkapin trees on their land in Delaware County.

“It’s a tree that’s becoming scarce because of a fungal virus. The fungal virus came from Chinese chestnut trees, which are very closely related to these trees,” Mark said. “Historically, the tree used to grow about 3 foot in diameter and would grow anywhere from 60 to 80 foot tall. It was a really good producer every year of nuts. The Cherokees, a long time ago, would make bread out of the nuts. The nuts are really high in protein, and they’re very good for you.”

According to the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation, the Ozark chinkapin is also called the Ozark chestnut. It was drought tolerant and grew on acidic dry rocky soils on hilltops and slopes. It bloomed in late May to early June after the threat of frost. The wood was prized because it was rot resistant and made excellent railroad ties and fence posts.

“The Ozark Chinquapin nuts were delicious, and we waited for them to fall like you would wait on a crop of corn to ripen. They were that important. Up on the hilltop the nuts were so plentiful that we scooped them up with flat blade shovels and loaded them into the wagons to be used as livestock feed, to eat for ourselves and to sell. Deer, bears, turkeys, squirrels and a variety of other wildlife fattened up on the sweet crop of nuts that fell every year. But, starting in the 1950s and 60s all of the trees started dying off. Now they are all gone and no one has heard of them,” said a 96-year-old Missouri outdoorsman to the Ozark Chinquapin Foundation, describing chinkapins before the blight reached the Ozarks.

Mark said these days the trees usually grow 4 inches in diameter and about 20 to 25 feet tall. Periodically, a tree dies but sends up sprouts that grow for a few years before they too die. He said the trees usually grow four to seven years before dying and sprouting again.

In 2015, Mark said he and his father harvested a pint of chinkapin nuts from one tree, and this year they managed to get about 10 nuts from a tree.

“So, this was really a poor year,” Mark said.

The Dunhams use leather gloves to handle the “spiky hull” that holds chinkapin nuts. Once the hulls or burs are pulled off a tree, Tad uses his pocketknife to split open the bur, which are three-quarter to 1-1/2 inches in diameter, to remove the nuts. Often the burs form in clusters on stems, but each bur contains a single, shiny brown acorn-like nut, which are called oo-na-geen or oo-ha-geen in Cherokee, Mark said.

Mark said there is also a chinkapin oak tree that sometimes people mistake for Ozark chinkapin. The chinkapin oak produces acorn nuts and the nuts from the trees look similar, he said, but the leaves are different with the Ozark chinkapin leaves, being more elongated and about 3 to 6 inches long.

He said besides making bread, he has eaten the nuts raw and roasted. Mark said the nuts have an “original taste” while Tad said the nuts taste similar to hazelnuts.

Tad has planted Chinese chestnut trees in his yard, which are disease resistant and produce a larger nut than the Ozark chinkapin, usually more than twice the size. Mark said the Chinese chestnut produces a nut about the size of a quarter while the Ozark chinkapin produces a nut smaller than a dime.

The Dunhams said they have a heritage of living off their land. Tad maintains a garden and keeps and feeds catfish in his pond. The family also gathers wild onions, morel mushrooms, black walnuts and black haws, which are a dark-black berry fruit. The family also hunts deer on its land. Tad said he is proud that his family could nearly sustain itself off of his property.
ᏣᎳᎩ

ᎤᏥ, ᎣᎦᎵᎰᎹ. – ᏂᏓᏕᏘᏴᎯᏒ ᏚᎵᏍᏗ ᎧᎸ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ Mark Dunham ᎠᎴ ᎤᏙᏓ Tad ᏓᏂᎪᎵᏰᏍᎪ ᏧᎾᎩᎾ ᏕᏈᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏌᏊ ᎢᏳᏩᎪᏛ ᎤᏣᏍᏈᏍᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎾᎿᎢ, ᏧᏣᏲᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᏤᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎭᏫᎾᏗᏢ ᎦᏠᎢ ᏐᎯ.

ᎠᏓ ᏗᏅᎴᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎾᎩᏃ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎤᏂᏴᏞ ᎾᎿ ᏐᏁᎳᏚ ᎢᏍᎪᎯᏧᏈ ᎯᎦᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᏑᏓᎵᏍᎪ ᏚᏕᏘᏴᏌᏗᏒᎢ ᎠᎴᏃ ᏂᏚᏛᏔᏁ Ozark ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎠᎴ Chinquapin. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏂDunhams ᏃᏊ ᏓᎾᏗᏒᎮᎰᎢ ᏌᎶᎵ, ᎠᏫ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏲᏟ ᎠᎾᏓᏛᏍᎪ ᎾᎿ ᎦᏓ ᎤᏂᎲᎢ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏆᏅᎩ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ.

“ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎯᎠ ᎠᏈᎬᎢ ᏙᎯᏳ ᎦᏲᏟ ᎦᎾᏄᎪᏫᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎤᏕᏁᎲᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎥᏳᎩ ᏂᏓᏳᏓᎴᏅ Chinese ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᏕᏈᎬᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎾᎥ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏗᎾᏓᏛᏂ ᏕᏡᎬᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬ Mark. “ᏙᎯᏳᏃ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᏡᎬ ᎪᎯᎦ ᏥᎨᏒ ᏓᏛᏍᎬ ᏦᎢ ᎢᏯᎳᏏᏓ ᎢᎩᏓ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎴ ᏑᏓᎵᏍᎪ ᎠᎴ ᏁᎳᏍᎪ ᎢᏗᎳᏏᏓ ᎢᏗᎦᏘ ᏂᏕᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎬ. ᏂᎪᎯᎸ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏓᏛᏍᎪ ᏂᏓᏕᏘᏴᎯᏒ. ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ, ᎪᎯᎩ ᏥᎨᏒ, ᎦᏚ ᎠᏃᏢᏗᏍᎬ ᎯᎠ ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎤᏓᏔᏅᎢ. ᏐᎯᏃ ᎤᏩᏙᏅ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏈᏘᏂ ᏙᏳ ᎤᎪᏓ ᎨᏐᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏙᏳ ᎣᏍᏓ ᏯᏓᏛᏁᎯ.”

Ozark Chinquapin Foundation ᎾᏁᎵᏍᎬ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Ozark ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎾᏍᏊ Ozark ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎠᏃᏎᎰᎢ. ᎤᎧᏲᏛ ᏓᏓᏁᎸᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎦᏚᏏ ᎠᏛᏍᎪ ᏅᏲᎢ ᎦᏙᎢ ᎤᏴᏍᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏕᎧᎾᎷᏍᎬᎩ. ᎠᏅᏍᎬᏘ ᎧᎸ ᎣᏂᏗᏝ ᎠᏥᎸᏍᎪᎢ ᎾᏃ ᎠᎬᏱ ᏕᎭᎷᏱ ᎧᎸ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏯᏛᎲᏍᎬᎩ ᎤᎶᏐᏅᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᏓ ᎤᏂᎸᏉᏅᎨᏒ ᎾᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᏍᎬ Ꮭ ᏯᎪᏍᎨᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎢᏲᏍᏛ ᏗᏗᏍᏗ ᏗᎪᏢᏙᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎨᏛᏍᏗ.

“Ozark Chinquapin ᏐᎯ ᎤᏖᏗ ᏗᎩᏍᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᎤᏥᎦᏘᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᏃᏬᎰᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏢᏯᏊ ᏎᎷ ᏥᎬᏍᎪᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏳᎾᎵᏍᎨᏓ. ᎤᎾᎢ ᎦᏚᏏ ᎤᎸᎳᏗ ᎤᏂᎪᏓ ᏐᎢ ᎠᏂᎳᎨᏴᎩ ᎤᏔᎾ ᎪᏕᏍᏗ ᎬᏗᏙᏧᏔᏍᏗᏍᎬᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏆᎴᎷ ᏙᏥᎸᏗᏍᎬᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᎾᎳᎢ ᏙᏤᏍᏗᏍᎬᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎣᎬᏏ ᏦᎩᎩᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏦᎩᎾᏗᏅᏗ. ᎠᏫ, ᏲᎾ, ᎬᎾ, ᏌᎶᎳ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎠᏁᎾᎢ ᏓᎾᎳᏦᎲᏍᎬᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᎦᎾᏍᏗ ᏐᎢ ᎠᏅᏖᏍᎬᎩ ᏑᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎢᏳᏓᎵ. ᎠᏎᏃ, 1950s ᎠᎴ 1960s ᎬᏩᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏕᏡᎬᎢ ᏕᎦᎵᏬᎬᎢ. ᏃᏊᏃ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏚᎵᏛᏔᏅᎩ ᎠᎴ Ꮭ ᎩᎶ ᏱᏗᎧᏃᎮᏍᎪᎢ,” ᏅᏪᏒ ᏐᏁᎳᏍᎪ ᏑᏓᎵ-ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴ ᏨᎫᎵ ᏙᏯᏗᏢ ᎡᏙᎯ ᎠᏍᎦᏯ ᎾᏍᎩ Ozark Chinquapin Foundation ᎨᎳ, ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᏕᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬ ᏏᏃ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎢᎦᎷᎬᎾ ᏥᎨᏒ ᎤᎾᎢ Ozarks.

Mark ᏅᏪᏒ ᎪᎯᏥᎩ ᏕᏡᎬᎢ ᏅᎩ ᎢᏯᏏᏔᏗᏍᏗ ᎢᎩᏓ ᏂᏕᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏔᎵᏍᎪᎯ ᏃᎴ ᎯᏍᎩᏦᏁ ᎢᎳᏏᏗ ᎢᏗᎦᏔ ᏂᏕᎦᎵᏍᏗᏍᎪᎢ. ᏳᏓᎴᎭ, ᏡᎬ ᎦᎵᏬᎪᎢ ᎠᏎᏃ ᏯᏩᏱᏢᎦ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎠᎸᏍᎦ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎠᏛᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎦᎵᏬᎪᎢ. ᎯᎠᏃ ᏅᏪᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᏡᎬ ᏅᎩ ᏃᎴ ᎦᎵᏉᎩ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏓᏛᏍᎪ ᎩᎳ ᏫᏗᎦᎵᏬᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏏᏊ ᎠᏟᏰᎲᏍᎪᎢ.

2015 ᏥᎨᏒ, Mark ᎤᏪᏒ ᎤᏩᏌ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏙᏓ ᏑᏓᎨᏛ ᎢᎦᎢ ᏚᎾᏕᏒ ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎾᏍᎩᏅ ᏌᏊ ᎤᏡᎬᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᎯᎠᏃ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏓ ᏯᏛᎾ ᏍᎪᎯᏊ ᏐᎢ ᏙᎦᎾᏕᏒ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᏕᏡᎬᎢ.

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ, ᎯᎠ ᏧᏕᏘᏴᏌᏓ ᏙᏳᎢ ᎤᏲᎢ ᎾᎾᎵᏍᏗ,” Mark ᎤᏪᏒᎩ.

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Dunhams ᏓᎾᏆᎳᏰᏑᎸᏍᎪᎢ ᎦᏃᏥ ᏗᎪᏢᏔᏅᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ “ᏗᎪᏍᏓᏯ ᎤᏯᎸᎢ” ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᏐᎯ ᏓᏂᏱᏙᎲᎢ. ᏃᏊᏃ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏚᏯᎳᏛ ᎠᎴ ᏚᏯᎸᎢ ᏱᏂᏗᎬᎾᏕᏒ ᏡᎬ, Tad ᎠᏰᎳᏍᏗ ᎬᏗᏍᎪ ᏓᏍᏡᏴᏍᎬ ᏚᏯᎳᎸ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾᏃ ᏦᎢ-ᎩᏅᏗ ᏃᎴ 1-1/2 ᎢᏯᏏᏔᏗᏍᏗ ᎢᏘᎩᏓ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᎦᎴᏍᎬ ᏐᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎢᏳᏓᎵ ᏚᏯᎳᎸ ᏧᏓᏟᏌᏅ ᏓᏙᏢᏍᎪ ᎤᎾᎢ ᏬᏚᏩᏂᎦᎸᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏌᏊᏊ ᎤᏯᎳᎸ ᎤᏥᏍᏓᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᎤᏬᏗᎨ ᎤᎦᏔ -ᏐᎯ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎤᏠᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾᏃ ᎤᎾᎩᏂ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎭᎩᏂ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎧᏁᎢᏍᏗ, Mark ᏅᏪᏒᎢ.

Mark ᏅᏪᏒ ᎾᏍᏊ ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎠᏓᏯ ᏡᎬ ᎡᎯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫ ᏳᏓᎭ ᎤᏂᎵᏓᏍᏗᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ Ozark ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎠᏃᏎᎰᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᎠᏓᏯ ᎫᎴ ᏓᏓᏛᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏕᏡᎬᎢ ᏐᎯ ᏧᏠᏱ ᎢᏧᏍᏗ ᎨᏐᎢ, ᏅᏪᏒᎢ, ᎠᏎᏃ ᏧᎦᎶᎦ ᎨᏒᎩ ᏚᏓᎴᎾ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ Ozark ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᏧᎦᎶᎦ, ᎤᏟ ᎢᎦᎢ ᏗᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᎨᏐᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎡᎵᏊ ᏦᎢ ᎾᏃ ᏑᏓᎵ ᎢᏯᏏᏔᏗᏍᏗ ᎢᏗᎦᏅᎯᏓ.

ᎯᎠ ᏅᏪᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎦᏚ ᎪᏢᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᏐᎯ ᏧᏩᎾᏒ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏧᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏒᎾᏔᏅᎩ. Mark ᏅᏪᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏐᎢ “ᎤᏩᏒᏃ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎠᎩᏍᏗ” ᎾᏃ Tad ᏅᏪᏒ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏐᎢ ᏗᏳᎩᏛ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎠᎩᏍᏗᎢ.

Tad Chinese ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᏡᎬ ᏚᏫᏒᎢ ᎤᎾᎢ ᎣᏂ ᏧᏪᏅᏒᎩ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾᏃ ᏗᏟᏴᎡᎯ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏔᏃ ᎠᏙᏢᏍᎪ ᏐᎯ ᏏᏃ Ozark ᎤᎾᎩᎾ, ᎤᏠᏯ ᎤᏟᎢ ᏔᎵ ᎤᎶᏒᏍᏗ ᎢᎩᏓ. Mark ᏅᏪᏒ Chinese ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᏐᎢ ᎩᏅᏗ ᏱᎩᏓ ᎠᏓᏓᏛᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Ozark ᎤᎾᎩᎾ ᏐᎢ ᎤᏍᏗᎧ ᏍᎪᎯ ᎢᏯᏓᏅᏖᏗ ᎠᏓᏓᏛᏍᎪᎢ.

ᎾᏍᎩᏃ Dunhams ᏄᏂᏪᏒᎩ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᏳᎾᏛᏁᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᎢ ᎦᏙᎢ ᏂᏓᏳᏓᎴᏅᎩ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎪᎢ. Tad ᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎰ ᎤᏫᏒᏅᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏚᏍᎪᏂᎪᏙ ᎠᎴ ᏕᎨᏠᎰ ᏧᎾᎵᏍᏓᎾᎵ ᎥᏓᎵ ᎤᏬᏢᏒᎢ. ᏏᏓᏁᎸᏃ ᎡᎩ ᎢᎾᎨ ᎡᎯ ᎠᏂᏯᎯᏍᎪᎢ, ᎤᏂᏒᏙᏂ ᏓᏬᎵ, ᏎᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎧᏂᎦ, ᎾᏍᎩᎾᏃ ᎤᏂᏍᎪᏍᏓ ᎠᏂᎬᎾᎩ-ᎤᎾᏓᏔᏅᎯ ᎠᎩᏍᏗ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏏᏓᏁᎸᏃ ᎾᏍᏊ ᏓᏁᎭᎵᏙᎰᎢ ᎠᏫ ᏚᏂᏲᎰ ᎾᎿᎢ ᎦᏓ ᎤᏂᎲᎢ. Tad ᎤᏪᏒ ᎤᏢᏉᏓ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏏᏓᏁᎸᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏅᏌ ᎬᏩᏂᏩᏛᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᏂᎩᏍᏗ ᎾᎿᎢ ᎦᏙ ᎤᎾᏤᎵᎪᎯ.Ꮔ

- Translated by Anna Sixkiller

About the Author
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. 

For many years h ...
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will Chavez is a Cherokee/San Felipe Pueblo Indian who has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 25 years. During that time he has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a writer, reporter and photographer for the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers. For many years h ...

Culture

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/23/2020 03:10 PM
The federal funds are part of a...

BY STACIE BOSTON
Multimedia Reporter
10/16/2020 09:19 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program has been an outlet for lea...

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/15/2020 09:02 AM
The exhibit opened Oc...

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
10/14/2020 08:21 AM
Cherokee author Traci Sorell’s award-wi...

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/13/2020 10:22 AM
The virtual market is exp...

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/02/2020 12:47 PM
Cherokee author Traci Sorell’s book tells o...