Cherokee National Treasure, bow maker Buckhorn dies at 77

10/01/2020 06:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee National Treasure Jim “Leonard” Buckhorn, of Kansas, Oklahoma, was honored with the title in 2002. He died Sept. 28 at age 77.
KANSAS, Okla. – Cherokee National Treasure Jim “Leonard” Buckhorn, of Kansas, died Sept. 28 at age 77. He was honored as a treasure for his bow making ability.

Buckhorn was born Sept. 13, 1943, to Sunday Buckhorn and Bessie (McLemore) Buckhorn. He married Emma Fields on Jan. 28, 1966, at Long Prairie Baptist Church.

Buckhorn was a bow maker since age 12 and credited learning how to make bows from champion archer Joe Thornton, of Tahlequah, and his grandfather, Robert McLemore, of Pumpkin Hollow. He was named a CNT in 2002, was a member of the Cherokee Cornstalk Shooters Society, Green Country Bow Shooters Association and the Tulsa Bow Hunters Association.

“When I started watching him (grandfather), I was about 12 years old. Fourteen years old is when he gave me that little stick to make a bow,” Buckhorn said for his story in the book “Cherokee National Treasures, In Their Own Words.” “I got older and got to where I could do pretty good after that. Then I went on ahead and started making them on my own. And he said, ‘Yeah, you done that all right. You done OK.’”

At 16, Buckhorn said he sold his first bow for 50 cents. Like his grandfather, he made woodcarvings and bows and arrows and sold his bows for many years.

“People use them (bows). Some of them, they hang them on a wall. Some of them, they shoot in the tournaments. All of my bows, mostly, have been shot in a tournament. The cornstalk shoot, something like that,” he said for the CNT book. “The bow string is the only thing that is modern. But the wood and the way I carved it – everything is done the traditional way, no grinder or anything like that. I use a Bowie knife, a pocket knife and an axe and a glass to shave the wood.”

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the Cherokee Nation is saddened by the loss of Buckhorn.

“We simply cannot replace our Cherokee National Treasures who spend their lifetime mastering the arts and crafts of our Cherokee ancestors,” Hoskin said. “Jim Buckhorn was skilled at whittling wood as a renowned bow maker, and the Cherokee Nation is deeply saddened by his loss and the void of his expertise and wisdom on our culture. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time.”

Cherokee was Buckhorn’s first language, and his family said he never met a stranger, had “good humor” and laughed a lot. His family said he once sold a guitar to country singer Willie Nelson who came to his house in Stilwell to pick up the guitar.

His daughter Regina Foreman said he loved talking to his church family on the phone, “singing and doing mission work for the Lord,” and “anyone could call anytime of the night and he would pray with them.”

“He loved the Lord,” she said. “Amazing is the best word to describe him.”

His parents; his wife; brothers, Joshua Luke Buckhorn and Aurther Lee Buckhorn; sisters, Hannah Loretta Buckhorn, Nadine Buckhorn and Georgia Buckhorn preceded him in death. His daughter Regina of Twin Oaks, sisters Carlene Wiley and her husband Johnny of Watts and Shirley Jean Sims and her husband Everette of Westville survive him.

Visitation is set for 2 p.m. on Oct. 4. His services will he held 1 p.m. on Oct. 5 under the direction of Reed-Culver Funeral Home at the Cedar Tree Cemetery in Briggs with Rev. Dale Wilson and Pastor D.J. McCarter officiating.


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