‘Cherokee National Treasures’ book earns global recognition

05/04/2018 12:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee National Treasure Lena Blackbird signs a copy of “Cherokee National Treasures: In Their Own Words.” The book won a silver medal at the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – According to a Cherokee Nation press release, the “Cherokee National Treasures: In Their Own Words” has won the silver medal in the Coffee Table Books category in the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

The IPPY Awards recognize excellence in a broad range of subjects and reward authors and publishers who “take chances and break new ground,” award show directors said.

“This book offers readers an authentic look into Cherokee culture and heritage,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “All of these treasures are individual sources of knowledge. Their creative expertise helps define our people today and ensures our tribal culture remains strong for the future.”

According to the release, Shawna Morton Cain and Pamela Jumper Thurman served as the book’s editors and were joined by Betty Christie Frogg and Gayle Parnell Samuels, all of whom took years to compile and chronicle the life stories, artwork and photographs of nearly 100 revered Cherokee culture keepers into one timeless account. The book is the only tribal project to win the award this year, the release states.

“The time and effort spent on the book – interviewing, gathering and writing the stories and snapping photos – was an honor and a privilege. It turned out just lovely, a historical archive that will live on for years,” Jumper Thurman said.

The IPPYs are known for representing a diverse cross section of independent authors and publishers. More than 60 percent of this year’s winners are female, including the book’s all-female editing group.

“I am proud of this expansive collaboration between Cherokee artists, their families, those who shared their stories and those who assisted in collecting these oral and pictorial histories,” Morton Cain, Cherokee National Treasure, said. “This unique publication is one told, written and produced by Cherokees working together to present Cherokee art and traditions in their own voices, sharing with the world their personal stories, experiences and perspectives as Cherokee artists.”

The release states the IPPY Awards reward authors and publishers who “take chances and break new ground.”

“I was honored to work with Shawna, Pam and Betty on this amazing project,” Parnell Samuels said. “I sincerely hope that it will serve not only to open a piece of our Cherokee world to non-Cherokees, but will, as it has done for me, bring other Cherokees closer to our culture, art and traditional values.”

The release states this year’s contest drew 4,500 entries, and medals will go to authors and publishers from 43 U.S. states, six Canadian provinces and at least a dozen countries. The book’s editors said this is a special way to share the work and knowledge of Cherokee National Treasures, both living and deceased, to a worldwide audience.

“For me, the biggest reason for getting the National Treasures book completed and out there is for the Cherokee people,” said Christie Frogg, also a Cherokee National Treasure herself. “In my mind, we wanted to honor the people for who they are and what they do as Cherokees who teach and work to keep our traditions alive. I believe we accomplished this by using their own words and pictures to tell their stories.”

The honor of Cherokee National Treasure is bestowed upon CN citizens who have shown exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art and culture. Those selected actively work to preserve and revive traditional cultural practices that are in danger of being lost from generation to generation. The CN and Cherokee National Historical Society established it in 1988.

The “Cherokee National Treasures: In Their Own Words” book and other award winners will be celebrated on May 29 during the annual BookExpo publishing convention in New York. Gold, silver and bronze IPPY medallions will be awarded in 83 national, 24 regional and 11 e-book categories.


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