Cherokee man shares blowgun-making knowledge
United Keetoowah Band Tradition Keeper Danny McCarter instructs Trey, left, and Garrison Philpot, of Coweta, Okla., how to begin hollowing out a piece of river cane before using a hot piece of rebar to finish hollowing it out for a blowgun. The instruction took place May 28 during a blowgun-making class at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Blowgun instructor Danny McCarter pushes a hot piece of rebar through a piece of river cane to hollow it out for a blowgun during a May 28 blowgun-making class at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Steam escapes as Michael Smith, of Tulsa, Okla., pushes hot rebar into a piece of freshly cut river cane to hollow it out for a blowgun during a blowgun-making class May 28 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee artist Danny McCarter finishes making a dart out of a wooden skewer, quilting thread and Scottish thistle for a blowgun made of river cane during a blowgun-making class May 28 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PARK HILL, Okla. – As a young man working in the Ancient Village at the Cherokee Heritage Center, Danny McCarter learned how to make Cherokee blowguns and the darts that are launched from them.
He shared his story and the Cherokee people’s relationship with river cane during a blowgun-making class May 28 at the CHC.
McCarter said his Cherokee ancestors also used river cane to cover their dwellings, for flutes, baskets and many other things.
“It’ll grow 10 to 12 foot long,” he said about local river cane. “The normal size for a blowgun in this area is 7 or 8 foot. An average gun is usually 6 foot.”
He said blowguns are no longer used for hunting and are mostly used for competitions.
McCarter is a champion blowgun shooter who has previously won blowgun competitions at the Cherokee National Holiday and the United Keetoowah Band Holiday.
The most important thing he said he wants to teach his students, if they are Cherokee, is their culture. Student Hokey Mitchell, of Chelsea, is a Cherokee artist who creates beadwork pieces and pucker-toe moccasins. He said he appreciated learning more about how the Cherokee people used river cane and will pass on what he learned, just as he takes time to show others how to make beaded items and moccasins.
Mitchell said he wanted to learn how to make blowguns so that he could show his children, grandchildren and others how to make them.
“We need to keep the tradition going. I feel like if we don’t take hold of it and keep going with it we could lose this eventually. I sure don’t want that to happen,” he said.
Mitchell, a member of the Rogers County Cherokee Association, said he plans to share what he’s learned about blowgun making at a future RCCA youth camp and to use the blowgun and darts he made with McCarter for RCCA blowgun competitions.
McCarter used hot iron rebar rods to hollow out the river cane stalks he gathered near the Illinois River the morning of the class. He said he prefers to work with green cane as opposed to brown cane that has been dried.
He heats about 12 inches of the 4-foot rods by placing the ends in a fire. After hollowing out the cane about an inch with a knife, he pulls a piece of rebar out of the fire and begins pushing it through the hollowed out area. He wears a leather glove to hold the cane as he pushes the hot rod in to protect his hand from the intense heat. Steam blows out from the cane as he hits pockets of water in the cane’s membrane. The rod burns through the membrane, and he pushes it through a few more times to smooth the inside of the cane.
McCarter said he has heard of two ways Cherokee men hollowed out their blowguns in ancient times. One way was to use a sharpened rock or arrowhead attached to a rod to hollow out the cane or they split the cane in half, cleaned and smoothed the inside and then put the cane back together.
For the darts, he gathers Scottish thistle, dries it out and then ties the thistle bulbs to a stick to prevent them from falling apart. Using a small, wooden skewer or a dart made from the Bois d’arc tree, he ties the thistle bulb to the dart using quilting thread and then allows the thistle to expand by rolling the dart between his hands. The thistle allows the dart to travel farther and more accurately toward its target.
He said he’s made thousands of darts and that he takes it for granted sometimes and forgets just how difficult it can be for a beginner.
“It’s like anything else, it takes a lot of practice,” he said.
McCarter was named a UKB Tradition Keeper in 2006 for keeping blowgun making alive. He has been making blowguns for more than 20 years.
The blowgun class is one of several hosted by the Cherokee Heritage Center during the spring, summer and fall months in an effort to preserve and promote Cherokee history and culture. To learn more about upcoming traditional art classes visit www.CherokeeHeritage.email@example.com • 918-207-3961
ᎠᏭᏂᏴᏍᏗ, ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎹ. — ᎠᏫᎾ ᏥᎨᏒᏴ ᏥᏚᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎲ ᎾᎿ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎦᏚᎲᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᎠᏰᎵ, Danny McCarter ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎡᎢ ᏧᏬᏢᏅᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏲᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏳᏍᏗ ᎨᎬᏓᏁᎳᏁᎴᎢ. ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏂᏚᏮᏁᎴᎢ ᎧᏃᎮᏓ ᎠᎴᏍᏊ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏴᏫ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎤᏅᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎢᎯᏯ ᎾᎯᏳ ᏥᏓᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏗᎪᏢᏅᏗᎢ ᎠᏂᏍᎬᏘ 28 ᎾᎿ CHC.
McCarter ᏂᎦᏪᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎦᏴᎵᎨ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎨᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ ᏓᏂᏟᏦᏛᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏧᎾᏁᎳᏗᏍᏗᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᏤᎷᎩᏍᏗ ᏓᏃᏢᏗᏍᎬᎢ, ᏔᎷᏣ ᎠᎴ ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᏄᏓᎴ ᏱᏛᎬᏘ. “ᏱᎦᏘᏃ ᎬᏩᏛᎯᏍᏗ 10 ᎠᎴ 12 ᏱᎳᏏᏗ ᏱᏗᎦᏅᎯᏓ,” ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᏃ ᎡᏍᎦᏂᏊ ᎡᎯ ᎢᎯᏯ. “ᏱᎩᏓ ᎬᎦᏙᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎭᏂ ᎡᏍᎦᏂ 7 ᎠᎴ 8 ᏱᎳᏏᏗ. ᎠᎴᏍᏊ 6 ᏱᎳᏏᏗ ᏱᎦᎾᎯᏓ ᏂᏅᎬᎦ ᏴᎪᏢᎾ.”
ᎤᏃᎮᏞᏃ ᎥᏝᏃ ᏱᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎪᎯᏴ ᏥᎩ ᎠᏂᏃᎭᎵᏙᎲᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎾᎵᎪᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᏭᎪᏛᎢ ᏓᏅᏗᏍᎪᎢ.
McCarter ᏂᎪᎸᎢ ᎠᏓᏠᏍᎪᎢ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏗᏍᏓᏲᏢᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏞᎬᏭ ᏥᏒᎢ ᎤᏓᏠᏎᎢ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏗᏲᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏂᎩᏚᏩᎩ ᎤᎾᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬᎢ.
ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴᎢ ᎨᏒ ᎤᏃᎮᏞᎢ ᏳᏚᎳ ᏧᏪᏲᏗᎢ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ, ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎾ ᏱᎩ, ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᏂᏧᎾᏛᏁᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ. ᏗᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩᏃ Hokey Mitchell, ᎾᎿ Chelsea ᎡᎯ. ᎠᏣᎳᎩᏃ ᎪᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎠᏕᎳ ᏗᏯᏟᏗ ᎬᏗ ᎪᏢᏅᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏣᏬᏗ ᏗᎳᏑᎶᎢ.
ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᏳᏚᎳ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ ᎢᎬᏁᎸ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ ᎠᎴ ᏱᏓᏕᏲᎲᎦ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ, ᎤᏠᏱᏊ ᏥᏕᎨᏲᎲᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᏱᏗᎬᏁᏗ ᎠᏕᎳ ᏗᏯᏟᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏣᏬᏗ ᏗᎳᏑᎶᎢ. Mitchell ᏄᏪᏎᎢ ᏳᏚᎳ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᏬᏢᏅᏗ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎠᎴᏍᏊ ᏧᏪᏲᏗ ᏚᏓᏘᎿᎥᎢ, ᏧᎵᏏ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᏧᏃᏢᏅᏗᎢ.
“ ᎢᎩᏲᎱᏎᏗ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ ᏂᏛᎦᏛᏁᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ. ᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᏬᎯᏳᏒᎢ ᏍᏓᏯ ᏂᏗᎩᏂᏴᎲᎾ ᏱᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏂᏗᎯᎵᏒᎾ ᏱᎩ ᏱᏩᏟᎢᎶᎦ ᏱᎩᏲᎱᏏ. ᎥᏝ ᏯᏆᏚᎵ ᎥᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎨᎢ.
Mitchell, ᎨᎳ ᎾᎿ ᎳᏥᎢ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡ, ᎤᏁᏨᏃ ᏚᏭᎪᏛ ᎬᏂᎨᏒ ᏳᏩᏁᏗ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏧᏬᏢᏅᏗᎢ ᎠᏟᎢᎵᏒᎢ ᎾᎿ RCCA ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏅᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎬᏙᏗ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏲᏍᏗ ᏥᏚᏃᏢᏁ McCarter ᎾᎿ RCCA ᏧᏅᏙᏗ ᏓᎾᎵᎪᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᎬᏗ.
McCarter ᏧᏗᏞᎩ ᏗᏔᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᏕᎬᏗᏍᎬᎢ ᏧᏒᏙᏂ ᏂᏕᎬᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ ᎠᏥᏍᎬᎿᎨᏍᏛᎢ ᎡᏉᏂ ᎤᏪᏴᎢ ᏧᏮᎴᏓ ᎾᎯᏳ Ꮟ ᎾᎾᎴᏂᏍᎬᎾ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎬᎢ. ᏏᏅ ᏱᏂᏥᏰᎸᎾ ᏗᏤ ᏗᏆᏙᏗᎢ ᏏᏅ Ꮎ ᏗᏬᏗᎨ ᏥᎩ ᏧᎧᏲᏓ.
ᎾᏃ ᏗᏔᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᏧᏗᏞᎩ ᏂᏕᎬᏁᎰ ᏢᏛᏎ 12 ᎢᏯᏏᏔᏗᏍᏗ 4 ᏱᎳᏏᏗ ᏱᏗᎦᏅᎯᏓ ᏗᏔᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᏕᎬᏛᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᏥᎸᎢ. ᏳᏍᏆᏗᏃ ᎤᏒᏙᏂ ᏂᎬᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ ᏢᏃ ᎢᏯᏏᏔᏗᏍᏗ ᎠᏰᎳᏍᏗ ᎬᏗ, ᏔᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᎠᏱᎰ ᏫᏗᎬᏛ ᎠᎴ ᏫᎦᏒᏙᏍᎪᎢ ᎤᏒᏙᏅᎢ. ᎦᏃᏥᎭ ᎠᎵᏰᏑᎶ ᎤᎵᏰᏑᎶᎢ ᎤᏂᏙᏗ ᎢᎯᏯ ᎾᏊ ᏱᏧᏩᏌᏙᏯ ᎤᏗᏞᎩ ᏔᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᎢᎦᏃ ᎤᏗᏞᎩ ᎨᏐᎢ. ᎤᏗᏞᎩ ᎠᏔᏃᎴᎪᎢ ᏅᏊ ᏳᏮᏂᎳ ᎠᎹ ᏓᏟᏍᏛᎢ ᎾᎿ ᏚᏍᏛᏪᏙᎬᎢ ᎢᎯᏱᎢ. ᎤᏗᏞᎩᏃ ᏔᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᎠᎪᎲᏍᏗᎰ ᎤᏍᏛᏪᏙᎬᎢ, ᎠᎴᏍᏊ ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏩᎬᏘ ᎤᏗᏞᎩ ᏔᎷᎩᏍᎩ ᏗᎦᏌᏙᏍᎪᎢ ᏓᏫᏍᎦᎨ ᏂᎬᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ.
McCarter ᏳᏪᏓ ᎤᏛᎦᏅᏃ ᎨᏒ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎾᏅᏛᏁᎲᎢ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏍᎦᏯ ᏧᏒᏙᏂ ᏂᏓᏅᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ ᎪᎯᎩᏴ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ. ᏌᏊᏃ ᏱᎬᏛᏁᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏍᏓᏯ ᏯᎧᏁᏟ ᏅᏯ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏫᏍᎦᎳ ᎤᏒᏙᎾ ᎾᏅᏁᎲᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏂᏍᎷᏍᎬᎢ ᏔᎵ ᎾᏂᏗᏍᎬᎢ, ᎠᏂᏅᎦᎵᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏫᏍᎦᎨ ᎾᏅᏁᎲᎢ ᎭᏫᎾᏗᏢᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏃᏢᎯᏏᏍᎪᎢ ᎢᎯᏯ. ᏗᏲᏍᏗᏃ,
ᏥᏥ ᎦᏟᏏᏍᎪ, ᎠᎧᏲᏗᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏓᎧᏁᏍᎪᎢ ᏥᏥ ᎾᎿ ᏗᏍᎷᏴᎢ ᎦᏅᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏗᎦᎴᏲᏍᏗᎢ ᏂᎨᏒᎾ. ᏧᏍᏗᎢᏃ, ᏗᏲᏢᏅ ᎠᏓ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏲᏍᏗ ᎠᏓ ᏓᎶᏂᎨ ᏗᎪᏢᏔᏅᎢ,ᏓᎧᏁᏍᎪᎢ Ꮎ ᏥᏥ ᎾᎿ ᎠᏙᎯ ᎠᏲᏞᏅᎯ ᎢᏳᏍᏗᏃ ᎬᏗ ᏓᎧᏁᏍᏗᎲᎢ ᎠᏂᏰᏫᏒᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏲᏍᏗ ᎦᏐᏩᎴᏍᎪᎢ ᎤᏬᏰᏂ ᎬᏗ. ᏥᏥᏃ ᎠᎵᏍᎪᏟᏗᏍᎪ ᏗᏲᏍᏗ ᎢᎾ ᏭᎷᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏓᏐᏍᏗ ᎠᏉᏅᏗᎢ. ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᏃ ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏯᎦᏴᎵ ᏧᏬᏢᏅᎢ ᏗᏲᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏅᏂᏒᏟᏊ ᎨᎰ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏮᎨᏫᏍᎪ ᎾᏍᏓᏴ ᎤᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎩᎳ ᎠᎴᏂᏍᎩ.
“ᏄᏓᎴᏒᏊ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩᏯ, ᎡᎵ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎠᏁᏟᏙᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. McCarter ᎤᏂᏁᎴᎢ UKB ᏂᏧᎾᏛᏁᎸᏍᏔᏅ ᎠᏍᏆᎪᏂᎪᏗᏍᎩ ᎾᎯᏳ 2006 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎬᎯᎵᏐᏭ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏗᎪᏢᏅᏗ. 20 ᎢᏧᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏂᏗᎪᏢᏍᎪᎢ ᏚᏇᏍᏗ.
ᏚᏇᏍᏗ ᏗᎪᏢᏗᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏓᎴᏅ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᎸᎡᎮᎢ ᎩᎳ ᎪᎨᎯ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ,
ᎪᎨᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎤᎵᎪᎲᏍᏗ ᏕᎧᎸᎢ ᎠᎾᏟᏂᎬᏁᎲ ᎤᏂᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏂᏌᎳᏙᏗᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏂᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏂᏧᎾᏛᏁᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ. ᏲᏚᎵᏃ ᎤᎪᏗ ᎠᏕᎳᎰᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎢᏴ ᏙᏛᏁᏲᏂᏒᎢ ᏂᏧᎾᏛᏁᎸᏍᏔᏅ ᎪᏢᏅᏗᎢ ᎠᎭᏂᏅ ᏴᏕᎳᎰᎯ WWW.CherokeeHeritage.org.