Cherokee National Treasures Dart, Hummingbird pass on knowledge
Cherokee Nation citizen and 2017 Cherokee National Treasure Mike Dart stands with, right to left, Junior Miss Cherokee Danya Pigeon, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller during an award ceremony in Tahlequah. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen and 2017 Cherokee National Treasure Jesse Hummingbird stands with, right to left, Junior Miss Cherokee Danya Pigeon, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller during an award ceremony in Tahlequah. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen and 2017 Cherokee National Treasure Mike Dart’s “Burden Basket.” COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen and 2017 Cherokee National Treasure Jesse Hummingbird’s “Ceremony for the New Fire.” COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Each year before the Cherokee National Holiday, a chosen few Cherokee Nation citizens who have shown exceptional knowledge of Cherokee art and culture receive a Cherokee National Treasure designation. In 2017, Mike Dart and Jesse Hummingbird earned that honor, joining 94 others who have earned the title since 1988.
Dart was named CNT for his traditional and contemporary basketry. A resident of Fairfield in Adair County, he began weaving baskets at age 16, but developed an interest in it earlier in life watching his grandmother construct baskets with native materials she found. In his baskets, Dart uses commercial and traditional reed, including honeysuckle, buck brush and wood splints. He also uses natural dyes such as black walnut, bloodroot and bois d’arc wood. He said even in his contemporary baskets he still implements traditional Cherokee elements.
Being mostly self-taught, Dart spent years perfecting his technique, and in 2005 he entered his first art show. Since then he’s won numerous awards, including Best of Show at the 2016 Artesian Arts Festival in Sulphur with a replica of a Southeastern Burden Basket woven from wood splints and colored with natural dye. The basket also appeared in the book “Oklahoma Cherokee Baskets.” Other awards include Best of Show at the 2017 Native American Heritage Festival in Cushing, third place and judges’ choice at the 2017 Cherokee Art Market in Catoosa and first place at the 2018 the Trail of Tears Art Show in Tahlequah. Along with winning awards, his baskets can are in private collections and museums, including the Briscoe Museum of Western Art in San Antonia, Texas, and the Cherokee National Museum in Tahlequah.
Dart said he’s dedicated to the preservation of Cherokee basketry and teaches the art. He said the most important thing is to make sure it continues to the next generation and generations to come.
“My main goal I have right now is focusing on my students. I want them to be able to, you know, if something happened to me, I want them to be able to continue doing this and pass it on. I want them to be successful more than me, and I think if they’re successful then I am successful.”
As a painter, graphic designer and commercial illustrator, Hummingbird earned a CNT designation for his ability to create Cherokee-themed artwork. Born in Tahlequah, he lives in Bisbee, Arizona. After graduating high school in Nashville, Tennessee, he studied art at Watkins Institute, the University of Tennessee and the American Academy of Art in Chicago.
He’s won awards for his paintings, including Best of Division at the Heard Museum Indian Art Market in Phoenix and at the Albuquerque (New Mexico) 2000 Indian Market, as well as second place at the Southwest Arts Festival in Indio, California. He also won awards for the graphic art he creates, including wins at the Santa Fe Market in New Mexico and the Tesoro Foundation Indian Market in Colorado.
In addition to awards, Hummingbird has had three paintings hang in the American Embassy in Cambodia, as well as 10 pieces of artwork in the collection of the Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. He was also selected to paint a guitar that’s displayed in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
Also, being an illustrator, he’s illustrated two DVDs and two Children’s books titled “Native American Night Before Christmas” and “Twelve Days of Native Christmas.” He said he hopes to teach other Cherokees more about illustrating and publishing children’s books so more traditional stories can be published.
“I want to get a package together to send to the National Treasures group to hopefully teach a course on illustrating children stories. Everybody always has a children’s story. So I want to talk people about self-publishing and continuation, things I have gained knowledge of,” he said.