U.S. Marshals Museum highlights Cherokee history

Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/21/2018 04:00 PM
FORT SMITH, Ark. – The U.S. Marshals Museum is presenting a three-part lecture series called Jurisdiction and Judgment that highlights Fort Smith history and its connection to the Cherokee Nation.

The first lecture in the annual series was held March 6 at The Blue Lion and looked at the connection between the CN Marshal Service, formerly Lighthorsemen, and U.S. marshals. Shannon Buhl, CNMS director, led the lecture speaking of the tribe’s role in historical law and order.

Buhl said in the late 1800s Fort Smith and Indian Territory were the “deadliest” spots in the history of the U.S. marshals. He said U.S. marshals’ deaths helped bring together the partnership with the Lighthorsemen.

“More U.S. marshals were killed here and in Indian Territory than any other time in history,” he said. “Judge (Isaac) Parker partnered with the Cherokee Nation. They partnered a Lighthorsemen with a U.S. marshal in Indian Territory. We have approximately 13 marshals on the federal memorial wall, 12 of which was killed during that timeframe.”

After Oklahoma statehood in 1906, Buhl said the Lighthorsemen were disbanded and did not resurface until late in the 20th century. They were renamed the CNMS.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl speaks at The Blue Lion in Fort Smith, Arkansas, during his presentation on the CNMS history for the Jurisdiction and Judgment lecture series at the U.S. Marshals Museum. The three-part series highlights Fort Smith history while having an emphasis on the CN. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A map of Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, sits on display during Cherokee Nation Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl’s presentation for the Jurisdiction and Judgment lecture series put on by the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation Marshal Service Director Shannon Buhl speaks at The Blue Lion in Fort Smith, Arkansas, during his presentation on the CNMS history for the Jurisdiction and Judgment lecture series at the U.S. Marshals Museum. The three-part series highlights Fort Smith history while having an emphasis on the CN. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Families enjoy free interactive activities during spring break

03/14/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Families looking for a fun, educational adventure for their children during spring break can visit Cherokee Nation museums on March 22. Guests will enjoy free admission to each museum and have the opportunity to participate in interactive activities such as make-and-take cultural art projects.

Activities are provided from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and children are encouraged to visit each museum. Activities and locations are:

• Silhouette pictures at Cherokee National Prison Museum at 124 E. Choctaw St.,

• Miniature gourd painting at Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum at 122 E. Keetoowah St.,

• Turtle rattles at the John Ross Museum at 22366 S. 530 Road in Park Hill, and

Symposium to explore human displacement, migration

03/09/2018 10:00 AM
TULSA – The University of Tulsa and Gilcrease Museum are sponsoring a symposium titled “Dislocations and Migrations” on March 30-31 at the Helmerich Center for America Research.

Exploring the multifaceted experiences of human displacement and migration, the symposium brings together university and community scholars, activists, archivists, curators and librarians to consider many questions from various perspectives.

“Displacements and migrations uniquely characterize all human experience. But, migrations are not all alike, nor are their causes and consequences easily described. After all, migration can be voluntary or involuntary; displacement speaks to power differentially deployed and experienced; and movements challenge domestic and international relationships,” states information released by Gilcrease Museum. “Even the way we remember migrations replicates political, cultural and social structures. Because migration and displacement are lived experiences and not simply conditions to be described, they involve trauma, reshaping identities and re-creation of communities, and thus refocus our notions of belonging, citizenship, community, family and health.”

Some panel titles are:

• “Removal and Resilience: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art Confronts Histories of Forced Migrations,”

Cherokee Heritage Center hosting annual Indian Territory Days

03/09/2018 08:00 AM
PARK HILL – Area students have the opportunity to spend an interactive day learning about the Cherokee arts, language and lifestyles of the 1890s on March 28-29 at the Cherokee Heritage Center during Indian Territory Days.

The annual educational event features hands-on learning activities for public, private and home-schooled children grades kindergarten to 12. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m., and the event concludes at 2 p.m. each day.

The museum and villages are open for self-directed tours, with demonstrations highlighting the many unique aspects of the time period held throughout the day.

Cultural stations are located throughout the grounds to introduce students to the art of Cherokee pottery making, basket weaving, finger weaving and more. Students are also encouraged to try their hand at cultural games such as blowgun shooting, stickball, marbles and chunkey.

Admission is $5 per student and accompanying adults are $2. School personnel accompanying students are free. Payment can be made to the Cherokee Heritage Center with cash, check, purchase order or credit card. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged.
Students get firsthand experience with cultural arts such as finger weaving at the Cherokee Heritage Center during Indian Territory Days. COURTESY
Students get firsthand experience with cultural arts such as finger weaving at the Cherokee Heritage Center during Indian Territory Days. COURTESY

Cherokee Speakers Bureau to meet March 8

03/02/2018 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Speakers Bureau will be held Thursday, March 8 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. We will meet in the Community Ballroom that is located behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee. All Cherokee speakers are invited to attend. If you want to bring a side dish or a dessert, feel free to bring it. Come speak Cherokee and enjoy food and fellowship.

For further information about the event, please contact the Language Program at 918-453-5151; John Ross at 918-453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. at 918-453-5487.

Tsalagi aniwonisgi unadatlugv dodvnatlosi Nvgineiga, Anvyi 8 ganvsulvi 12:30 p.m. adalenisgi 4 p.m. igohida. Na Anitsalagi tsunalisdayetiyi tsigotlv unaditli wayvsdi onadilvyvi utani kanvsula dodvnatlosi. Naniv Anitsalagi aniwonisgi otsitayohiha uniluhisdii. Alisdayvdi ayohisdi yodulia. Dodayotsadatlisani ale dodayotsalisdayvna hilutsvi.

Ugodesdi tsadulihesdi tsadelayohisdi hiina wigehiyadvdi Tsalagi Gawonihisdi Unadotlvsv 918-453-5151; John Ross 918-453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. 918-453-5487.


ᎤᎪᏕᏍᏗ ᏣᏚᎵᎮᏍᏗ ᏣᏕᎳᏲᎯᏍᏗ ᎯᎢᎾ ᏫᎨᎯᏯᏛᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏒ 918-453-5151; John Ross 918-453-6170; or Roy Boney Jr. 918-453-5487.


CHC acquires Stephen Foreman belongings

02/26/2018 04:00 PM
PARK HILL – A donation that reflects a part of Cherokee history was recently made to the Cherokee Heritage Center. Billy Wear and his wife Susan, of Springfield, Missouri, donated a chest of drawers that belonged to Rev. Stephen Foreman, a prominent 19th-century Cherokee.

Wear is Foreman’s great grandson, and it was Wear’s grandmother’s wish to one day donate the chest to the CHC to retain Cherokee history. The chest came over during the forced removal of the Cherokee people in 1838-39 from southeastern United States to Indian Territory.

Callie Chunestudy, CHC curator, said the chest most likely came over on a barge or boat.

“Wealthier people didn’t have to do the walking in the Trail of Tears. If you were wealthy you could put all your stuff on a barge and send it and then you traveled by wagon or something else. So it wasn’t quite the hardship,” Chunestudy said.

The chest belonging to Foreman is handmade although the type of wood it’s made of is unknown.
Cherokee Heritage Center Curator Callie Chunestudy places drawers into the appropriate slots of a chest that once belonged to Rev. Stephen Foreman, a prominent 19th-century Cherokee. Billy Wear, of Springfield, Missouri recently donated the chest to the CHC. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Items once belonging to Rev. Stephen Foreman, a prominent 19th-century Cherokee, that were recently donated to the Cherokee Heritage Center include the New Webster Dictionary and Complete Vest-Pocket Library, “The Life of Rev. David Brainerd” book, an 1844 Cherokee Almanac, parts of Old and New Testaments in Cherokee and a Cherokee hymn book. Foreman’s descendant, Billy Wear, and his wife Susan, recently donated the items to help preserve Cherokee history. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Rev. Stephen Foreman
Cherokee Heritage Center Curator Callie Chunestudy places drawers into the appropriate slots of a chest that once belonged to Rev. Stephen Foreman, a prominent 19th-century Cherokee. Billy Wear, of Springfield, Missouri recently donated the chest to the CHC. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Bentonville’s Native museum is ‘hidden treasure’

Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
02/26/2018 12:00 PM
BENTONVILLE, Ark. – A “hidden treasure” of Native American history and art in a Bentonville neighborhood is becoming better known as the museum forms partnerships and reaches more Native tribes.

The Museum of Native American History has been around for 12 years and holds up to 18,000 years of Native people’s history. The exhibits are in chronological order, starting with the early Paleo-Indian Period and moving through the Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian Periods and ending with the Historic Period, or post-European contact.

“It is my honor to wear many hats at the Museum of Native American History. We are known as a hidden treasure, and I work with an incredible, smart, small staff to not be a hidden treasure anymore,” MONAH Director Charlotte Buchanan-Yale said.

She said the museum partners with the nearby Crystal Bridges Museum and other museums, as well as with tribes, including the Cherokee Nation. The MONAH will host its annual Native American Cultural Symposium June 16-17.

“We try to build on those small successes. We had Gayle Ross (Cherokee storyteller) come as part of the symposium last year. She had little girls mesmerized,” Buchanan-Yale said.
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Museum of Native American History Director Charlotte Buchanan-Yale discusses a Cherokee exhibit featuring a wooden booger mask, moccasins and a pair of blowguns at the Bentonville, Arkansas, museum. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Artwork from and about the Native people from the Mississippian Period is shown in the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Arkansas. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Museum of Native American History board Chairman David Bogle, a Cherokee Nation citizen, explains the history behind an Osage woman’s wedding outfit on display in the museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Arrowheads and other points from various locations and time periods are on display in the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Arkansas. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX An effigy teapot from the period A.D. 1500 to A.D. 1700 is on display in the Museum of Native American History in Bentonville, Arkansas. The “Crouching Fawn” was found at the Lipsky Site in Lee County, Arkansas. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Museum of Native American History Director Charlotte Buchanan-Yale discusses a Cherokee exhibit featuring a wooden booger mask, moccasins and a pair of blowguns at the Bentonville, Arkansas, museum. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Mitchell’s metalwork finally hits its stride

Reporter – @cp_bbennett
02/23/2018 08:00 AM
YUKON – Though it’s taken several years for Cherokee metal artist Tommy Roe Mitchell to find his stride, his distinctive style is now giving him the opportunity to pursue his passion while stepping out from his father’s shadow.

He grew up close to the art business, as his father Ron is a well-known Cherokee artist who began his career in the 1970s. While both have experience in metal art, Tommy said he’s now setting his work apart with painting and grinding techniques.

“Dad was doing metal artwork, but he wasn’t doing it to the extent that I am now, not with the color,” Tommy said. “He would actually cut the piece out, grind the edges and heat-treat it, but he wasn’t putting the grinding marks in it like I have. Dad never even thought about using the grinder the way I was doing, so already this was out of his league.”

Tommy said he usually draws inspiration from things he sees on television and YouTube. Once he completes a design on sketchpad, he transfers it onto poster board and then onto 14- to 18-gauge sheet metal with a magic marker.

The design is then cut with a plasma cutter before he uses a grinder to smooth jagged edges and polish out imperfections. Once satisfied, he grinds grooves into the metal to give the illusion of feathers and depth.
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell uses a grinder to create feather effects into his metal artwork on Jan. 30 in his studio in Yukon. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell says he grinds his metalwork to create 3-D shapes, including feathers on birds of prey. He then either paints the piece or heat-treats it to bring out colors in the metal. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell’s metalwork piece “Dance of the Phoenix.” Mitchell first sketched the design on paper before transferring it to metal to be cut out and smoothed down with a grinder. Once polished, it was painted and sealed with an automotive clear coat. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell also creates “Phoenix Spirit Feathers,” which are his interpretation of what feathers on the mythical bird would look like. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Each piece that Tommy Roe Mitchell creates is also signed and comes with information about its origin on the back so that buyers can understand its significance. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Tommy Roe Mitchell uses a grinder to create feather effects into his metal artwork on Jan. 30 in his studio in Yukon. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Rocky Mountain hosting Cherokee language classes

02/22/2018 12:00 PM
ROCKY MOUNTAIN – The Rocky Mountain Cherokee Community Organization will host Cherokee language classes beginning March 17 at its community building near Stilwell.

The classes will last eight weeks and will have alternating sessions or hours. The first Saturday class will last from 10 a.m. to noon, and the following Saturday the class will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This will continue until the eights weeks are completed.

Lawrence Panther, a Cherokee Nation Cherokee Language Program translator, will instruct the classes. He said his objectives are for his students to learn how to read and write the Cherokee syllabary and how to speak Cherokee.

“These classes will primarily focus on the syllabary chart, thus helping the students enhance their reading, writing and speaking skills. There will be activity materials to progress their learning skills. Classroom setting will require speaking Cherokee, worksheets will be provided, and I will lecture as well,” he said. “At the end of the eight sessions, they will have a better understanding of the syllabary chart. Lecture and understanding the syllabary chart will further their reading, writing and speaking skills.”

The community building is located about 5 miles west of Stilwell. From Stilwell, travel on Hwy 100 west for 3 miles and then turn onto Rocky Mountain School Road and continue about 2 miles. The RMCCO Community Building is located across the road from the school’s softball field.


CHC offers cultural classes promoting traditional Cherokee art
02/21/2018 12:00 PM
PARK HILL – The Cherokee Heritage Center is hosting a series of cultural classes designed to preserve, promote and teach traditional Cherokee art.

The Saturday workshops are held once a month and provide hands-on learning opportunities of traditional art forms.

Registration is open for the March 10 class on round reed basketry and the April 7 class on Cherokee moccasins. Both classes are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $40 each.

Early registration is recommended as class size is limited. For more information or to RSVP, call Tonia Weavel at 918-456-6007, ext. 6161, or email tonia-weavel@cherokee.org.

The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.


2 Cherokees chosen for 2018 NAJF class
03/21/2018 08:00 AM
NORMAN — Cherokee Nation citizens Lydia Fielder and Kaitlin Boysel were two of 14 students to be selected by the Native American Journalists Association as members of the Native American Journalist Fellowship class of 2018.

The students come from tribal communities and colleges across the nation and will travel July 18-22 to the 2018 National Native Media Conference in Miami, Florida. NAJA Fellows will work in a joint newsroom with selected National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ students and mentors.

Fielder is a broadcast journalism and political science dual major at the University of Arkansas.

She is in the semester of defense of her undergraduate thesis project, a documentary investigating the dangers of international reporting for female journalists’ mental health.

She said her passion for international journalism was inspired by her broadened worldview after study abroad and service excursions to Greece, Israel and South Africa.

She the trip to South Africa not only motivated her to tackle an additional degree in political science, but it also inspired her to start a broadcasting internship at her alma mater.
Fielder also anchors weekly on UATV, her university’s live newscast.

Boysel, a NAJF second-year scholar, studies at the University of Central Oklahoma.

“My time with NAJA has been a wonderful one. I have learned so much about media, but even more importantly about myself. Being a girl who doesn’t ‘typically look Native American,’ I never accepted stereotypes,” she said. “For example, I went to a high school called Union Redskins. I had no idea what ‘redskin’ even meant until I went on my fellowship and NAJA addressed mascots with the NFL Network. It was truly inspiring and a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone who wants to go into media. I think the biggest obstacle we face as Native journalists is reinforcing that there are many Indigenous communities to be covered.”

Leading the students will be Cherokees Victoria LaPoe, the NAJF co-directors; Val Hoeppner, who will provide digital skills training during the onsite newsroom experience; and Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, a freelance journalist.


Smith, Golden honored with CN Patriotism medals
03/20/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation honored U.S. Army and Navy veterans with the tribe’s Medal of Patriotism during the March 12 Tribal Council meeting.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledged Fields Smith, 84, of Vian, and Kenneth Golden, 68, of Stilwell, for their service to the country.

Sgt. Smith was born in 1933 and drafted into the Army in 1955. He completed basic training at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas and trained to become an infantryman. Later, he completed Fire Directing Control School and was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana where he spent the remainder of his two-year service term. During his service, Smith completed non-commission school and received a sharpshooter medal for his rifle skills. Smith received an honorable discharge in 1957.

“I want to thank the Chief, the Deputy Chief and the Tribal Council for all of the good work that they do for our people,” Smith said.

Sgt. Golden was born in 1949 and enlisted in the Navy in 1968. Golden completed basic training in Chicago. After basic training, he was transferred to the Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as an aviation boatman mate. During his service, Golden was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and received an honorable discharge in 1972.

Each month the CN recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds all veterans.

To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-772-4166.


OKCIC educates about risks of HIV/AIDS, encourages testing
03/23/2018 03:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, a nonprofit clinic providing health and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, on March 20 recognized the impact HIV/AIDS has on Native Americans through the observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Although American Indians and Alaska Natives’ HIV infection is proportional to the rest of the United States population size, certain measures within the overall statistics of new HIV infections and diagnoses are disproportionate compared to other races or ethnicities. Of the 39,513 people with a HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2015, more than 200 were American Indians and Alaska Natives. Of those, 73 percent were men and 26 percent were women.

“The topic of HIV/AIDS remains a serious health threat to the Native American community,” OKCIC CEO Robyn Sunday-Allen said. “It is crucial that prevention programs be tailored to the specific needs of this population.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives are statistically more likely to face challenges associated with risk for HIV infection, which includes high rates of sexually transmitted disease; substance abuse leading to engaging in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex; and issues related to poverty, such as lower education levels and limited access to health care.

The OKCIC encourages the Native community to get educated, get tested and get involved in HIV prevention, care and treatment. It recommends that all adults and young adults get tested for HIV at least once as a routine part of medical care. Those who are at a higher risk should get tested every year.

There are ways to prevent HIV infection, including abstinence (not having sex), limiting the number of sexual partners, never injecting drugs and sharing needles and always use condoms properly when having sex. People may be able to take medication (Truvada) for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

The only way to know if you have HIV is to be tested. Knowing your HIV status helps you make choices that prevent you from getting HIV or from transmitting HIV.

Visit gettested.cdc.gov, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit www.hiv.gov for more information.

THE OKCIC was established in 1974 to provide health care and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma. The clinic staff cares for more than 18,000 patients from more than 200 federally recognized tribes every year. American Indians receive services such as medical, dental, pediatrics, prenatal, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, nutrition, family programs and behavioral health services. For more information, call 405-948-4900 or visit www.okcic.com.


OPINION: Cherokee ego, tenets through time
Cherokee Nation citizen
03/03/2018 12:00 PM
In the Cherokee language we have called ourselves aniyunwiya, the Real People. According to one author, “…the Cherokees, in common with the Caucasian race, had a high regard for their tribe, and were not too modest to proclaim themselves the ‘principal people’” (Walker 1931:2). Since our beliefs have served us well and our ancestors’ tenacity has done the same, our strong ego is an earned quality.

The Cherokee language is in the Iroquoian language family. Various Iroquoian speaking tribes now live in the eastern Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada. Although there are shared tenets among most American Indians, Native nations experienced different histories, spoke different languages, were comprised of a variety of compelling individuals and lived in particular environments all of which serve to provide particular qualities and practices making each nation profoundly unique.

According to early Cherokee oral history our arrival in our homeland involved travelling over a sea, or through a flood (Meredith and Sobral 1997: 33). The displaced Cherokee population ultimately settled in the forested terrain of what is now the southeastern United States. Surrounded by tribes speaking other languages, we were compelled to display superior strength in order to thrive. Our successes at adapting to change proved useful throughout time.

James Mooney, an early anthropologist, cited a remark provided by a Cherokee man in late 19th century, “…the animals and plants were first made . . . we do not know by whom (Mooney 1898: 240).” The lack of commitment to a single creator is often noted in early Cherokee thinking. The flood story includes statements that Cherokees “commenced to repair the damage done by the gods.” It was also noted they sought to build a structure reaching to the heavens. It seems Cherokees believed they could live equally with their gods and maybe the reference refers to the building of mounds, which could be useful if a future epic flood occurred.

Large earthen mounds were serving as Cherokee ceremonial centers when European colonists arrived in the Americas. Cherokee governance in early colonial times consisted of clan council representatives electing a war chief and a peace chief in each village, and groups of villages linked within geographic districts. As the U.S. government developed after the Revolutionary War, we Cherokee immediately emulated the new U.S. government model by electing a principal chief, legislative representatives and forming our own supreme court.

Our history with Europeans includes Hernan DeSoto in 1540, serving the British during the French and Indian War, fighting colonists in the Revolutionary War, allying with Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812, suffering removal to Indian Territory after President Jackson refused to enforce a U.S. Supreme Court ruling respecting Cherokee sovereignty, the divisive Civil War, which split the Cherokee Nation into two armies, joining a plan to create an Indian-run U.S. state of Sequoyah, but instead being made citizens of Oklahoma. There are currently three federally recognized Cherokee governments (one in North Carolina and two in Oklahoma). Through generations of turmoil, the CN played the cards it was dealt, persevered and today has over 350,000 enrolled citizens, and is one of the major financial engines fueling northeastern Oklahoma.

Lt. Henry Timberlake observed of the Cherokees in the 1760s, “As to religion, every one is at liberty to think for himself; whence flows a diversity of opinions amongst those that do think, but the major part do not give themselves that trouble (King 2007, 34).” During colonization a number of Cherokee women married Scotsmen and Englishmen. In a matrilineal society, children born to Cherokee women were members only of the mother’s clan without regard to whether the father was Cherokee or not, however, matrilineality began to erode along with clans. Cherokee leaders initially resisted missionary incursions, and then relented by accepting missions that would provide schools. It is difficult to sort out the natural threads of culture from the introduced threads at a time when traditional practices were being driven underground.

Anthropologist James Mooney concluded, “There is change indeed in dress and outward seeming, but the heart of the Indian is still his own (Mooney 1898: 12).” As the Cherokee faced the 20th century, he noted, “there are still several thousand full-blood Cherokee… who speak only their native language and in secret bow down to the nature-gods of their fathers (147).”

A polytheistic (belief in many gods) doctrine should not have been disparaged or forbidden, but missionaries generally termed such beliefs as pagan and savage. The work of missionaries was sometimes deemed by early Cherokee traditionalists to be a self-gratifying undertaking whereby foreigners passed judgment and imposed their own will upon a people imperiled by colonialism. Many Cherokee did become willing members of Christian churches (Moravian, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian). Some congregations encouraged hymns in the Cherokee language, and Cherokee-speaking preachers existed (and continue to exist). Some Christian churches accepted that their congregants would also attend traditional stomp grounds, while some pastors forbade such attendance.

New generations often yearn to revive what was lost. Redbird Smith began an effort at the end of the 19th century to re-establish traditional Cherokee stomp grounds. Smith ultimately focused on reclaiming seven ancient wampum belts from the CN archives to establish ceremonies based on what was remembered of those belts’ original messages. He and his sons prepared a stomp ground where he rekindled a sacred fire for the revivalist movement he called Nighthawk Keetoowah. Altogether 22 ceremonial grounds were developed and thrived for a time. Modern life and political strife, however, served to reduce the movement. It continues today among a number of traditional Cherokee adherents, and the ancient wampum belts reside in their care. Smith noted before his death in 1918, “I have endeavored … for my people to remember that any religion must be an unselfish one… This religion does not teach me to concern myself of the life that shall be after this, but it does teach me to be concerned with what my everyday life should be (Hendrix 1983: 76-85).”

The following tenets, noted in our mythology have been, and are, important components of Cherokee core beliefs.

· All living things play a role in a dynamic world. Cherokee stories detail close relationships with animals and plants. So close that one story cites tracking a bear and seeing its footprints become human. Another cites a wife who transforms from deer to woman and back. Another wife and mother saves her starving family by becoming the gift of corn, and another cites strawberries lightening the heart of a woman after an argument with her husband. Science now tells us that we share DNA with all living things.

· All natural parts of the world are sacred. In addition to animals, other natural components are essential. Earth, water, air, minerals, the sun and stars deserve our respect because we are all interdependent in our relationships. One enduring practice of Cherokee traditionalism is “going to water.” At the start of each day, adherents attend a source of water to rinse their faces in a sacrament of connection. Early Cherokee villages were located on a water source and the community’s council house faced the water, as does today’s historical Cherokee Capitol Building in Tahlequah (Tellico/Diligwa), completed in 1869. The form of the building may have changed to one made of brick, but its spiritual and social contract was preserved. Benny Smith, Cherokee professor and spiritualist, after being asked if the surviving ancient Cherokee wampum belts are sacred, simply stated, “everything is sacred” (Smith, Strickland 2010, 24).

· Cherokee women warrant respect equal to Cherokee men. In early days, the division of labor found women to be equal contributors to the economy through their work in agriculture, weaving and basketry, and they were especially honored for gestation and childbirth, which provided future generations. The Cherokee population consisted of matrilineal clans, and all children were raised by their mother’s family. Today, Cherokee women attain professional and political lives equal to Cherokee men.

· Elders are keepers of knowledge and respected for having experienced life’s path. In clan society, extended families cared for elders, and elders spoke their wisdom during council meetings. We are a family of relatives; our genealogies link us to shared ancestors; elders preserve traditional knowledge. Respect for others and listening to people is a courtesy of a united people.

· Family and community are pillars of Cherokee strength. Although Cherokee clan life diminished due to exogamous marriages, there had been seven long-enduring clans. Seven serves as an important number for the Cherokee, and the CN’s seal and flag depict a seven-sided star. There are seven directions: east, west, north, south, above, below, and here. There are admonishments to make decisions based on how our choices affect seven generations forward. Our community and our children are our future, and remembering our clan heritage is not to be forgotten.

· Ceremonies, legends and symbolism are integral to Cherokee identity. Cherokee art includes symbols derived from our guiding mythology. Water spider is an enduring motif (she risked her life to bring fire to the beings, and her success reminds us that the smallest among us can often contribute mightily). Social and ceremonial dances are conducted in a circle (unity and eternity) with a central fire (like a sun warming us). The dance circle is an earthen path, the drumbeat is earth’s heartbeat, and the women’s shell-shakers provide responsive rhythm. Sharing food, labor and resources at gatherings is a practice of bonding and commitment to community. Present-day Cherokee arts, crafts and storytelling reflect Cherokee philosophy amidst challenging dichotomies. We cannot remain in the past, nor can we abandon our past. We must maintain the threads connecting us to all that is vital to being Cherokee.

· Technology, knowledge and opportunities should be used to advance Cherokee concerns. Sequoyah developed letter symbols for syllable sounds of the Cherokee language, and we were able to publish the first American Indian newspaper in our native language at a critical time when information was essential. Early survival arts such as making fire from friction, twisting fiber to make twined bags, knowing when to gather the bounty of wild plants is knowledge that enriches our lives and must be preserved and passed down the ensuing generations. Knowledge of our history is a tool to propel us forward rather than catch us in eddies of repeated errors. Computers and electronic devices can serve Cherokee causes. We must continue to be smarter than those who would harm us.

In summary, our ancient gods were not ones to sit in judgment, therefore we did not pine for forgiveness nor did we ask for more than had been provided. There was no afterlife to risk or to bargain for. The gods had no eye upon the sparrow, so there was little need for continuous conversation between citizens and gods. Ceremonies were the rare time to engage in rhetoric, to impress upon the youth and the wayward the lessons derived from our past. We possess vagaries of personality, and being human we err in judgment from time to time. Serving to sustain us as individuals is primarily an act of our fellows, not our gods. Our fellow citizens keep us in line by rewarding us when deserved, and troubling us when we stray. We live for each other, for our family and our community, and strive to keep our world in balance by respecting its elements. There were joyful ceremonies including the Green Corn festival and the mid-winter renewal where we expressed gratefulness for sustainability. We had a mindfulness of the natural world surrounding us. This is how we were and how we should be. While it is possible to embrace an introduced religion alongside Cherokee beliefs, it is not necessary to do so. If we follow basic Cherokee tenets, we will remain the ever-proud Principal People.


Hendrix, Janey B. “Redbird Smith and the Nighthawk Keetowahs,” Journal of Cherokee Studies, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee NC, 1983.

King, Duane H. The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, NC, 2007.

Meredith, Howard and Virginia Milam Sobral. Cherokee Vision of Elohi, Noksi Press, OKC, Oklahoma, 1997.

Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee, Nashville TN, 1982.

Smith, Chad and Rennard Strickland. Building One Fire, Cherokee Nation, 2010.

Walker, Robert Sparks. Torchlights to the Cherokees, MacMillan Co., 1931.


Lady Indians repeat at state, boys fall early
Multimedia Editor – @cp_mdreadfulwat
03/16/2018 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Sequoyah High School girls basketball team defeated Kingston 53-51 to win the Class 3A girls state championship at the State Fair Arena. It’s the Lady Indians’ second-straight state title and third in the past four years.

After winning state in 2017, they started the 2017-18 campaign ranked No. 1, with pressure to reach state again. Head coach Larry Callison said he expected this year’s team to qualify for state.

“We had the nucleus of our team back,” he said. “We just felt like we had that chance to have a good year. As the year went on, it just seemed like it got better and better.”

For a team of mostly underclassmen, getting better as the season went along was not easy considering the schedule.

“We play a tough schedule. We do that on purpose,” Callison said. “We just think if you’ve got good kids, you need to play good people. I think it definitely helps us for when it gets to playoff time.”

The Lady Indians finish the season 27-3, losing to Class 6A Yukon, Class 4A No. 1 ranked and eventual state champion Fort Gibson and Class 3A rival Adair.

“I think those losses help us,” he said. “I’ve always said you don’t get better by playing teams that aren’t very good. It’s hard to get kids up to play when you know you’re going to beat people pretty bad.”

Sequoyah closed the season with 18 straight wins. The Lady Indians avenged two of the three losses they suffered in the season by defeating Fort Gibson on the road and Adair at home.

They cruised through the district and regional championships by beating Westville 72-35, Verdigris 52-24 and Holland Hall 41-34. SHS beat Beggs in the area final, 57-55.

Many people anticipated an Adair/Sequoyah state final, however Kingston spoiled it by defeating Adair the semifinals.

“Kingston was the real deal though. They were really good and they came in under the radar,” Callison said. “They weren’t expected to be where they were.”

SHS beat Kansas 59-48 and Comanche 50-36 to reach the final.

The Lady Indians expect to return to the state tournament next season as they retain their nucleus of Alexys Keys, 6-footer Jonia Walker and Aubrey Brown. However, Callison said the regular season would be tough as usual.

As for Sequoyah’s boys, the Indians returned to the state tournament for the sixth time in eight years. However, their title bid ended with a 39-36 loss to Hugo in the first round.

“We were the two best defensive teams in the tournament, and when they put us together, there was nothing easy,” head coach Jay Herrin said. “It was really tough game, and I mean very physical. They (the referees) let us play somewhat. It was just one of those games where people weren’t running free and people weren’t getting open shots. You really had to work hard to get a decent shot.”

The Indians tied the game at 36 with eight seconds left. The Buffalos inbounded the ball and G’Quavious Lennox dribbled up the court. With the Indians’ Bobby Cade guarding him, Lennox threw up a long 3-point shot. A foul was called, putting Lennox on the foul line for three shots. He made them all.

“When it first happened, I was like ‘man, they are just blowing it off and they’re not going to do anything and we’ll go into overtime,’” SHS senior Bradyn Smith said. “Then when that guy (referee) came running over pointing in the air signaling three free throws…I just couldn’t believe it.”

The Indians finished 24-5, one win more than the previous season.

“We were able to win all three of our tournaments this year. We won the Shrine Tournament…and then we won the Lincoln Christian tournament,” Herrin said. “Through the course of the year we lost three games in the regular season. We lost to Keys and Lincoln Christian and Fort Gibson, and we were able to beat all three of those teams in rematches.”

SHS cruised through the district and regional tournaments beating Westville 95-39, Verdigris 91-58 and Holland Hall, 61-48.

“In the area tournament, we met up with Star Spencer, and that is the team that put us out in the semifinals of state last year,” Herrin said. “They beat us in the area championship (64-49), so we had to turn around and play on Saturday (March 3), and we beat Beggs in a tough game. Beggs was a really good team, and that’s what put us in the state tournament.”

The Indians lose four starters and some size next season. Herrin said they would play an up-tempo game to make up for it and that making state would be challenging.

“Next year our team will be different. Our guards will be smaller…We lose a lot of strength, size and toughness,” he said. “Those guys are going to have some big shoes to fill, but they’re very good players. This summer will be very important for us to get together and play well and to kind of come together as a group. Hopefully, we’ll be a well-oiled machine next year when the time comes to make the playoffs to make a run and try to get back to the state tournament again.”
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