Matt Girty, a United Keetoowah Band citizen, helps UKB citizen Ernestine Berry with her soapstone turtle during his Sept. 16 class at the UKB Culture Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Girty’s goal is to get Cherokees carving soapstone art again. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Girty teaches others soapstone carving
United Keetoowah Band citizen Ernestine Berry traces an outline of a turtle for a soapstone piece she worked on during UKB artist Matt Girty’s class on Sept. 16 class at the UKB Culture Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The class was Girty’s second soapstone class, and he hopes to have more. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With the hope of teaching more Cherokees soapstone carving, United Keetoowah Band citizen Matt Girty is spreading his knowledge of the ancient art by offering classes in Tahlequah to people willing to learn.
His latest class was on Sept. 16 at the UKB Culture Center, where students gained insight and hands-on experience with soapstone carving.
“My goal was to get more carvers out here because I see a lot of opportunity. So what many people are going to have to do around here is look within their self, look (at) who they are, and most of us out here are Cherokees,” he said. “If I can do it, there’s more out here that can do it. Even if they don’t get seen...then they’ve got a piece of their culture. They can show whoever they want to…so that way it’ll stay alive here within us and not die like it almost has been.”
Girty said he starts his students with creating a turtle.
“This right here is basically to get them to figure out their shapes and to get their hands on soapstone,” he said. “Figure out how to work it, how it feels on your hands.”
As for tools, Girty uses X-Acto knives, files and hacksaws to shape his works.
“I wanted these guys to get the feel of the grass roots of it because that’s how our people did it, not with power tools,” he said. “I want them to get the slow process of it, to get the blocking out and taking off a lot of the object to get to your main goal of making your object piece. So I want them to get used to doing it by hand first before they jump on any power tools.”
By creating stone carved art, Girty said he feels he’s helping keep the art form alive.
“It’s better for me to pass this on because this is all I know how to do that could better our people,” he said. “In my opinion, we should all be able to create beauty and make people smile in everything we do…to keep us going as Cherokee people.”
UKB citizen Ernestine Berry said she is no stranger to the art world, so when she heard about Girty’s class she decided to take it.
“I’m always interested in anything having to do with art,” she said. “I haven’t done stone carving before. I’ve done a little bit of woodcarving. I also have a degree in art for the University in Tulsa. So, I’ve done a little bit of artwork.”
She said Girty is a “good” teacher and thinks what he does, by teaching and preserving the culture, is important.
“I think anything to do with our tradition and our heritage is important to our people,” she said. “It helps us to know who we are. It helps to know where we came from, and it helps us to understand the ancestors and what they went through and the kind of lives that they lived.”
Berry said she encourages anyone interested in preserving Cherokee culture to take Girty’s class.
“It’s an enjoyable thing as well as a learning experience,” she said. “I just encourage anybody who wants to come, to come, because we’re not exclusive here. We accept everybody, Keetoowahs, Cherokee Nation, non-Indians, other tribes, anybody that wants to come.”
So far Girty has taught two classes and hopes to continue teaching, while building upon each one to help students create more advanced pieces.
“I have an idea for you to carve bears. The next class I want you to bring whatever you want to carve and then we can do it,” he said. “Next thing, I have a vision of our old pipe effigies that we used to make. That will be an advanced class because that’s what I’m (personally) doing now is recreating these ceremonial objects.”
Girty hopes to have his next class in either late November or early December.
“I’m here for instruction. Everything I know, it’s no secret,” he said. “I want to show you everything I know, then in turn you go show who you know. Come back and show me what you did, and hopefully you become to be a lot better than I am.”
For more information, find him under Matt Girty on Facebook.
PARK HILL – The Cherokee Heritage Center recently received nearly $12,000 in grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council to support three new cultural artists in its interactive exhibits for the 2018 tourism season.
“The addition of these artists to our staff will aid in our efforts to provide an engaging and interactive environment for visiting guests,” CHC Executive Director Dr. Charles Gourd said. “We are thankful for the support of the OAC, which continues to support our mission to preserve, promote and teach Cherokee history, art and culture.”
Cherokee Nation citizens Lily Drywater and Geoff Little are providing cultural demonstrations in the ancient Cherokee village, Diligwa, which authentically portrays Cherokee life in the early 1700s. Drywater performs traditional finger weaving, and Little demonstrates the art of bow making.
CN citizen Charlotte Wolfe has joined the team in Adams Corner Rural Village, which represents Cherokee life in the 1890s before Oklahoma statehood. Wolfe demonstrates Cherokee basketry and cornhusk dolls.
“As a young girl, I had a hunger for my heritage and a desire to immerse myself in the Cherokee culture,” said Wolfe. “That spark has fueled my career, and I have had the privilege to study a variety of Cherokee art forms, many from Cherokee National Treasures. I feel that each one is a gift passed down to me, and I take great pride in sharing that knowledge with guests visiting the heritage center. I hope that each guest leaves with a better understanding of Cherokee culture, and that they feel inspired to learn more.”
The CHC is the premier cultural center for Cherokee history, culture and the arts. It’s located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. Summer hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Funding provided by the Oklahoma Arts Council is supported financially by the state and the National Endowment for the Arts.
The OAC is the state agency for the support and development of the arts. Its mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. It provides more than 400 grants to nearly 225 organizations in communities statewide each year, organizes professional development opportunities for the state’s arts and cultural industry, and manages works of art in the Oklahoma Public Art Collection and the public spaces of the state Capitol. Additional information is available at <a href="http://www.arts.ok.gov" target="_blank">arts.ok.gov</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – Following the Native film series and keynote speakers throughout the week, the Northeastern State University 46th annual Symposium on the American Indian will conclude with the NSU Powwow.
The powwow begins at 2 p.m. on April 21 in the University Center Ballroom.
Kelly Anquoe will begin the day by teaching a dance workshop that will provide an opportunity for individuals to learn about the styles of dance and types of regalia that will be seen during the powwow. There will also be time for questions related to powwow protocol. The Learning Traditional Dance Workshop will be at 2 p.m.
A Gourd Dance will begin the powwow at 3 p.m., followed by a dinner break from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the Grand Entry/Intertribal will begin at 7 p.m. and conclude at midnight.
Event leaders include the master of ceremonies Stanley John (Navajo), head lady dancer Robyn Chanate (Cherokee/Kiowa), head man dancer Daniel Roberts (Muscogee Creek/Aleut/Choctaw), head gourd dancer Chris Chanate (Kiowa/Cherokee), head singer Joel Deerinwater (Muscogee Creek/Cherokee), Color Guard from the Mvskoke Creek Nation Honor Guard and the arena director Tony Ballou (Cherokee/Creek/Navajo).
Traditional arts vendors will be set up at the event along with institutional and organizational display booths.
Symposium activities are free and the public is encouraged to attend. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/symposium" target="_blank">www.nsuok.edu/symposium</a>.
PARK HILL – Cherokee Nation citizen Troy Jackson won the grand prize for his sculpture “Adadolisdi – The Prayer” at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 47th annual Trail of Tears Art Show.
Winners were announced during an April 6 ceremony and opening-night reception for the art show, which runs through May 5.
The TOTAS is the longest-running Native American art show in Oklahoma and features authentic Native American artwork from artists of different federally recognized tribes. This year the show received 172 submissions from 89 artists representing 12 tribal nations. All featured artwork is available for purchase throughout the show’s duration.
CHC Curator Callie Chunestudy said the show received a record number of entries and has about 16 new artists who have previously entered the show.
“It’s a great opportunity for artists both new and seasoned to display their work and have it in a tribal museum. I think you will see a lot more variety. People are really starting to come into their own with things like graphic arts and coming out of the box a little more with sculptures and some of what people consider kind of the more traditional arts. So you get to see some new and interesting things you may have not seen before,” she said.
Artists competed for more than $15,000 in prize money in seven categories: painting, sculpture, pottery, basketry, graphics, jewelry and miniatures.
As the grand prize recipient, Jackson received $2,00 and a copper gorget. He said his inspiration for the piece came from what he starts each day with – prayer. “I use prayer to keep focused and to keep on task. Being an artist isn’t an easy job, especially being a self-employed artist, so I have to have something that keeps me focused and that is what prayer does for me.”
CN citizen Ron Mitchell took honorable mention in the graphics category for his piece “Out of the Darkness.” He said he’s been entering the show off and on since 1987.
“I like this particular show because it is the Trail of Tears show…It gives us a showcase that we can actually show artwork that depicts what happened to our tribe and a lot of the other tribes, too when the Removal Act took place,” Mitchell said.
Awards for the Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition were also announced during the ceremony, which includes art by Native American youth from grades 6-12 and precedes the annual Cherokee Art Market in the fall. Youth artwork will be on display and for sale through the length of the show, too.
For a complete list of winners, visit <a href="http://www.Anadisgoi.com" target="_blank">www.Anadisgoi.com</a>.
<strong>2018 Trail of Tears Art Show winners</strong>
Painting: Kenny Henson, Cherokee Nation, “Awi Usdi and the Invasive Species”
Sculpture: Paul Hacker, Choctaw Nation, “Eagle Song”
Basketry: Mike Dart, Cherokee Nation, “Wild Onion Gathering Basket”
Pottery: Jane Osti, Cherokee Nation, “Earth, Spirit and Fire”
Jewelry: Toneh Chuleewah, Cherokee Nation, “Hero Twins”
Graphics: John Gritts, Cherokee Nation, “Keep, Out, Indian Reservation, Government Property”
Miniature: Norma Howard, Choctaw Nation, “Walking Home from the Store”
Emerging Artists: Mike Phillips, Cherokee Nation, “Balance of Life”
Trail of Tears Award: Norma Howard, Choctaw Nation, “Choctaw Removal”
Bill Rabbit Legacy Award: Kindra Swafford, Cherokee Nation, “Bond”
Betty Garner Elder Award: Norma Howard, Choctaw Nation, “Choctaw Removal”
<strong>2018 Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition winners</strong>
Best of Show: Lindsay Petitt, Cherokee Nation, “Fireside Tales”
2-D, grades 6-10: Tyrus Teehee, Cherokee Nation, “Suli and the Waterbeetle”
2-D, grades 11-12: Xeneca LeClair, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, “Blue Shawl”
3-D, grades 6-8: Julia Lewis, Cherokee Nation, ???????
3-D, grades 9-10: Alexis Rietman, Cherokee Nation, “Exploring New Traditions”
3-D, grades 11-12: Graycianne Bennett, Cherokee Nation, “Just Hanging Out”
Judge’s Choice: Tucker Williams, Cherokee Nation, “Native Beauty”
Judge’s Choice: Graycianne Bennett, Cherokee Nation, “Just Hanging Out"
Judge’s Choice: Chloe Davis, Cherokee Nation, “Personification of Sunshine"
Bill Rabbit Award: Graycianne Bennett, Cherokee Nation, “Just Hanging Out”
TAHLEQUAH – The Encore! Performing Society on April 8 previewed its reimagined production of “Four Moons,” which highlights the careers of five Native American ballerinas.
“The history of the five ballerinas was always interesting to me because they are so unique. There’s only a handful of Native American ballerinas in the world,” “Four Moons” Director Lena Gladkova-Huffman said.
The production features 12 female dancers, nearly all of who are Cherokee, and uses digital backdrops with archived footage, pictures and interviews to showcase the life and careers of Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and sisters Maria and Marjorie Tallchief.
The group became known as the Five Moons and rose to prominence in the mid-1900s during a time when ballet was largely considered a Russian art form. The women represented the Cherokee, Osage, Choctaw and Shawnee tribes.
Four of them danced together for the original 1967 production, which occurred during the Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival. It was titled “Four Moons” because the Tallchief sisters were highlighted together.
“When we picked up this production, the girls had to do a lot of research and find out who each ballerina was. So they come out of this production with bigger knowledge of the world in general, and hopefully our audience will too,” Gladkova-Huffman said. “There were these five amazing women who, from children, decided to dedicate their life to art.”
She said her fascination with the Five Moons and the original performance sparked the need for a reimagining featuring her choreography.
“They met and danced, and it was a unique occasion because everybody danced, with the exception of Maria Tallchief, who was retired, and then nobody video recorded them. So from then on everybody that has recreated this play has used original choreography,” she said.
Gladkova-Huffman studied ballet in Volgograd, Russia, and though she pursued a career as a doctor after immigrating to America, she’s “closely connected” to directing and choreographing.
Many girls featured in her reimagining come from her dance studio, though each “handpicked” ballerina had to meet select criteria. They also vary in age from elementary- to college-aged students to highlight the Five Moons as younger and older versions.
Cherokee Nation citizen Natalie Walker, 19, studies at Northeastern State University and is dancing as the older Chouteau. She said she and her younger partner unfurl a ribbon during their dance as a nod to the Cherokee people and Chouteau’s heritage.
“There is a part in my dance where we pull a white ribbon and it separates the stage, which is supposed to represent the Trail of Tears,” she said. “It separates us from our Cherokee heritage, as well as the younger and older versions of (Chouteau).”
Walker said the dancers have rehearsed on weekends for months to prepare.
“We all are very good about taking criticism from Mrs. Lena very well, which I think helps us improve in dancing and for the production,” she said. “It has taken many, many practices since then to get ready for this, and I love dancing in front of people.”
CN citizen Lacy Ullrich, 13, portrays the younger Marjorie Tallchief.
“I didn’t really know much about it the first time I did this, but it sounded fun,” she said. “They’re all very interesting, and they’ve accomplished a ton of really cool things throughout their lifetime. All these girls come from different tribes, and one of them is Cherokee, and they were all born in Oklahoma, so it’s fun to get to dance the Cherokee variation.”
Portraying Hightower is CN citizen Hadley Hume, 17, who will attend the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this fall to major in performance dance. She said audiences should expect to see a mix of traditional ballet and Native American aspects. “You’ll see us dancing on point, on flat, but we’ll also have one girl come out in a traditional Cherokee dress. It’s just really amazing to be able to bring all of their tribes together, and it’s just a really cool way to say, ‘hey look, we’re all here.’”
Her mother, Dayna, is the vice president of Encore! who secured the rights to composer Louis Ballard’s music from the 1967 production. She also designed the traditional costumes.
“All of the coral dresses that you’ll see and the ribbon work, I’ve done,” she said. “I tell (the girls), ‘I create it, you bring it to life. You make it come to life when you dance.’ We’ve also had some various local Cherokee National Treasures that’s worked on other pieces.”
The preview was held ahead of scheduled performances in Washington, D.C., for the annual Cherokee Days on April 13-15 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
WASHINGTON – The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian on April 13 will open its “Trail of Tears: A Story of Cherokee Removal” exhibition, which the Cherokee Nation curated.
Running until January, the exhibition contains reproductions of historical documents, drawings and portraiture, first-hand accounts and contemporary voices. According to the NMAI, the 40-panel exhibition takes a deeper look at Indian removal from the Cherokee perspective and dispels misconceptions about the Trail of Tears while providing a realistic look at the cost of greed and oppression.
For more information, visit <a href="http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=967" target="_blank">http://nmai.si.edu/explore/exhibitions/item/?id=967</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Winnie Guess-Perdue recently shared her life’s journey as part of the CN’s Community and Cultural Outreach’s Lunch and Learn series.
According to CCO’s Facebook page, she was recognized as one of the five women featured in the tribe’s exhibit “Cherokee Women Who Changed the World.”
Guess-Perdue is a direct descendant of Sequoyah and an accomplished ballerina, fancy dancer and artist. A lifetime athlete, she has competed in the Oklahoma Senior Olympics and the National Senior Games. In 2002, she competed in Melbourne, Australia, at the World Masters Games and in 2004 was named Oklahoma’s Senior Athlete of the Year.
She is one of two to three females in history to have mastered the old school traditional version of the Hoop Dance and is recognized as an honored elder of early female “fancy dancers.” In addition to awards and honors, she was a finalist in the 1957 Miss Indian America competition, received the Moscelyn Larkin Greater Tulsa Lifetime of Cultural Achievement Award in 2008, and in 2015 she accepted the Oral Roberts University Lifetime of Global Achievement Award. She serves on the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission. She has also performed on television shows, including the Ed Sullivan Show and Today Show.
To view Guess-Perdue’s March 15 presentation visit, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQPab0qW4lk" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQPab0qW4lk</a>.