Elementary students from 25 Oklahoma schools take part in cultural activities such as stickball at the third annual Cherokee Heritage Festival on Nov. 3 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CHC hosts 3rd annual Cherokee Heritage Festival
Elementary students play the Cherokee game chunkey in the Diligwa-1710 Cherokee Village during the third annual Cherokee Heritage Festival held on Nov. 3 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
PARK HILL, Okla. – Approximately 1,800 elementary school children from 25 Oklahoma schools attended the third annual Cherokee Heritage Festival Nov. 2-3 at the Cherokee Heritage Center.
Children participated in various Cherokee cultural activities during the two-day festival.
“It’s a celebration of not only Native American (Heritage) Month but of Cherokee culture. We’ve invited schools to attend to experience Cherokee culture with their eyes, their ears and their hands,” CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said.
Activities consisted of visiting the Diligwa-1710 Cherokee Village, Adam’s Corner Rural Village, the Cherokee National Museum, shooting blowguns, playing stickball and chunkey, watching bow and flint knapping demonstrations, hearing the Cherokee language and learning about loom weaving, twining and basketry.
“In the past we’ve had people really enjoy this, bringing their children, their students to this event. We have public school, private school and home-schooled children that come and enjoy the event. We’ve had really positive feedback,” Weavel said.
Cherokee Nation citizen and Tenkiller Elementary teacher Sinea Girdner said it is important to teach her students about the Cherokee culture and that is why they attended the event.
“We brought out students out here today because we are local, and we think it’s important that our children see why our town was founded and what originally started here. They need to know the history of our town,” Girdner said. “What I get out of bringing my students to an event like this is seeing their minds expanding and the light bulb moments that click on when they see things in Tahlequah and they can make a connection with it, that they’re actually here and it’s not just something they read in a book. They actually have the experience.”
Girdner said at Tenkiller Elementary, children take part in after-school programs to learn more about Cherokee culture.
“If they weren’t taught it in school it would probably be lost,” she said.
Weavel said it’s important for the CHC to “share the culture with the world.”
“The authenticity of the event means everything to me so that kids experience a real Cherokee event,” Weavel said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Family Research Center located within the Cherokee Heritage Center has been assisting individuals with tracing their family genealogies since the 1980s.
“We educate people,” Gene Morris, CFRC genealogist, said. “We’re here to promote our mission, which is preserve, promote and teach Cherokee history and culture. That’s what we do on a daily basis with genealogy.”
The CFRC is one of two locations in Oklahoma specializing in Native American genealogy and should not be confused with the Cherokee Nation Registration Department.
“We (CFRC) have no right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ that someone is Cherokee,” Ashley Vann, CFRC genealogist, said. “What we are able to tell them is ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about a paper trail to back up that family’s story that’s been handed down from generation to generation.”
Morris and Vann can be hired to help individuals complete their genealogies for a fee of $30 per hour, or $20 per hour for Cherokee National Historical Society members. For those wishing to conduct their own research, the CFRC resources area and the genealogy library are accessible from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with paid admission into the museum.
Before visiting, Norris and Vann recommend gathering as much information as possible from several free and paid websites including <a href="http://www.fold3.com" target="_blank">www.fold3.com</a>, <a href="http://www.ancestry.com" target="_blank">www.ancestry.com</a>,
<a href="http://www.oklahomacemeteries.com" target="_blank">www.oklahomacemeteries.com</a> and <a href="http://www.findagrave.com" target="_blank">www.findagrave.com</a>.
The CFRC will also process genealogy requests by mail, but the timeframe in which the request is filled depends on demand.
“Depending upon how many folks are back here in the library at one time wanting all of our attention all at the same time and depending on if one of us is here or both us are here at that time,” Norris said. “What we try to do is do those requests in the order they are received.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeeheritage.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeeheritage.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – When shooters took the line for an Oklahoma Archery Shooters Association qualifier recently at Obsession Archery, Cherokee Nation citizen Michael Lackey was among them despite being in a wheelchair.
“I didn’t get to play regular sports like kids that were not in a wheelchair, so my dad got me into archery and I started doing that,” Lackey said. “I’ve been shooting bows since I was about 12 or 13 years old.”
Lackey joined 64 archers competing for bragging rights and prize money at the Dec. 17 qualifier. Shooters received four minutes to shoot five arrows at a five-spot target through 12 ends, or rounds, for a total of 60 arrows. Each arrow had the potential to earn up to five points depending on its target placement.
Lackey shot with the compound bow he uses when hunting. “The compound is definitely easier from a wheelchair standpoint, in my opinion, because I shoot the recurve also and they’re a lot longer than your compounds. So a string will hit the wheel sometimes or you’re closer to the ground, so the limbs will hit the ground. The compound is definitely easier to shoot from a wheelchair.”
Although paralyzed most of his life, Lackey said he doesn’t believe in limits. He’s an avid outdoorsman who often hunts, a skill honed by competitive archery.
“It’s really helped my shooting, getting back into the target shooting,” he said. “It’s made me more consistent for hunting. I like the competition, and I like to improve myself.”
The competition marked Obsession Archery’s first time hosting a qualifier for the ASA, which aims to grow archery through clubs that provide competition, training and education opportunities.
It’s a development Lackey said he appreciates. “It’s harder on people who don’t have the funding to drive clear across the state to shoots. So it’s nice to have somewhere where we can do it here in town, in Tahlequah.”
Obsession Archery owner John Obenrader called the development a “big deal” for his business and customers. “ASA is the main organization that I shoot for. It’s one of the biggest ones in the country. It’s where all your top archers are and at the state level. They hold championships and qualifiers all across the state. They just came to me and asked me if I wanted to shoot since I have a shop with an indoor range.”
Obenrader said he hopes the competition brings in new shooters and their families to get them familiar with indoor and 3-D range shoots. “It’s pretty much a family-oriented kind of sport because a lot of times you’ll see the kids get started in it, and then mom and dad get started in it because they want to do it.”
For Lackey, the qualifier was a family affair as both his children competed in the cub class.
“My daughter Makayla, she’s been shooting for two or three years now. Hayden just got his first compound bow this year,” he said. “They’re both shooting really well. It’s good for them. It teaches them discipline, practicing. You got to be good to make a shot on a deer. You want to deer hunt, you got to practice and get good at shooting.”
In addition to passing his archery passion onto his children, Lackey hopes to see archery grow among others in wheelchairs.
“I don’t see it quite as much as I would like to see,” he said. “It’s a big challenge from sitting in a wheelchair, but I do know a lot of guys that hunt (and compete). It just takes lots of practice because I have to, I don’t have a lot of balance, so I have to kind of position myself where I can maintain my balance while I’m shooting my bow.”
For more information, call Obsession Archery at 918-951-9540.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Between Dec. 2-9, Cherokee Nation representatives took part in Christmas parades in Nowata, Bartlesville, Fort Gibson, Locust Grove, Vian, Vinita, Tahlequah, Stilwell, Jay, Hulbert and Sallisaw.
Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Christmas parades are an opportunity to meet citizens away from the CN capital.
“These Christmas parades are something everyone including our citizens look forward to, especially in smaller towns, and there are strong Cherokee communities in all of them. This is our chance to not only wish them season’s greetings, but to learn how they’re doing,” he said. “Our Tribal councilors take advantage of this seasonal opportunity as does our Principal Chief Bill John Baker. Fellowship is a big part of the holiday season.”
CN citizen and Nowata resident Brianda Medlin agreed with the secretary.
“I came here to watch my cousin in the Christmas parade, but it’s nice to hear Cherokee Nation is in it too. A lot of us are Cherokee up here so that’s kind of a big deal,” she said.
The following is a Cherokee Phoenix Christmas parade video wrap-up made from several locations inside the CN.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The annual lighting of the Cherokee Nation Capitol building was held Dec. 1 when Principal Chief Bill John Baker turned on Christmas lights decorating the downtown square.
The event unofficially announced the arrival of the holiday season.
Visitors enjoyed refreshments as well as music by the Cherokee Nation Youth Choir. Children were also treated to a live nativity scene and holiday train rides.
TULSA, Okla. – Oklahoma audiences were treated to a special Q&A with Cherokee actor Wes Studi after screening his new film “Hostiles” on Nov. 29 during the Tribal Film Festival at Circle Cinema.
“The story itself goes on to touch on the basis of the fact that we do have to come together, be it for survival or whatever,” Studi said. “It’s really a matter of survival that we bring our minds together to forge a better beginning as we move forward.”
“Hostiles” is set in 1892 and follows Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) as he battles hatred towards dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) while being forced to escort him and his family from New Mexico back to their ancestral lands in Montana. The film also stars Rosamund Pike, Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher and Ben Foster.
Christina Burke, curator of Native American and Non-Western Art at the Philbrook Museum of Art, moderated the panel. Also participating were “Smoke Signals” director Chris Eyre and Dr. Joely Proudfit, who were tribal consultants for the film and brought in to the production to assist with creating an accurate portrayal of Cheyenne people and customs.
“We were brought in pretty early on, and we were on set most of the time. I would say over 90 percent of the time, everyday on the set, both of us or at least one of us,” Proudfit said. “We had an actual Cheyenne chief come and do a blessing before we began shooting. And for a production of that caliber to take that time to allow for this culture and tradition to be a part of the process, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Studi was quick to agree and praised their efforts on the film.
“(Eyre and Proudfit) really brought a lot to the table in terms of authenticity, of not only the language, but customs and other things we needed from the Cheyenne community,” he said. “I think that the film is much better off for the fact that they were there to help us.”
The audience was also given a peak into the choices made during filming, including what motivated certain characters and that the cast and crew shot two versions of the ending.
The panel also shared with the audience that while they have screened “Hostiles” multiple times, there are still new things to discover about its message.
“This movie is a touchstone to so many ideas that we have right now in this country and that’s why I think this movie is so valuable because it’s about the gray areas,” Eyre said. “I keep watching, and I think the highest compliment to the movie is that I keep getting new things out of the movie.”
Proudfit agreed, telling audiences that “you have to see it again.”
“It takes time to marinate because these are such deep issues,” she said. “We’ve seen it eight times and every time we hear something new. We’ve been entertained so much with film and media now that we’re not ever asked to feel or think anymore, and I think we do that in this film.”
VINITA, Okla. – On Dec. 5, Cherokee Nation and city officials unveiled a 12-foot-by-10-foot captioned photo as a mural in honor of the late Anna Belle Sixkiller Mitchell, a Cherokee National Treasure who revived Southeastern-style pottery.
“This project started a year ago as a way to beautify the city and celebrate the historic nature that we have with the Cherokee Nation. As people drive by in Vinita they can learn more about our town and our community,” Vinita City Councilor Stephanie Hoskin said.
The City Council worked with downtown store owners to find a space for the mural and with the Eastern Trails Museum for the mural’s photo. The project was funded through the city’s hotel tax.
The photo depicts Mitchell making pottery in her studio. She is known for restoring the Southeastern-style of pottery back into the Cherokee culture. The tribe’s pottery tradition was not continued after removal to Indian Territory in the 1830s until Mitchell began making pottery in the 1960s.
Mitchell was born Oct. 16, 1926, to Oo-loo-tsa and Houston Sixkiller in Delaware County.
Several CN officials – including Mitchell’s daughter, Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez – attended the mural’s unveiling.
“I saw it on the wall, and I was just blown away. It just made my heart soar because my dad especially would be so proud. He was very proud of what mom did, and if he could have been here today we would just be beaming, but I can feel what he would have felt,” Vazquez said. “Most of all, I’m just so proud of our community, the fact that we would have an idea to do this and make it happen in such a short period of time.”
Cherokee National Treasure and graphic artist Dan Mink was responsible for the photo’s look. He said he was up for the challenge of designing the border and selecting the color and font.
“Just thinking about what I was doing and what this lady represented, I just wanted to do a good job,” he said. “I thought the little script font that looked like a paintbrush type effect on there, I thought that, to me, it suited her well. I got the color off that vase or the pottery that’s in the picture. It was an ochre red, which is a traditional color of ours, so I took that color and made the border around it.”
The mural, located at 127 S. Wilson St., will stay up until it is replaced with another notable Vinita resident who has made a contribution to the community.