Wes Studi – a Cherokee actor and Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma, native – takes a photo with a fan during a meet-and-greet event on Nov. 29 at the Tribal Film Festival Showcase at Circle Cinema in Tulsa. Studi was on hand to screen and discuss his new film “Hostiles” before receiving the 2017 Tribal Film Festival Career Achievement Award. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Studi discusses new film ‘Hostiles’
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee actor and Nofire Hollow native Wes Studi sat down with the Cherokee Phoenix on Nov. 29 while attending the Tribal Film Festival Showcase at Circle Cinema to discuss his new film “Hostiles.”
The film is set in 1892 and follows Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) as he battles his hatred toward dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) while being forced to escort him and his family from New Mexico back to ancestral lands in Montana.
The film also stars Rosamund Pike, Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher and Ben Foster, who portray characters that each adds layers to the story amid a harsh backdrop of the American frontier. The tagline of the film is, “We are all hostiles,” and reminds audiences that any character is capable of anything when called upon, either by choice or by circumstance.
The Western premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September before making its Oklahoma debut at Circle Cinema where audiences had the opportunity to catch one of three screenings and participate in a Q&A featuring Studi and the film’s consultants Chris Eyre and Dr. Joely Proudfit.
“Hostiles” was scheduled to hit theaters nationwide on Dec. 22.
Before the Nov. 29 screening, the Cherokee Phoenix sat down with Studi to discuss the film and what attracts the actor to projects.
CP: Can you talk about your character, specifically the kind of journey he’s going to go on through this film?
Studi: My character, when presented to me through script, was a matter of, ‘wow, this is going to be a challenge. This is going to be a challenge in that I have never done this before, this kind of role before.’ I have never even had this kind of experience before because I am a man dying a slow death over a period of a few months, and I’m described that way in the press for our film. So, yes, it’s kind of a daunting thing in that there is nothing in my background that I can call upon to feel what in the world it feels like to be a slowly dying person, but I gave it a shot and we’ll see at the Q&A if anybody believes me or not. (Laughs.)
CP: Was there any other challenges coming in, mental or physical, that came with this character that was different from your other films?
Studi: Mentally, the (Cheyenne) language is fairly foreign to me, but we had good instructors. We had plenty of time to work on the pronunciations, the ups and the downs and the flow of the language. That and just a lot of time outside. I believe I have one interior shot in the whole film. Everything else is exterior, so it was quite a challenge. But challenges are something I like.
CP: Director Scott Cooper wrote this role with you in mind. Do you feel like you’re the go-to guy for this kind of role?
Studi: Ah, Scott Cooper, the Prince of Darkness, had me in mind. That should scare me, don’t you think? (Laughs.) It’s great to have people think of you in terms of your past performances and to write with you in mind. I hope more of that happens in the future.
CP: What would you tell people when they go into this film that they might get out of it?
Studi: I think what the public can expect from our story is a good old-fashioned concept of a Western that has been brought to a contemporary audience. I think that will be able to take away from it’s story, the kind of world that we could be living in. And perhaps are in danger of living in a world like that again. It’s a cautionary tale in ways, but the message of it is so deeply hidden that is a very entertaining film in itself as a period Western.
CP: What did you feel watching it for the first time?
Studi: It really blew me away at first. I first watched it and I was simply almost dumbfounded. I was quiet for a good long while afterwards. I really had to absorb what I had just seen. It’s a very effective film in its own way. It left me incapable of conversation immediately thereafter. You know, some films you can walk out of and say, ‘oh, I like this. I like that’ or ‘I didn’t like this or like that,’ but this one…It’s thought-provoking. It absolutely is that, and it’s done in an entertaining way.
CP: And in general, has there been a time where you’ve felt pressure to be the go-to Native American actor in Hollywood?
Studi: I don’t feel pressure about that. I don’t mind being the go-to guy if it’s the right role. I’m not going to be competing with Jason Momoa (Pawnee actor) for a part, but I would very much like to be a functioning part of the entertainment industry. And that’s mainly what I’ve worked a larger part of my career for is to become not just a Native American actor but an actor in general.
CP: And lastly, what attracts you to a project?
Studi: My agents and managers, they work very hard looking for sort of crossover, jump out kind of roles that I haven’t done before. I’ve done so many of the wise old guys and somewhere I’m the warrior or the angry Indian. I’ve done a number of different kinds of parts as far as Native American parts go, but I’ve also been able to cross over into comedy with sort of “Street Fighter” and “Mystery Men” in a few films that sort of go outside the Native American sphere. That’s what I look for in terms of future roles is something different, something that I haven’t done before.
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.
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix peeked in on Sequoyah High School’s drama department as it rehearsed for its upcoming adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical “Into the Woods,” which musically tells the darker side of the classic fairy tales Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk.
“Into The Woods” will be held at the Sequoyah’s The Place Where They Play on the SHS campus.
Showtimes are 7 p.m. on April 26, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 27 and 2 p.m. on April 29.
For more information, visit <a href="http://sequoyah.cherokee.org" target="_blank">http://sequoyah.cherokee.org</a> or the Sequoyah Speech/Drama/Debate Students Facebook page.
TAHLEQUAH – Seasoned and newly emerging Cherokee artists gained business information during a Native Artist Professional Development Training on April 4-5 at the Cherokee Arts Center.
The First Peoples Fund hosted the training as part of its community workshop program, and its goal is to help Native artists become successful entrepreneurs. The FPF provided the course materials while Cherokee artists Matthew Anderson and MaryBeth Timothy taught the training.
“Most of us don’t have that business mind, and so First Peoples Fund comes in and helps us with that,” Timothy said. “I know with me, when I took the First Peoples Fund training here it just opened my eyes to so many things that I wasn’t sure of. Now that I realize that we have so many resources, I’m not afraid to go out and look and ask for help, and I think that’s really important for a lot of artists around here."
Training topics included creating a business plan, writing for grants and loans, marketing, crafting a successful portfolio and balancing time between operating a business and being an artist. Each participant was also asked to give a presentation at the training’s end.
“It’s a chance for them to step outside the box,” Timothy said. “Some of them have never done that before, and so we give them a little guideline and it shows how to present yourself because part of this whole thing is not just selling your art, you’re selling yourself.”
Cherokee Nation citizen Isaiah Soap, who completed both training days, said he attended to learn from established artists.
“It’s hard to start, especially being a Native artist and getting your business out there, but the people here are really nice and great with helping,” he said. “I think it will help out a lot of artists around here that took the training because I know they’re already well established, so it was good to get their knowledge.”
Soap said he comes from a line of artists specializing in beadwork and realized he wanted to make that passion into a business while attending Northeastern State University. “When I was in college at NSU is really whenever it hit me that I could make money while I was in school because I didn’t have a full-time job, and it would have been a lot to do. It would have been more stress if I had gotten a full-time job, whereas my beadwork was like a stress reliever from school and then I could still make money doing it.”
During the training, Soap pitched his artwork and began setting goals.
“The training definitely helps us to know where we want to go from where we are now,” he said. “In the training we were taught to set some goals for like five years from now or 10 years from now and where we see ourselves as an artist. It also gave us a lot of insight on how we can promote our work and the clientele that we have and how we can set up our work.”
FPF President Lori Pourier said the national program began in the 1990s and that the community training in Tahlequah is made possible because of its “Teach Back” component.
“MaryBeth and Matthew are there to do their ‘Teach Back’ because they’ve already gone through the training, and now they’re testing it to see if they want to continue doing it and working with the curriculum,” she said. “Several folks down in that area have gone on to be a trainer and then those folks usually train within the tribe or within the state. I think we have 50 or more certified trainers now across the country from Maine to Barrow, Alaska, to Cherokee Nation.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.firstpeoplesfund.org" target="_blank">www.firstpeoplesfund.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – While many area teachers joined a statewide walkout on April 2 headed to rallies at the state capital in Oklahoma City, others, including teachers who are Cherokee Nation citizens, held hometown rallies to build local support for better public education funding.
Contingencies of teachers inside the CN were seen rallying from Bartlesville to Sallisaw. CN citizen and fourth grade Grand View teacher Jeanetta Glory was one teacher who braved the rain to rally in Cherokee County.
“There are about 10 teachers out here, and we are standing for our students and to raise funding at the state capital. We feel very positive in the way things are going right now. There’s a lot of discussions going on, but we have been encouraged to keep this going,” Glory said.
Glory said one reason the teachers walked out is because enrollment in public schools has increased by more than 40,000 students while funding has decreased by $200 million.
“Oklahoma is the worst in the nation for public education cuts, by 28 percent since 2008,” she said.
In Adair County the same solidarity was visible as teachers and staff from Stilwell, Dahlonegah, Zion and Maryetta schools gathered, held signs and waved to supporters who honked their car horns. CN citizen and kindergarten teacher Paula Unger was among them. She said she’s seen the Oklahoma education issue from different sides, including being raised by a Cherokee teacher.
“I’ve been teaching for 25 years, and I am Cherokee. I’ve spent the last three days at the capital in Oklahoma City, leaving around 7 in the morning and returning around 9 p.m. at night. It’s been quite a historical experience,” Unger said. “In the early (19)90s, my mother, who’s a retired educator who taught for 30-some years, was in on the rally that happened then. This time it’s been so encouraging to see the support that we’ve received from numerous people, even out of state people. A man visiting from New York ordered 500 pizzas for us.”
Unger added that teachers on spring break from other states came to Oklahoma to support them, as well as workers from other professions.
“The steel workers who are working on the outside of the building at the Capitol didn’t work in support of the teachers. They wouldn’t cross the protest lines,” she said.
Unger said other supporters included the custodial and maintenance people inside the Capitol.
“Even the people who cook in the Capitol told us ‘this is awesome. We’ve never seen so many people inside the Capitol. Keep it going,’” Unger said.
Rallying teachers and public school employees said they were hopeful they would triumph. “I’m a speech pathologist in Tahlequah Public Schools, and I’m a parent of two kids,” CN citizen Robyn Rowland said. “I have an investment here not only for my students but for my own kiddos’ future.”
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>.
VIAN – Less than a mile from Interstate 40 and 5 miles from Lake Tenkiller, two Cherokee-owned businesses are thriving in Vian.
Morning Sky Boutique and Evening Shade Mercantile are the idea of Cherokee Nation citizens Suzanne Sullivan and Callie Prier, who are also mother and daughter.
“We opened this store (Morning Sky Boutique) a little over three years ago, and we carry clothing, jewelry, shoes,” Prier, the daughter, said. “And we have another building, Evening Shade Mercantile, and it’s home and gift.”
Prier said her family worked together to make the idea a reality.
“Well, originally we bought Morning Sky Boutique, which was the old Vian Sundry Store and many things before that. My mom and I purchased the building. My husband remodeled the building,” she said.
Prier said they started with just clothing and jewelry on a smaller scale.
“We got good responses from the community and tourism and all that,” she said. “So, a year after we purchased Morning Sky, we purchased Evening Shade Mercantile, and we’ve made that into the home and gift side so the boutique could be women’s clothing, shoes and jewelry and things like that.”
Prier said it was her mom who knew about the tribe’s Small Business Loan program.
“They (CN) actually helped us a lot,” Prier said. “We got the small business loan quickly, and they have been super helpful with anything we needed afterwards.”
Sullivan said she knows the area well. Born in nearby Sallisaw, she’s been a community volunteer and organizer in Vian for the past 30 years. Sullivan said the advice and information she received from Commerce Department Executive Director Anna Knight and Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelly was crucial to her and Prier before making the decision to open the businesses.
“They, along with (the) Commerce Department’s Steven Highers, have so much wisdom and knowledge of the area and just how things work. We work really, really hard to find items that are interesting and unique, while varied in price range. We think we have something for everyone here,” Sullivan said. “We’re getting ready to start a new men’s line, but we already carry men’s products. We carry some Pendleton and Ted Baker and some Gentlemen’s Hardware, but we’re really excited about just getting approved to carry Patagonia. Plus, Callie just picked up a line call The Normal Brand.”
As for women’s brands, Morning Sky Boutique carries Sympli and Joseph Ribkoff, Comfy and others.
“We carry a lot Johnny Was women’s wear. In jewelry, we have French Kande and Love Tokens and many others. We also carry children’s Kickee pants,” Sullivan said.
Morning Sky Boutique and Evening Shade Mercantile are located at 106 S. Thornton St. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information, call 918-773-5000 or visit <a href="http://www.morningskyboutique.com" target="_blank">www.morningskyboutique.com</a> or search Facebook.