http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgChief Grey Elk of the Northern Cherokee Nation says all the work of his tribe is “authentic dating back to antiquity,” and the tribe’s artisans follow styles and patterns passed down through generations. The Missouri House Special Committee on Small Business has unanimously approved a bill that would ban people who are not citizens of federally recognized American Indian tribes from selling their arts and crafts as authentic American Indian work. COURTESY
Chief Grey Elk of the Northern Cherokee Nation says all the work of his tribe is “authentic dating back to antiquity,” and the tribe’s artisans follow styles and patterns passed down through generations. The Missouri House Special Committee on Small Business has unanimously approved a bill that would ban people who are not citizens of federally recognized American Indian tribes from selling their arts and crafts as authentic American Indian work. COURTESY

Missouri lawmakers try to define real Native American art

A screenshot of the Northern Cherokee Nation’s website. The Northern Cherokee Nation claims to be Missouri’s only state-recognized tribe. COURTESY Rocky Miller, a Missouri congressman and Cherokee Nation citizen, says a 1983 proclamation does not make the Northern Cherokee Nation a state-recognized tribe and that its members shouldn’t be allowed to sell their artwork. COURTESY
A screenshot of the Northern Cherokee Nation’s website. The Northern Cherokee Nation claims to be Missouri’s only state-recognized tribe. COURTESY
02/16/2018 08:00 AM
ST. LOUIS (AP) – Kathy Dickerson worries about the future of the Kiowa culture.

Dickerson is a St. Louis artist and citizen of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. She said she does bead work, some silversmithing and brain tanning, where she takes the brain of an animal and uses it to tan the hide.

Each tribe’s crafts are a part of its identity, she said. The Kiowa moccasins she makes are different from those made by other tribes, even neighboring tribes. Her work isn’t creative, she said, she’s reproducing art from Kiowa tradition.

“We still do things that our ancestors did, and I’m still teaching my grandchildren what I was taught,” Dickerson said.

People who are not part of federally recognized American Indian tribes fabricate their artwork and their history, she said. They fool people who don’t know much about American Indians, skewing their understanding of tribes. She said the problem is apparent in St. Louis, where non-Native people are brought in to give cultural presentations at community festivals.

“They get the person that has dreamcatchers and tom-toms,” Dickerson said. “Things that are China-made and look like stereotypical American Indian stuff. These non-Natives that are not in a community, they don’t understand what Indians are.”

The Missouri House Special Committee on Small Business has unanimously approved a bill that would ban people who are not citizens of federally recognized American Indian tribes from selling their arts and crafts as authentic American Indian work. Under federal law, members of state- and federally recognized tribes can sell their work as authentic.

Chief Grey Elk of the Northern Cherokee Nation said all the work of their tribe is “authentic dating back to antiquity,” and the tribe’s artisans follow styles and patterns passed down through generations.

“All we do is reproduce that,” he said.

Grey Elk said the proposed legislation grew out of the animosity between the Northern Cherokee and the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, a federally recognized tribe. The CN has long disputed the legitimacy of the Northern Cherokee Nation.

“We’ve never got along, and it’s because we call them ‘Treaty Cherokees,’ and they call us ‘Wannabes,’” Grey Elk said. “We refused to sign any treaties, and they signed 50.”

The Northern Cherokee Nation is a nonprofit group that states it is an American Indian tribe recognized by the State of Missouri, not the federal government. Then-Gov. Kit Bond issued a proclamation in June 1983, where he acknowledged the existence of the Northern Cherokee Tribe “as an American Indian Tribe within the State of Missouri,” and declared June 24, 1983 “Northern Cherokee Recognition Day.”

Some, including Rep. Rocky Miller, the bill’s sponsor and a CN citizen say that proclamation does not make the Northern Cherokee a state-recognized tribe. Missouri has no established process for recognizing state tribes, and a list of state-recognized tribes will vary, depending on who you ask.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Board, which enforces federal law regulating the sale of American Indian art, doesn’t keep a current list of state-recognized tribes but was informed in 2014 by the Attorney General’s office that Missouri had no state-recognized tribes. The Attorney General’s office directed the Missourian to the Secretary of State’s office, which provided a list of 11 federally recognized tribes with a presence in Missouri, including the Absentee Shawnee of Oklahoma and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska.

The tribes on the Secretary of State’s list are centered in surrounding states of Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, and used to live on land in what is now Missouri. The Northern Cherokee Nation was not on the list.

Grey Elk said he asked Gov. Eric Greitens to check to see if the proclamation is legitimate recognition.

Miller, a Lake Ozark Republican, said any move to formally recognize the Northern Cherokee would be “ridiculous.” He said all tribal recognition should come from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

CN Assistant Attorney General Alayna Farris testified in support of the bill at a small business committee hearing on Jan. 24. At that hearing, she said the Northern Cherokee Nation and other tribes that are not federally recognized are appropriating authentic Cherokee culture and erode trust in the American Indian art market.

Most American Indian art is regulated by the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which allows artisans from federally and state-recognized tribes to advertise their work as American Indian-made. That would exclude the Northern Cherokee if they are not state-recognized, but Miller said the law is still necessary to give local law enforcement the ability to prosecute.

“It’s just a much quicker and easier way to stop this theft of our heritage,” Miller said.

Cases taken on by federal authorities can take a long time, Miller said, like the case of Terry Lee Whetstone, a Missouri man who pleaded guilty to violating the federal law in 2015, several years after he was reported to the Indian Arts and Crafts Board. Whetstone was eventually sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to stop selling his art or playing his flute unless he makes it clear that he is not a member of an American Indian tribe.

The bill is similar to one passed in the Oklahoma legislature in 2016. That bill amended Oklahoma’s 1974 Indian Arts and Craft Sales Act to protect artists from federally recognized American Indian tribes. Peggy Fontenot, who is a member of the state-recognized Patawomeck Tribe of Virginia, sued Oklahoma soon after the bill was passed. She is arguing the law infringed on her right to truthfully describe her art as American Indian-made when she sold her art in the state.

Oklahoma halted enforcement of the law in January 2017, pending the results of the case. Pre-trial motions have delayed the case in the Western District Court of Oklahoma, so the law is still not being enforced.

Grey Elk said he has an antagonistic history with Miller, stemming from a dispute over the proposed placement of a sewage treatment facility at the headwaters of the Blue Springs Creek, which is in Miller’s district. Grey Elk also said he thinks Miller is against the Northern Cherokee because he is a CN citizen.

“Rocky, I’m sure, could care less whether we label our stuff we make for powwows ‘Native American made,’” Grey Elk said. “Somebody down there has undoubtedly put a burr in his saddle.”

Miller said he didn’t want the treatment plant on that creek, either. He said his issue was with Grey Elk making that land “fake holy ground” in order to stop the plant.

“He’s basically a fraud, and he’s stealing my family’s heritage, and the people who join him are doing the same,” Miller said.

Miller said he’s pushing the bill because he doesn’t like people who break the law, and he doesn’t like people who take his heritage. His family was forced out of their home and to the Indian Territory in what is now Oklahoma, Miller said.

“For someone to come along and make light of that by making fake arts and crafts, it angers me,” he said.

Dickerson said that when people don’t know much about American Indians, they’ll gravitate toward people who fit their idea of what an American Indian should be. Much of that is influenced by Hollywood portrayals of American Indians, and isn’t accurate.

“When we go out, people ask, ‘Can you glam it up a bit, can you throw a little bit of Hollywood into it?’” Dickerson said. “And it’s like, no, this is what it is. We’re showing you our culture. We don’t want to create something that’s glamorous over what’s real.”

Those watered-down and stereotypical perceptions of what an American Indian is take away from unique tribal identities, she said, and people posing as Native Americans do the same.

“They copy off of different tribes and they kind of make a hodgepodge of these works that you cant tell who it belongs to,” Dickerson said. “But these non-Natives, they’re taking it and they’re bastardizing the culture because they’re not going by anything but what they feel the American Indian is about.”

Grey Elk said the Northern Cherokee’s works aren’t made just to be sold. The group’s website advertises several works, including jewelry and paintings, with contact information for the artists listed, but Grey Elk said they mostly sell at powwows. If someone is interested in a work, they’re happy to sell it and make another.

Grey Elk said most American Indian tribes consider the powwow a chance to show off their culture, skills and wares.

“And maybe it makes them a little money to boot,” he added.


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. “The Cherokee Nation Marshal Service is the oldest law force entity in the state of Oklahoma. We were here before statehood as Lighthorsemen,” he said. “But we’re also, at the same time, one of the newest law enforcement entities in the state of Oklahoma because we got remodeled. The modern day Marshal Service was (formed) after the Ross v. Neff decision...” Ross v. Neff was a 1986 case in which the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Oklahoma did not have criminal jurisdiction over Indian Country within the CN. Buhl said the name pays homage to when the tribe and U.S. marshals served together. “(Former Chief) Wilma Mankiller and her advisors looked at what we should be called. They looked at many names that we’ve been in the past and they decided…to call this new department the Marshal Service, back to that kinship and that brotherhood we had with the U.S. marshals where both sides died in that timeframe,” he said. Buhl said the tribe has always touted law and order. “Law and order in the Cherokee Nation predates the U.S. Constitution. The tribe has always been a nation of laws. Even before removal. We’re not like a normal governing agency. We believe in sovereignty. We believe in the right of our people. We believe in the protection of our culture and way of life.” Leslie Higgins, U.S. Marshal Museum director of education, said the second lecture on April 2 would focus on Cherokee Bill, or Crawford Goldsby, an outlaw who was hanged in 1896 in Fort Smith for murder and robbery. The last lecture on May 7 will focus on the U.S. marshals’ involvement in the Goingsnake Massacre, a shootout that occurred during a trial in the Cherokee court system in 1872 in the Goingsnake District. Ezekial “Zeke” Proctor was being tried for killing Polly Beck and wounding Jim Kesterson in a shooting incident. The Cherokee and U.S. courts were in dispute regarding jurisdiction, and therefore U.S. marshals were sent to arrest Proctor if he was acquitted. However, shooting broke out in the courtroom during the proceedings, killing eight of the marshals’ posse and three Cherokees. Each lecture is from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is free to the public. However, registration is requested. The series is also streamed live. For more information or to register, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call 1-479-709-3766.
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 • Syllabary coloring sheets at Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum at 470288 Highway 101 in Sallisaw. For information, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
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.” <strong>Some panel titles are:</strong> • “Removal and Resilience: Contemporary Southeastern Indian Art Confronts Histories of Forced Migrations,” • “People, Process and the Politics of Latin American Migration to the U.S.,” • “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Forced Migration and Historical Trauma,” • “Immigration and U.S. Schools: Innocent Children at the Mercy of the System,” • “Theoretical Distinctions between Historical Trauma and the Inter-Generational Transmission of Trauma,” • “Burma to Oklahoma: Needs Assessment of Refugees in Public Schools,” and • “Bob Dylan’s Travels Across America.” Registration is required and runs through March 16. Student and educator tickets may be purchased at a discounted rate of $10. Details and the full schedule of symposium panels may be found at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. This event is organized through a new TU faculty and Gilcrease staff initiative – Cultures of the Americas – that is designed to foster interdisciplinary teaching and research through a hemispheric perspective. The university’s archives, special collections, fine art and archaeological collections housed at the Helmerich Center for American Research, Gilcrease Museum and TU’s McFarlin Library support Cultures of the Americas and many other initiatives. The Helmerich Center for America Research is located at 1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Road and is adjacent to the museum. For more information, email <a href="mailto:"></a> or <a href="mailto:"></a> or call 918-631-6414 or 918-631-3843.
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. For more information or to register your class, call Tonia Weavel at 918-456-6007, ext. 6161, or by email <a href="mailto:"></a>. The CHC is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture and the arts. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive.
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.
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. “When you look at the dresser there are readily seen signs that this is handmade and not made by machines or in a factory. The detailing on the drawers, one can easily see that there is no uniformity in size, cut or width. While they are all done very well, it is obvious it is done by hand,” former CHC archivist Jerry Thompson said. Thompson said the dresser is “in great shape for it’s age” though there have been a few modifications over the years to help keep it maintained such as sanding, refinishing the top of the dresser, replacing broken pieces and adding support to certain areas where needed. He said after all these years the chest only suffers slight wood deterioration and was well taken care of. Chunestudy said the chest would be displayed in a future exhibit when appropriate. Other items acquired by Foreman after removal and donated by the Wears are 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 was born in the Cherokee Nation East in 1807 to John Anthony Foreman, of Scottish descent, and Wattie (Elizabeth), a Cherokee. He worked for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions doing mission work and translating documents and news into Cherokee for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper in 1829, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. During the Trail of Tears, he was a Cherokee delegate to the U.S. government and protested the removal by writing letters to the ABCFM and voicing his disdain for the way Cherokees were being treated and forced to leave their homes due to the “so called treaty,” as he wrote in one of the letters. “My determination, and the determination of a large majority of the Cherokees, yet in the Nation is never to recognize this fraudulent instrument as a treaty, nor remove under it until we are forced to do so at the point of the bayonet,” one of his letters states. After removal, Foreman and his family settled in Park Hill. He held many important positions in the CN, including being a signer of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution, the first superintendent of Education for the CN and an associate justice of the CN Supreme Court. He died Dec. 8, 1881.