http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgInstructor Steven Daugherty, left, heats and straightens river cane at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s blowgun making class held Sept. 16 in Park Hill, Oklahoma. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Instructor Steven Daugherty, left, heats and straightens river cane at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s blowgun making class held Sept. 16 in Park Hill, Oklahoma. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Heritage Center hosts blowgun-making class

Cherokee Heritage Center Diligwa villager Danny McCarter shows a blowgun dart he made using part of a thistle plant and a shish-kabob skewer. Only the white downy part of the thistle is used on the end of the dart, much like feathers at the end of an arrow. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Heritage Center Diligwa villager Danny McCarter shows a blowgun dart he made using part of a thistle plant and a shish-kabob skewer. Only the white downy part of the thistle is used on the end of the dart, much like feathers at the end of an arrow. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
09/26/2017 08:15 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
PARK HILL, Okla. – On Sept. 16, the Cherokee Heritage Center held a blowgun-making class as part of its cultural class series.

“Our class teacher is Steve Daugherty. Steve has spent the last five or six years in the ancient village learning to make all of these Cherokee crafts. He’s quite the artist and has been teaching blowguns for several years,” CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel said.

The CHC’s website states that while people associate bows and arrows with Native Americans, which were weapons used for hunting and warfare, the Cherokee and other Southeastern woodland Indian tribes also made extensive use of blowguns. Unlike the bow and arrow, which was used for larger game, the blowgun could be used to effectively kill birds and smaller animals such as squirrels for food. It was a boy’s first weapon, and the skill and stealth required to effectively hunt with a blowgun proved essential to his later use of a bow and arrow.

Instructor and Cherokee Nation citizen Steven Daugherty said one of the key points to blowgun making is picking a good piece of river cane.

“Make sure it’s the straightest piece you can find,” he said.

He added that finding a straight piece of cane isn’t always possible, so manipulating the cane with heat and rolling it on a hard surface will help with straightening river cane. Daugherty said it’s important to let the cane age and dry for at least a couple of weeks before working with it.

“Green cane can make a bad blowgun because it can warp as it dries,” he said.

The next step is hollowing out the cane, which is complicated because river cane is a jointed plant, and the joints that connect each inside section are solid. There are several methods or ideas on how river cane was hollowed, but the modern method is to heat a rod of rebar and then push the heated metal down the cane’s chute until all joints are eliminated. Once this is completed, one can move on to making darts from wood and thistle.

CHC Diligwa villager Danny McCarter assisted with the dart-making segment of the class.

“First of all, you have to be sure you’re using a straight shaft so it’s unimpeded when traveling through the blowgun,” McCarter said. “Which is why now days, we use wooden shish-kabob skewers.”

Thistle grows wild locally and is used on the end of the dart for both propulsion and guidance. McCarter told the class that only the white downy part of the thistle is used on the end of the dart much like feathers at the end of an arrow. McCarter also said he uses a twine slightly heavier than thread to attach the thistle material to the dart.

“I’ve been doing this a long time. Steve and I can definitely show you how to make and use blow darts, which is why I hope more folks will sign up the class,” McCarter said.

CN citizen and blowgun student Sasha Bowles, who travels from Arkansas to CHC to take classes, said she attends because she enjoys learning Cherokee history and ways.

“These classes make me feel closer to my heritage,” she said.

For more information, visit or call 918-456-6007.
About the Author
Roger began working for the Cherokee Nation in 2005 and joined the Cherokee Phoenix staff in 2008. After 25 years in broadcast news and production, Roger enjoys producing videos about Cherokee culture and events. He attended the University of New Mexico for one year before achieving Federal Communications Commission operator and engineering licenses through on-the-job training. In his youth, Roger represented the United States in gymnastics and diving. • 918-207-3969
Roger began working for the Cherokee Nation in 2005 and joined the Cherokee Phoenix staff in 2008. After 25 years in broadcast news and production, Roger enjoys producing videos about Cherokee culture and events. He attended the University of New Mexico for one year before achieving Federal Communications Commission operator and engineering licenses through on-the-job training. In his youth, Roger represented the United States in gymnastics and diving.


Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/08/2018 12:00 PM
TULSA – Cherokee Nation citizens gathered at the Tulsa Drillers ONEOK Field on May 5 for Cherokee Nation Night. Cherokees enjoyed themselves in the bleachers, as well as the lawn behind the outfield. The evening started with Cherokee Nation Youth Choir singing the National Anthem before Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden threw out the first pitch. Crittenden later led the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. “I was kind of drafted,” Crittenden said. “So I have the honor and pleasure of throwing out the first pitch. We’ll see how it goes.” CN citizen and Tulsa Drillers Vice President of Public Relations Brian Carroll said the business relationship between the CN and the Drillers is a longstanding tradition. “Our staff has worked with the Cherokees for several years as a partnership on many, many events. It’s a valuable relationship for us, and on that has grown over the years, and has become better and better in that time,” he said. Various CN departments and entities such as Career Services, Cherokee Heritage Center and Government Relations also attended. Staff members manned booths in the stadium’s main corridor while Cherokee Nation Businesses employees handed out Hard Rock Hotel & Casino drink koozies to Tulsa Drillers and Arkansas Travelers fans. Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller said it’s important for the CN to take part in such events. “We’re still here, and we’re thriving. We are a fun people. We do enjoy other things outside our cultural boundaries,” she said.
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/03/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Whether as a planner, visitor, vendor, artist or administrator, Cherokees played an integral role in all facets of the 2018 Red Fern Festival held April 27- 28 in the downtown area of the Cherokee Nation capital. From the CN Courthouse Square to Northeastern State University, the streets were alive offering music, food, culture, arts and crafts, as well as a coon hunt and hound dog field trials. On April 28, CN citizen and Main Street Tahlequah President Shay Stanfill said Mother Nature played a hand in the festival’s success as Oklahoma just finished its second-coldest April as the festival started. “We’ve had beautiful weather both yesterday and today.” “There’s a strong Cherokee presence everywhere this year,” she added. “There’s Cherokee food vendors, artists and crafters, clothing retailers who are Cherokee Nation citizens all up and down main street.” Officials said the festival had 110 vendors for its 13th year and an unofficial attendance of 16,000 visitors. Among the festival events and attractions, there were Cherokee National Treasure demonstrations, bouncy houses, a chili cook off and Plein Air painting competition. Cherokee Nation citizen Callie Chunestudy served as a Plein Air official. “So Plein Air is just basically outdoor painting, and the Arts Council (of Tahlequah) has collaborated with Red Fern so we have it at the same time so painters can come into town for the festival, go all over town to different sites. So they just paint scenery from Tahlequah.” CN citizen Ashley Vann said she came to the festival for social reasons. “I knew lots of Cherokees would have booths, showing their arts and crafts, but I’ve really enjoyed just running into friends on the street.” For upcoming events or the 2019 Red Fern Festival, go to <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
05/02/2018 08:30 AM
CHOUTEAU – On Arbor Day, the Cherokee Nation hosted its seventh annual Environmental Festival at the Mid-American Expo Center with informational booths and cultural activities for three area schools. Approximately 200 students from Salina, Justus-Tiawah and Adair schools attended the April 27 event to learn more about environmental issues. Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill said in the past year the CN has focused on reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent in the next 10 years. She said the festival is a good way to get the message to kids about what they can do to help the environment. “Kids are great, and you give them a little bit of information and they really start to apply it all the time to their lives. If these kids walk away just learning a couple of things. It’s important to think about our environment when we make decisions. It’s important to recycle when we can recycle, just some of those basic messages. Once you get that in a kid it spreads to the rest of the family. Children can really start and be an agent of change in that way, so that why events like this are really important to me,” Hill said. One message conveyed was through the River Cane Initiative and how river cane is important to Cherokee culture. Roger Cain, RCI principal investigator, said river cane was an important resource for Cherokees and had many uses such as feeding cattle, making baskets, weaponry, food and housing. “We started the River Cane Initiative just to find out where river cane is on tribal land, where it’s located on tribal land. The tribe has about 55,000 acres and we’ve covered about 40,000 so far,” Cain said. He said in the coming year RCI officials hope to complete cataloging river cane locations and start going to schools to teach students about river cane conservation. “People are using it and understanding that it takes a while for river cane to grow from a small seedling to a large cane to make a blowgun, which takes about 30 to 50 years to be able to use for blowgun quality or basket quality,” Cain said. “River cane was the plastic of the Southeastern Indians. It’s the most-found object in archaeological digs. I’m proud to say our tribe is leading the nation in river cane research.” CN cultural biologist Feather Smith-Trevino gave out native Oklahoma tree seedlings while encouraging students and adults to plant them. “We’ve got the state tree of Oklahoma, which is the Eastern Red Bud. We have several fruiting trees, which are important for wildlife, and also many people like to have fruiting trees, and they tend to be more popular. Some of these trees just have cultural importance. We have the black locust tree and Osage orange, which are both popular for making bows out of. We’ve got walnut trees. A lot of these are just very important for cultural reasons, and it’s a great for getting people out there and planting native trees in their yard,” she said. Federal and local entities also shared information regarding forestry, fish and wildlife, entomology, water and environmental safety. Chouteau was the first location outside of Cherokee County to host the festival. “We thought that we needed some community outreach, and if we did it like this we could target the community a little bit better than just having something in Tahlequah. So we’re trying to make it go out into the different communities now every year,” Environmental Programs Manager Shaun West said.
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/16/2018 08:15 AM
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.
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
04/13/2018 08:00 AM
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="" target="_blank"></a> or the Sequoyah Speech/Drama/Debate Students Facebook page.
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/11/2018 08:15 AM
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="" target="_blank"></a>.