Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Gaby Nagel is a 15-year-old Native American flutist who has only been playing for five years, yet her talent has led her to play at events and competitions. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Nagel showcases Native American flute talent
Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians citizen Gaby Nagel holds three flutes she uses when performing. Each flute is in a different tune and is used for specific songs and styles of music she plays. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
FAYETTVILLE, Ark. – When 15-year-old Gaby Nagel isn’t listening to music she is playing it, particularly on the Native American flute. Her enjoyment and talent with the instrument has led her to playing numerous events and partaking in flute competitions.
Nagel, an Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian citizen, has been playing the flute for five years. She was introduced to it while walking Fayetteville Square and coming across a man playing one. Listening to him play, she said she became mesmerized. Her mother bought her a flute and she began taking lessons from the same man, Jerry Doubting.
She said the flute just came “natural” to her.
“A lot of the tricks it took him years to learn, all came natural to me. He would be sitting there and telling me about a technique, and he would say ‘it’s OK, don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it on the first try.’ Well, I would get it on the first try,” she said.
Nagel has competed in eight flute competitions of all sizes. However, she said the biggest competition she’s won was the Musical Echo’s in Florida. “I was the first female and youngest competitor to ever win. I got a blue ribbon from them and a check. It was really cool.”
In addition to competitions, she’s played at festivals and events such as Indigenous Peoples Day in Fayetteville and the annual Trail of Tears Association Conference this past October in Pocola, Oklahoma. She’s also been invited to play for senior citizens and children at schools to interact with them and share Native culture.
She said her most memorable performance was getting playing for a young girl who was battling cancer. “I played for a girl who had cancer in Chattanooga (Tennessee). She was a friend of a flute maker of mine, and we raised money for her to receive treatment. It was such an honor, especially because they invited me.”
To be able to travel different places, she said she is thankful for having supportive family and friends, especially her mother. “My mom is my number one. She has driven me around so many miles I can’t even count. She is my number one, and she has always got my back.”
Nagel said she is proud to be Cherokee and shares her heritage through the flute. She said her plans for 2018 are to travel more playing the flute and visit more elderly and hospice patients. She said she’s also been learning to play the piano and guitar.
“Playing the flute, I feel like I am honoring my ancestors and what they had to go through so we don’t get hated on for being Native American as much anymore,” she said.
YUKON – Though it’s taken several years for Cherokee metal artist Tommy Roe Mitchell to find his stride, his distinctive style is now giving him the opportunity to pursue his passion while stepping out from his father’s shadow.
He grew up close to the art business, as his father Ron is a well-known Cherokee artist who began his career in the 1970s. While both have experience in metal art, Tommy said he’s now setting his work apart with painting and grinding techniques.
“Dad was doing metal artwork, but he wasn’t doing it to the extent that I am now, not with the color,” Tommy said. “He would actually cut the piece out, grind the edges and heat-treat it, but he wasn’t putting the grinding marks in it like I have. Dad never even thought about using the grinder the way I was doing, so already this was out of his league.”
Tommy said he usually draws inspiration from things he sees on television and YouTube. Once he completes a design on sketchpad, he transfers it onto poster board and then onto 14- to 18-gauge sheet metal with a magic marker.
The design is then cut with a plasma cutter before he uses a grinder to smooth jagged edges and polish out imperfections. Once satisfied, he grinds grooves into the metal to give the illusion of feathers and depth.
“I want a nice, smooth, flat surface to start creating, and that’s when I start with the grinding effects,” he said. “I want a three-dimensional look. People have come up to it and actually felt behind it because it looks thicker than it really is. It’s just the way the grinding is.”
Once the overall look comes together, Tommy heat-treats the piece or moves it to his paint booth before sealing it with an automotive clear coat for a smooth finish.
While expanding his range to include hummingbirds and cardinals, his roots lie in mythical symbolism, including his piece “Dance of the Phoenix.”
“Metal artists, they like doing the eagle feathers. I wanted to do something similar, but I don’t want to copy anybody’s work. We thought, ‘Phoenix, why not?’ Who knows what a Phoenix feather looks like? It’s a mythical bird so this is my interpretation of what the flaming feathers look like. It’s the bird that rose from the fire, kind of like me.”
In addition to creating versions of the phoenix, Tommy creates his interpretation of what individual feathers might look like on the creature. The feathers are called “Phoenix Spirit Feathers.”
He has also taken inspiration from Cherokee myths and legends, including that of the Raven Mocker, a feared witch that preys on the sick and frail.
“I was wanting something a little scary, and I started looking into the Cherokee myths, and we came up with something rather scary, which was the Raven Mocker,” he said. “That one is just a little more dramatic, a little more scary.”
Strangely enough, the blooming of Tommy’s metalwork came after being diagnosed with acute anxiety disorder. “When I was diagnosed with acute anxiety disorder, I did not want to rely on the medication. They gave me that to begin with, and I couldn’t take it. I struggled with that so we talked to a therapist, and he suggested art is a relaxing way of dealing with stress. So I thought, ‘OK, I can do this. This is something right up my alley.’”
Tommy said this is the first time his artwork has been something he “truly enjoys” and is “eager” for the public to see more. “I think they’re really nice-looking, and I feel really comfortable doing it. The greatest compliment on this artwork is when I take it to an art show and someone loves it so much that they’re willing to pay for it and take it home and hang it up on their walls. That’s the compliment that I like.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.dragonfiremetalart.net" target="_blank">www.dragonfiremetalart.net</a> or search “DragonFire Metal Art” on Facebook.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A love for the outdoors prompted Cherokee Nation citizen Gaylon Cornsilk and his brother-in-law Travis Smith to create Woodsman Trading Co., an outdoor lifestyle store.
The two opened on Nov. 26 to share their love for nature.
“We’re kind of an old-fashioned store. We really try to emphasize quality goods,” Cornsilk said. “If we don’t believe in it, we don’t sell it. If I sell something here, I’ve used it, tried it. I know it inside and out.”
Cornsilk’s love for the outdoors began at a young age when he and his father spent three months camping in Alaska and Canada. “I think it kind of put something in my heart that I never forgot.”
Located at The Village, Cornsilk said it’s a kind of store not “typically” seen in the area.
“You feel like you’re either in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or you feel like you’re in Colorado. I think that’s the kind of vibe you can get in here. It’s almost like urban meets woodsman,” he said. “We sell trendy cloths for men and women, but they’re also functional and practical. You can take it out on the trail during the day, out in town during night.”
Aside from clothing, the store offers mugs, caps, blankets, knifes and instructional children’s books about camping and other outdoor activities.
“I’m finding more and more people, as they’re starting to plug in with the outdoors they’re getting their children involved,” he said. “We have books to help children learn how to camp for the first time, how to cook on a open fire, setting up a tent, things that help them understand that being outdoors is enjoyable.”
Cornsilk said promoting other small businesses is important, so a lot of products offered do that.
“We carry a hat line by an artist named Abby Paffrath. She’s out of Jackson, Wyoming. She’s a painter, and what she’ll do is she’ll do a painting and then eventually they’ll put that print on their clothing lines,” he said. “We just try to work with handcrafted stuff, a lot of USA products, and I love working with other small businesses.”
Cornsilk said building relationships with customers is driving business factor, as well as ensuring customers buy the right products to fit their needs.
“If a customer says, ‘hey, I want a camping knife.’ I want to know what are you going to use that knife for? I don’t want to just sell them a product, I want to help him meet his needs,” he said.
Cornsilk said he’s “proud” of his Cherokee heritage and the respect for nature it gave him.
“I grew up with my dad’s side of the family a lot, so I’ve been around Native American communities my whole life. I’m extremely proud, it means a lot to me,” he said. “I think even with the Native American background, respect for nature, creation, there’s a lot of things that’s always kind of stuck with me.”
Cornsilk said the store also gives him a chance to promote being able to “unplug” and connect with nature.
“I think being outdoors is healing for your heart, for your soul, for your body. I want to see more people spend time outdoors if they can,” he said. “We live in such a fast-paced society, we’re always on our smartphones, and I’m guilty of it. Sometimes I think we just need to take a pause, unplug maybe connect with the outdoors.”
Woodsman Trading Co. is at 9705 N. May Ave. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information, “like” Woodsman Trading Co. on Facebook, “follow” it on Instagram or visit <a href="http://www.woodsmantrading.com" target="_blank">woodsmantrading.com</a>.
SALLISAW – The former horseracing track Blue Ribbon Downs has continued to serve racehorse trainers from all over, including Cherokee Nation citizen Andy Gladd.
Gladd said because the majority of people who “run” horses in the community are Cherokee, it’s good to see the CN keep BRD open for training purposes.
Purchased from the Choctaw Nation for $2.5 million in December 2009, Cherokee Nation Entertainment opened the nearly 100-acre property as a racehorse-training center in late 2010.
It’s equipped with barns, stalls and a seven-eighths-of-a mile track, which can be rented for training. It has 354 stalls and currently has approximately 180 horses training there.
Gladd has owned his racehorse training business called Gladd Racing for nearly 12 years, but has used BRD for the past three years. He said at BRD he is able to rent stalls and use the track to run his horses for a better price than if he built a training facility.
“The stall rent is so much cheaper than we could build a facility. People that have small stables can come here, and Gary Dale Brooks (BRD stall superintendent) helps people to gates, get horses schooled and gets them ready to run,” Gladd said. “This place has really been great for to come to. The people here on the ground are really good to us. Anytime we have any type of problems they’re there at our barn to fix it.”
Brooks, a CN citizen, said more than half of the people who bring horses to train at BRD are Cherokee, but people from out of state use the facility, too. “We have a bunch of local trainers from Sequoyah County, and we have a bunch that came from Iowa. We even have some trainers that moved in and brought 30 head of horses from Canada.”
Since the training center is in an area home to a lot of trainers, Brooks said BRD serves a great purpose.
“Every Wednesdays here we have time works, and it just saves lot of time and money on everybody especially the local people,” he said. “If they couldn’t do that they would have to go to another race track, and the closet one is Claremore and it’s an hour and 20 minutes from here. Then you have to realize you got to get a rider up there, and sometimes you can’t get a rider and your whole day is wasted, and you got to come back home and go back and do it again.”
Gladd said he’s been training 30 horses at BRD and will be taking 28 horses to the CNE’s Will Rogers Downs in Claremore to compete in this year’s racing season beginning in March.
MUSKOGEE – On Jan. 31, Cherokee Nation leaders took an informal tour of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center.
MLK Community Center Director and Muskogee City Councilor Derrick Reed led Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Johnson-O’Malley Program Director Mark Vance and Cherokee National Treasure Tommy Wildcat on the tour.
“After Cherokee Nation’s sponsorship on Martin Luther King day, we thought we should get to know each other better,” said Reed. “We feel honored to have them back in the building today. Here at the center, we’re always excited about partnerships. That’s what Dr. Martin Luther King stood for is that we all could come together as brothers and sisters, and I feel like that’s the kind of relationship we’re forming at this time.”
Twelve-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Mayara Sage King has been coming to the MLK center for three years.
“It helps me in ways like when I struggle with math.” said King, “It (the program) gives me the opportunity to get better at it. The teachers who tutor us here, they have a lot of patience. They’re here to help you with your homework but more than that, they’re here to help you.”
Hoskin introduced Cherokee National Treasure and flutist Tommy Wildcat to the dozens of children at the center.
“It’s good to get out of the office and into the communities to see what works and what the challenges are in education. I met a diverse group of teachers and students today and there were Cherokees among both,” said Hoskin. “The program at Muskogee’s MLK Center shows us a model for bridging critical gaps in education, like after school and the summer months. We can use what we learn through community partnerships like this to develop better education strategies for Cherokee Nation.”
TAHLEQUAH – Making meal alterations such as using less salt or taking it out completely can lead to a healthier life for most people. Even making simple changes to old favorites such as mashed potatoes can lead people down a healthier path.
Mark Keeley, a clinical dietitian and 34-year Cherokee Nation employee, said while working with Native Americans he’s stressed that salt doesn’t need to be added to food and could adversely affect a person’s health.
“Salt will retain fluid on your body…that fluid is going to take up lung space. So now you’re trying to breathe around lungs that are trying to fill up,” he said. “If your heart’s not able to pump as well as it used to then the slower your blood stream moves the more some of that salty water will leak off into your ankles and legs, and so now you’re carrying weight around and it kind of waterlogs your system.”
Keeley said he’s had people tell him that they salt their food even before tasting it.
“People have told me, ‘Here’s what I used to do. I use to salt food before I even tasted it and salt it heavy and then taste it.’ Then they say, ‘I don’t do salt anymore.’ I come across a lot more people that tell me that. Those folks are becoming more common, but there’s room for work,” he said.
For people who monitor their blood sugar levels, Keeley said he recommends mashed cauliflower potatoes.
“As a dietitian that’s been working around diabetes for a long time, people want food to taste good, but they don’t want it to blow their blood sugar out of the water, so the cauliflower is basically a…non-starchy, low-carbohydrate vegetable,” he said.
By combining the cauliflower and potatoes, Keeley said a healthier version of mashed potatoes is created. “It actually has…a slightly different flavor. So cooking them up together and mashing them together, a little butter in there for seasoning and…it’s still satisfying, still has potatoes in it, but it doesn’t have the effect after the meal that you don’t like seeing.”
Keeley said the dish typically takes 30 minutes to make, which includes preparation and cook time, and consists of a head of cauliflower, two potatoes and a small portion of salted butter. The butter acts as the dish’s only form of salt.
“It’s not a high time investment meal,” he said. “You do need enough water to pretty near cover the vegetables. It’ll get them soft quicker, ready for the mashing. You could drain it completely or just leave a small amount of water in the bottom. The butter was salted butter. It was the salt (for the recipe) in this case. There was no other salt in it.”
When changing a recipe such as adding cauliflower and removing a bulk of the potatoes, Keeley said the first step is to “decide” if this is something that people want to pursue for a healthier lifestyle.
“The tricks of the trade is one thing, but the first step is to decide. To make the decision, ‘I’m going to do what it takes to get better and stay better,’” he said. “Once people are determined they’ll figure it out. They’ll come up with their own ways to do it.”
Keeley suggests another way to get on a healthier eating track is portion control. “One thing we can always do is we can down portion anything. So if something is pretty stout, pretty sweet, pretty salty, you can eat less of it.”
For more information on meal alterations, visit <a href="http://cherokeepublichealth.org/about-cherokee-nation-public-health/" target="_blank">http://cherokeepublichealth.org/about-cherokee-nation-public-health/</a>
<strong>Recipe for turkey stew or minestrone soup</strong>
2 pounds of ground dark turkey meat
3 cloves of crushed and minced garlic
2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 large chopped onion
1 small head of chopped cabbage
2 14-ounce cans dies tomatoes
1 14-ounce can of kidney beans
1 14-ounce can of great northern beans
1 32-35 ounce container of chicken broth
1. Brown meat in a heavy pot on high heat, stirring constantly
2. Add garlic, Italian seasoning, carrots and onions. Stir until vegetables start to soften
3. Add tomatoes, beans and broth
4. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer for 10-15 minutes
Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Mark Keeley suggests when adding the canned products it’s best to drain them to reduce the amount of salt in the meal.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Jan. 9 meeting, the Election Commission Administrator Marcus Fears said as of Jan. 2 there were 69,240 registered voters in the Cherokee Nation.