Cherokee Heritage Center

The Center consists of a living history Cherokee village, a museum, and small township of historical buildings. Dedicated to the perservation of Cherokee culture and history, it is one of the most widely visited Native American sites in Oklahoma.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Santa Claus and Good Friends of the Heritage Center... come to town!

T'was the day before Christmas Eve, and all through the grounds, only a few staff people were stirring, vacation time resounds.

It is quiet around here today, but I was lucky to have met a brother and sister from Austin, Texas and hear their story. They had been here before with a wonderful donation to the museum. Scott Killen introduced me to his sister Kay Killen--their mother is Florence Fields, a descendant of Richard Fields. Scott and Kay came to the Heritage Center in 2000 and presented us with early 1800’s Seth Thomas clock, handed down from father to son. The clock is now part of our permanent collection.

I listened intently as Scott went through each father's name who had handed down this clock to the succeeding generation. One could only imagine the family stories, political discussions and emotions that reverberate inside that hand painted glass face and beautiful dark wooden core. Scott and Kay donated the clock after their mother’s passing and came to see it displayed on the fireplace mantle in the permanent Trail of Tears Exhibit. Thank you Scott and Kay!

Posted by Victoria

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Basketry: Kathy Van Buskirk

The Cherokee Heritage Center's Kathy Van Buskirk is an accomplished and respected basketry artist. We took a few minutes out of her busy day to talk with her about her art:

"I began basketry in 1988 after working in the ancient village here at the Center. Ann Huckaby got me started. Ann is a master craftsman and after showing me the basics, I took it from there. I really like sitting down to make the basket and doing it with someone in mind or for someone. I don’t ever try to do two alike. Each one is individual, and it’s never about doing a basket to sell—it’s about doing it because I want to make something at that time with someone in mind to do it for, and to do it the best that I can. Through all the years it’s been a wonderful feeling knowing that these baskets have gone all over the world, to missionaries in Africa, and then through the years teaching people and seeing them start out the same but end up differently--everyone is different; they all make something different with the same amount of reed.

"I really got excited this past September when one of my students came in and said that she is now teaching the teachers in Tulsa how to make baskets. It was great knowing that I helped her get started and now it’s being carried on. People’s interest in basketry is the same as mine. You can take a piece of honeysuckle vine and make it into a work of art. Taking things that are so basic and can be woven into something like a basket is wonderful. It helps educate people about Cherokee culture. They come here and are fascinated that everything here is being done and made; they didn't realize until they came here that everything off the land can be used; stones, pots, baskets, just the things that nature provided. Once you know the reed you know what you can do with it, and that’s what led me to create turtle baskets, which many people now make. I’ve never taught it as a class, but if a person wants to know how I’ll show them how. I want people to learn what I know. I’ve made purses and done lots of different things, just trying things and doing it."

Posted by Seth

Calling all Cherokee artists!

The Cherokee Heritage Center is developing a list of Cherokee artists for inclusion on our re-vamped web site, due to be rolled out in March. If you know of a Cherokee artist who would like to be included--visual, traditional, or other genre--please send us an e-mail at We'll contact the artist, get their permission to be included on our web site, and then add their information to our database. We'll also be profiling artists on our web log.

The goal of this project is to promote the public's knowledge about and awareness of Cherokee artists and their critical role in the preservation and promotion of Cherokee culture.

Posted by Seth

Spring Genealogy Seminar


“Genealogy of Hope: How the Cherokee Family Survived”

The fourth annual Cherokee Heritage Center genealogy seminar is being held on Saturday, April 9, 2005, at the Tsa-la-gi Community Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee in Tahlequah. The seminar begins with registration from 9:15 – 9:45 a.m.

The first sessions will last from 10 a.m. to Noon with an hour break for lunch. It resumes at 1 p.m. and continues until 4 p.m. This year’s speakers include: Jack Baker, President of the National Trail of Tears Association, President of the Goingsnake Historical District Association, Board Member and treasurer of the Cherokee National Historical Society, Inc., as well as a seasoned Cherokee genealogist and author, who will be speaking on the newly translated Cherokee Moravian Missionary records which have revealed many interesting things about several Cherokee families. David Keith Hampton, another seasoned Cherokee genealogist, author of several books, and well-versed in Cherokee history, will speak on the families and descendants of those Cherokees recorded in Emmett Starr’s, “History of the Cherokee Indians.”

Another speaker slated for the seminar is Marybelle Chase of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ms. Chase has been a Cherokee genealogist for many years and is the author of several books as well as editor, researcher, writer and publisher of a quarterly specializing in Cherokee records, “The Cherokee Tracer.” She will be speaking about her long tenure with the quarterly and what records she has researched for this publication. Tom Mooney, archivist at the Cherokee Heritage Center, will discuss Cherokee research on the web in his session. There will also be a session about the State of Sequoyah Convention of 1905, what it would have meant not only for the Cherokee Nation but for every Native American Nation in what is now Oklahoma.

Pre-registration prices for the seminar if received before March 20, 2005 are $35 for non-members and $30 for members of the Cherokee National Historical Society, Inc. Prices after March 20 and at the door are $50 for non-members and $45 for members of the Cherokee National Historical Society, Inc. Seating is limited to 70. Participants are asked to bring pencil and paper to take notes. We look forward to seeing everyone there.

Posted by Gene Norris

Monday, December 20, 2004

Native American Flute Circle Performs at Center

On Friday, CHC hosted the Tahlequah Native American Flute Circle. The Flute Circle meets every 3rd Friday of each month from 7-9pm at CHC and is open to anyone interested in Native Style Flutes. This month we had twelve people share their musical talents. We were also happy to have Choogie Kingfisher come and share his traditions and songs with everyone. The Tahlequah Flute Circle is also supporting the Tsa La Gi Youth Flute Choir for local children to play and perform on Native Flutes with other children around the area.

Posted by I. Mickel Yantz

Saturday, December 18, 2004

A Becky Adair Original

Here's an ode to the staff at the Cherokee Heritage Center by Becky Adair--thanks for the wonderful sentiments, Becky, and for taking the time to write!!

So the thing I admire about you...

Tonia, is your firm ability to make your opinion heard
Roy, your always pleasant attitude even through the absurd
Gene, for your vocal talents you share with me each & every day
Zach, how you always offer to help, even when it's out of your way

Rex, for persistently helping me to smile through all the aggravation
Tom, your humor, flexibility, and 28 years of dedication
Mickel, how you adapt to your ever changing & challenging schedule
Ami, through all the pressure, you persist and manage to keep your cool

Tori, your sense of grace and the generosity you show to everyone
Chris, no matter your workload, you always seem to be having fun.
Sam, for your full-blood, independent stature with that friendly smile
Kathryn, your always agreeable attitude even when asked to go that extra mile

Mel, for your upbeat attitude and unofficial role as my motivator
Robert Lewis, for sharing your artistic talents by becoming an educator
Kathy, how you slave over a stove for the tasty food that you prepare
Wil, for handling various mailing projects & never pulling out your hair

Chrissie, for showing your patience, I truly enjoy working with you
Rhonda, for showing a level headed, character with everything you do
Rachel, for being so independent & living on your own provisions
Dave, how you accommodate groups, even under stressful conditions

Nita, you are always so pleasing, I have yet to see any bad in you
Orville, you always seem so relaxed with tasks you're asked to do.
Susan, you've proven that you adapt well to the various department positions
Perry, how you continue to show leadership through all the oppositions

"Chip", your quiet, playful attitude has managed to fit in well
Debbie, although you're soft-spoken, your generous smile has more to tell
Robert Channel, you're personality is so open, you're good company with anyone
Cora, you always stay on top of things to make sure the job gets done.

This only leaves Rick & Mary Ellen, the top dogs of our administration.
But to rhyme with 'Rick' would definitely cause my termination.
Rick, I respect your persistence but above all, your flamboyant attire.
Mary Ellen, it's your confidence with each one of us is truly what I admire.

It seems everyone has their place, and there's a place for everyone.
But I sincerely admire those left standing after all is said and done.
There's good to be said for all, it shouldn't be an obligation
So this is just my creative way to show each of you my admiration.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Spectacular Cherokee Beadwork

It is with satisfaction and great pleasure that we at the Cherokee Heritage Center get to draw attention to the vibrancy, viability, health, and strength of Native America. People like Martha Berry, of southeastern Oklahoma, create and showcase stunning Cherokee art and craft--in her case, magnificent beadwork that is culturally authentic, historically accurate, and aesthetically beyond compare.

Native America is, of course, alive and well--and we are pleased to introduce Martha and her artwork on our web log.

Posted by Seth

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Rogers County Cherokee Association Potluck Christmas Party

A great Cherokee Christmas Potluck party was hosted by the Rogers County Cherokee Association tonight at Rogers Downs in Claremore.

Great food, an inspirational talk by Chief Chad Smith, and appreciation of the people who make the Rogers County Cherokee Association a success were hallmarks of the evening.

Click here for photos!
Posted by Seth

History at the Center

On Monday the staff was treated to a history competition developed by educators Tonia Hogner and Becky Adair, and genealogist Gene Norris. Opposing teams were put together, but none could match the overwhelming superiority of Kathy and Perry van Buskirk and Tom Mooney. The final combined score of the van Buskirk/Mooney winning team was 8 gazillion to 7.

Photos of the Heritage Center staff and the history competition here.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Historic Cherokee Photographs

Tom Mooney, archivist of the Cherokee Heritage Center, has formatted the following historic photos for you to view and enjoy on our web log.

Click here for photos. All rights reserved, of course!

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Historic Letters

Cherokee Heritage Center archivist Tom Mooney has converted the following letters and documents to PDF format so that you can see them on the web. These are fascinating letters from Cherokee history! Click on the links below--

Cherokee Petition to General Scott, 1838
Eliza Jane Ross to John Ross, 1842
Ellen Whitmore letter to family about Seminary job
John Ross to Chief Rolly McIntosh, 1847
John Ross to Ellen Whitmore
Letter, Delight Boudinot to Pres. Polk, 1845
McNair Bill to Confederate Government
Monfort Stokes, Ridge-Boudinot Murders, 1839
Mrs. A.E.W. Robertson Obituary
William P. Ross to John Ross, 1841

Friends at the Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Heritage Center receives generous support from the Cherokee Nation, and we greatly appreciate their assistance and encouragement in furtherance of our mission.

Last week we stopped by the Cherokee Nation offices here in Tahlequah and took photos of some of the folks who work there. Click here to view the gallery--on returning to the Heritage Center, we also met a group from Russia, and snapped a photo of them in front of the historic columns in front of the museum.

Thanks to the Cherokee Nation for their invaluable support!

Second Set of Cherokee Casino Opening Photos

Here's the second set of photos from the Cherokee Casino grand opening of last week.

Working Together

Yesterday, the Cherokee Heritage Center met with representatives of the J.M. Davis Arms Museum, the Will Rogers Memorial, the Gilcrease Museum, the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, the Oklahoma Aquarium, and Woolaroc to discuss the development of a regional museum pass booklet that would allow visitors to go from one museum to the next without having to pay the full admission price at each museum.

This project began with the support of the Five Civilized Tribes Museum, the Three Rivers Museum, the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce, and the Muskogee Convention and Visitors Bureau.

We are hoping to have this program up and runnin by early April.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cherokee Heritage Center Quarterly Newsletter Published!

Our ever-dedicated archivist, Tom Mooney, has just completed the December 2004 edition of the Cherokee Heritage Center's quarterly newsletter, which you can now view by clicking here.

There's one typo worth noting, however: Tom has announced the winners of the 2005 Homecoming Art Show, an impressive bit of prognostication or proof of an outright rigged contest!

Thanks for all the hard work, Tom!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Grand Opening a Smash

The Cherokee Heritage Center was privileged to attend the Grand Opening of the Cherokee Casino in Catoosa yesterday. This is simply a magnificent facility, and judging from the crowds of people packed into the place, it will be one of the biggest engines of economy and entertainment in this region. One guest, in praising the quality of the rooms, said that he preferred the Cherokee to Las Vegas.

We were treated to a wonderful lunch and dinner, and in between got to attend a seminar on Cherokee history, taught by Principal Chief Chad Smith. The seminar concluded with a powerful video that talked about the important things at stake as the Cherokee Nation plans for the near and long-term. A day when Cherokee people will broadcast their news and events in the native Cherokee tongue? Not a dream, according to Chief Smith, but a cultural, economic, and social imperative.

Click here for our first photo gallery. Other photos to be posted later.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Visitor of the Day

Shari Smith and her family came from Tacoma, Washington to avail themselves of the genealogical resources headed up by the Center's expert genealogist, Gene Norris. Gene helped the Smiths in their search to gather more information about their great-grandmother.

Thanks Shari and family for making the trip!

Click here for photos.

Gourd Carving Class a Success at Cherokee Heritage Center

Tonia Hogner, the Center's educational director, put on another successful event featuring David Scott, Cherokee carver and one of the people who carries on the tribe's culture and history as a fluent speaker of Cherokee.

Click here for photos of the event.

Photos of the Cherokee Heritage Center

This is a series of recent photos taken of Adams Corner, our historic pioneer village, and of our ancient Cherokee village. When the Cherokees were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, they built homes and communities just like other frontier towns--this is represented in Adams Corner.

The ancient village shows what Cherokee life was like before European contact.

Click here for Adams Corner
Click here for the Ancient Village

Cherokee Heritage Center Showcased to Millions

The Cherokee Heritage Center was visited this past weekend by Mr. Louay Kraish, the Dallas-based producer for Saudi television. He visited the center and toured the ancient village, where he was able to interview Robert and also shoot footage of Rachel, our star ancient village tour leaders. The show will be broadcast early next year and televised to over 20 million viewers.

Mr. Kraish's goal was to show Saudi viewers that contrary to stereotypes, American Indians are a diverse group, are thriving and culturally intact, and that there is great diversity among tribes.

Click here for photos.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Cherokee Christmas

The Cherokee Heritage Center participated in the hugely successful Christmas parade put on by Tahlequah Main Street and the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce. Lots of fun, lots of happy people in the Christmas spirit, and a great kickoff to the holiday season!

Photos of the event posted here.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Keeping Us Safe

Ever wonder who makes sure the Cherokee Heritage Center is safe and sound after everyone's gone home and the lights are out?

It's Greg Blish, our security director. With over 20 years in law enforcement, Greg stays on top of all the comings and goings here at the Center. He does a fantastic job of making sure everything's safe and in good hands.

Thanks, Greg!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Cherokee Artist Visits Heritage Center

Sculptor Harry Oosahwee visited the museum today and took a tour of the art exhibit. Harry's work is displayed in the exhibit, a beautiful stone sculpture featuring the "three sisters" of Cherokee agriculture, beans, squash, and corn. The sculpture is adorned with faces that grace the top of the stone. Harry found the stone along a streambed and brought it home to be turned into a wonderful work of art.

The Cherokee culture is rich in what is considered today arts and crafts. But for the Cherokee people of old, these arts were a way of life. Where baskets and pottery now adorn our homes as decorations, these items were originally made out of necessity.

“There aren’t many stone carvers in this part of the country,” said Oosahwee. “I think it is important for people to come and see this part of our culture.”

For Oosahwee, carving was something he wanted to try since his youth when his mother introduced him to the art.

“Years ago, when I was a small child, my mother used to make animals out of clay. I think that’s where my interest really started,” said Oosahwee. “Every time we would go past a clay bank she would show us how she used to make her own toys when she was little. It was interesting.”

But Oosahwee instead occupied his creative outlets with painting and pottery. It wasn’t until he went to work at Talking Leaves Job Corps that he rekindled his interest in carving.

“I worked with a man who did a lot of stone carving,” said Oosahwee. “ I always commented on how I would like to try it, so one day he threw me a stone and said ‘Stop talking and start carving.’ I finished my first piece the next day and I have been doing it ever since.”

As an educator for 22 years, first in the public school systems and then at Talking Leaves, Oosahwee believes that educating people about their culture is important.

“I think, for me, [stone carving] is one way of preserving the Cherokee culture and teaching that culture by giving it a physical appearance,” said Oosahwee. “People can look at an image and see that we have a real rich culture.”

Though Oosahwee has created many pieces out of alabaster and soapstone he uses the native sandstone the most to make traditional pieces.

“I look at my Cherokee culture and Cherokee background for my subject,” said Oosahwee. “I do a lot of Booger Masks, but I also do some buffalo and eagles. People seem to be interested in buffalo and eagle art.”

Much like the Cherokee culture, Oosahwee’s carvings are more complex than they appear.

“I use a lot of symbolism in my work,” said Oosahwee. “A lot of times there isn’t only one major feature in my art. If you look around the stone you will see many different things.”

For Oosahwee, carving is one way to preserve his culture. But he also attempts to create a greater awareness of Cherokee people.

“I hope people will become more in tune with their history and where they come from,” said Oosahwee. “I want others to understand Cherokee people, why we are the way we are.”

For more information on Cherokee art, call the Cherokee Heritage Center at (918) 456-6007 or toll free, (888) 999-6007, or visit the website at

Click here to view Harrys sculptures

Culture and Coffee

The Cherokee Heritage Center offers more than history and hands-on activities. Just around the corner you can also get a fantastic cup of coffee in a building that was designed on the principle of "it doesn't have to be ugly!"

The Tahlequah Drug Company, located on US 62, has a lovely brick exterior, beautiful historic photographs and antiques inside, a full-service, old-fashioned soda fountain, and great coffee. Nothing adds to your experience like satisfying those early morning/late afternoon/early evening coffe cravings!

Click here for photos of this wonderful and unique "Main Street" spot.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Cherokee Business and Art

Lori Smiley has a wonderful art gallery and frame shop in downtown Tahlequah. Entrepreneur, Cherokee, art lover, and a great example of a person who brings culture and appreciation for the fine arts to the community, Lori's presence on the town's main street adds to the great atmosphere of the community.

Check here to view a photo gallery of NDN Art Gallery and Frame, and when you're in Tahlequah be sure to stop by at 415 Muskogee and say "hello."

The Cherokee Heritage Center appreciates Lori's contribution to modern Cherokee "history in the making."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Welcome to the Center

The Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma is dedicated to preservation of Cherokee history and culture. Today is my second day on the job--it's been great. We've got lots planned for 2005. Seth

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