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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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 Where baskets and pottery now adorn our homes as decorations, these items were originally made out of necessity.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 www.CherokeeHeritage.com.

Click here to view Harrys sculptures

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