Cherokee Heritage Center exhibit celebrates Cherokee language
Video: Cherokee Heritage Center exhibit celebrates Cherokee language
By Will Chavez
PARK HILL, Okla. Cherokee artists who contributed artwork to the
Generations: Cherokee Language through Art exhibit met each other and the
public June 6 at the Cherokee Heritage Center.
For the exhibit, artists were asked to create a visual narrative of the
Cherokee language using a different character from the Cherokee syllabary.
The 93 artists who volunteered their time are from the Cherokee Nation,
United Keetoowah Band and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and range in
age from 3 to 91.
We have a very eclectic group of people, which is exactly what we wanted,
said CHC Museum Curator Mickel Yantz. He said artists used ink, paint,
quilts, a television set, baskets, wood and ceramics to create 85 original
pieces of work. Just about every single medium you can think of we have on
Harry Oosahwee of Tahlequah is a fluent Cherokee speaker and has been
working with the CNs language program for five years. He created art for
the we sound in the syllabary using acrylic paint.
With the situation our language is in today, whatever we do to teach the
language is important, and this is one of the ways we could do that, he
Oosahwee said he was pleased the museum gathered Cherokee people to create
the exhibits art, which will be on display through Aug. 16.
Yantz said the exhibit is meant to help with the tribes effort to
revitalize the language and to support the arts.
I thought it would be a great opportunity to put the two together and have
a project that families could work on together, he said.
Teri Rhoades of the Pettit Community assisted Yantz with the exhibit and
traveled the area finding friends, family and acquaintances to create art
for the exhibit and a companion book and DVD, which are for sale at the CHC
gift shop. She also recruited students from the CN immersion school, Head
Start program and Sequoyah Schools.
Rhoades said some people initially didnt want to participate because they
didnt consider themselves artists. She said she told them its not about
the art; its about what the syllabary means to you.
She said she encouraged no one to choose a particular medium, only giving
them the dimensions and the encouragement to use a medium they enjoyed
The making of the book and DVD gets our language out there. Its bright
colored. Its fun to look at, and the words and sounds on the DVD are quick
and flow by very nice, which is what kids these days are used to, Rhodes
said. It makes our language accessible and keeps it a living thing. Were
going to lose our language if we dont bring it to a broader audience.
Rhiannon Jackson of Tahlequah created a small throw pillow with the wa
sound in the syllabary sewed on it. She said she picked up a lot of art
skills from when she was worked at the CHCs Ancient Village and wanted to
use those skills in the exhibit to help save the language.
It keeps our culture going. It keeps our language going. Its awesome,
The artists works are on display on the museums walls, and in the center
of the exhibit area, a slideshow displays each character on a large screen
with accompanying audio of a Cherokee man, woman and child pronouncing each
Today, the CN uses 84 of the 86 characters developed by Sequoyah in the
Yantz said he believes the exhibit can serve another purpose by helping
museum visitors understand how different the language is from other
languages and how important the language is to Cherokee people.