Archive for the ‘ Cherokee ’ Category

The Beginning of a Fine Pot of Chili

Getting ready to chop some bhut jolokia peppers

This is the start of a pot of chili I am making for my office chili cook-off. I am going in with a traditional “bowl of red,” the original beanless chili, with peppers and meat. I am using ghost peppers and a handful of habaneros that I grew in the garden, along with some poblanos and anaheims. I will be using a mixture of lean beef and bison. It’s making me hungry just writing about this. I am calling the chili anitsasgili ugama, Cherokee for ghost soup. Seems appropriate. Let that be a warning to the cook-off judges…

Big Name Endorsement for Chief Smith

On the eve of the Minnesota Swarm’s second home game of the season (vs. the Edmonton Rush at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Xcel Center), my tribal paper’s weekly email newsletter included the following cultural tidbit:

Traditional Religious Beliefs of the Cherokee

A-ne-jo-di, or Stickball, is a very rough game played by not only the Cherokee, but many other Southeastern Woodland tribes including the Muscogee (Creek), Seminole, and others.

The game resembles the modern European game of LaCrosse, using ball sticks which are handmade from hickory. A small ball, made of deer hair and hide, is tossed into the air by the medicine man. The male players use a pair of the sticks, and female players use the bare hands. In earlier times, only the men with the greatest athletic ability played the game. The game was oftentimes played to settle disputes, and the conjurer for each team often became as important to the team as the players themselves.

Seven points are scored when the ball strikes a wooden fish on the top of a pole approximately 25 feet in height, and two points are awarded when the ball strikes the pole.

In earlier days, there would be a dance before the ballgame. The ballplayers were the participants of the dance, along with seven women dancers. Each woman represented one of the clans. Throughout the dance, the women would step on black beads which represented the players of the opposing team. The conjurer had placed these black beads on a large flat rock. Today, stickball is an important part of the days activities at ceremonial Stomp Grounds, being necessary to play before the Stomp Dance can ever begin. It is also a recreational sport at other times between community teams. There are also intertribal teams made up of players from Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Yuchi, Natchez, and other area communities.

It’s always good to know your history and the origins of the pastimes you enjoy. Look for us at the Swarm game — we’ll be in our usual seats on the glass next to the home penalty box. Click here for tickets. Tell ’em Art sent you.

The video above was shot during my trip with Jesse to the Cherokee National Holiday last fall. I told Jesse I would play in the men’s game this year. We’ll see. Now that I’m an elder, I might have an excuse…

Score One for the Good Guys

A sacred Cherokee site — Kituwah, the Mother Town of the Cherokee — was threatened by construction of a power station in North Carolina. Kituwah is called the Mother Town because it is where we began as a people, where the Creator gave us the rules we were to live by and where we were given the gift of fire. After months of protests and discussions between Duke Power and the Eastern Band of Cherokees, the power company has decided to build the power station elsewhere. From my tribal paper, the great Cherokee Phoenix:

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Duke Energy announced Nov. 2 the electricity tie station that was the center of controversy earlier this year will be constructed inside the Swain County, N.C., Industrial Park.

After months of meetings and negotiations involving Duke representatives, citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Swain County Commissioners regarding the tie station, Duke Energy announced in August it would seek another site for the station.

It was to be built near Hyatt Creek and the Kituwah mound site that is sacred to the Cherokee people.

In a statement, Duke Energy acknowledged it was through “collaborative discussions” with the EBCI and county leaders that Duke planned to move the tie station to a location out of direct view of Kituwah, a sacred gathering place for Cherokee people that is adjacent to the Tuckaseegee River, near Bryson City, N.C.

Our Trip to Oklahoma


Jesse at Cherokee Nation offices in Tahlequah. We were on our way to lunch at Restaurant of the Cherokees next door.

Jesse and I made a whirlwind trip to Tahlequah, OK., for the Cherokee National Holiday this weekend. Just drove back in to the Twin Cities this morning and thought I’d post some pictures before I take my nap. I’m also uploading some low-res videos from the stickball game at Sequoyah High School on Saturday night, which was a lot of fun.  I’ll add the link here when they finish uploading.

Below is a photo of Principal Chief Chad Smith speaking at the 10th anniversary of the Cherokee Free Press Act in front of the historic Cherokee Supreme Court building on Saturday afternoon. We had a chance to visit with friends from the Cherokee Phoenix (the oldest native newspaper in North America and the oldest bilingual paper as well) and to tour the Supreme Court building.

On Sunday, we went out to the arts festival at the Cherokee Heritage Center and toured the old Cherokee Village, which is looking pretty worn around the edges. I hope Jesse had fun seeing the sights in Oklahoma (I know she enjoyed the frybread — she ate four pieces at each meal.)

Chad Smith

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith speaks at anniversary of the Cherokee Free Press Act.

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Rest in Peace, Wilma

Wilma and I got a chance to visit on her trip to Minneapolis a few years ago.

Wilma Mankiller, the first elected woman chief of my nation, walked on this morning. All of us who were inspired by her beautiful strength, her profound love for the Cherokee nation and its citizens, her passion and determination to make life better for all Indian people will miss her terribly. When I look at my daughters confidently walking the path to adulthood, sure of who they are as young native women, I thank Wilma for her example and her inspiration. A lot of people talk about the concept of “servant leadership.” Wilma lived that life.

Here is what President Obama had to say about Wilma’s passing:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wilma Mankiller today. As the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief, she transformed the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the Federal Government, and served as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was recognized for her vision and commitment to a brighter future for all Americans. Her legacy will continue to encourage and motivate all who carry on her work. Michelle and I offer our condolences to Wilma’s family, especially her husband Charlie and two daughters, Gina and Felicia, as well as the Cherokee Nation and all those who knew her and were touched by her good works.

And here is a statement from our current chief, Chad Smith:

Our personal and national hearts are heavy with sorrow and sadness with the passing this morning of Wilma Mankiller. We feel overwhelmed and lost when we realize she has left us, but we should reflect on what legacy she leaves us. We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness.

Click here for a tribute from the Cherokee Nation.

Below is a video by my friend Paul DeMain, interviewing another good friend, Mark Trahant, about his memories of Wilma. The pictorial essay at the end of the video, featuring music from the Cherokee Nation Choir, left me with a lump in my throat. Nice work, Paul, Kim and all the rest at News From Indian Country.

Finally, I wanted to leave you with Wilma’s view of her legacy. Her words were spot on, as always.

I want to be remembered as the person who helped us restore faith in ourselves.

wado atsilvsgi ale donadagohvi. tohiyi.

H1N1 Vaccination Advice for Natives

There have been a lot of kooky misinformation and wild conspiracy theories going around in the American Indian community about H1N1 and the public health response. This is not a manufactured health crisis created by the feds to control Indian people. C’mon, folks, let’s take off the tin-foil hats. There are plenty of reasons to distrust the federal government, lord knows. But this isn’t one of them. Don’t gamble with your life or the lives of your loved ones. As Wes Studi says in the videos above: Get your shot. Wash your hands. And if you get sick, take medicine – and protect the circle of life.


Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control released a report that detailed what everybody already knew. In the dozen states studied, Native people made up 9 percent of the deaths from H1N1, even though they only constitute 3.3 percent of the population.

Now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has releaesed a video, urging Native people to get vaccinated against H1N1.

Wes Studi, the Cherokee actor from “Avatar,” “The Only Good Indian,” and “Dances With Wolves,” urges people to “take three” to protect themselves.

Get your shot. Wash your hands. And if you get sick, take medicine – and protect the circle of life.

Tell it, Wes. We must protect our health.

Laurie’s Basket


OK, I’ve made you wait long enough. Here is Laurie’s basket. I really like the shape of this one: wide at the top and tapered to the bottom. The picture makes it look shorter than it actually is, but you get the idea.

My Basket

Ain't it pretty?

Ain't it pretty?

Here is a Cherokee double-wall basket I made this evening for our American Indian Education program at school. My friend, Clarine Packineau, one of the women who runs the program, bought the reeds a while back and asked me to make a basket from them so we could sell it the next time we do a fund-raiser. I really like the colors Clarine picked out and think they work well together in this basket.  They’re also thinner than the reeds I usually use (I’d guess they’re a #1 or #2 reed). I had just enough reed to make this basket (a stray weaver or two of each color left), so I guess it’s true what they say: every basket finds its shape and size as you make it.

Laurie is also making a basket using the bigger #4 reed. It’ll be white, since we didn’t have any in the black walnut dye when we decided to make baskets today.

Remember, you can find directions for making these baskets on our web site. Part of the deal when my cousin, Eric, taught us to make these was that we would pass the knowledge along.