- By Chuck Hoskin Jr
Guest Opinion. The Cherokee Nation’s 7,000 square-mile reservation is a special place, full of vibrant culture and fascinating history. Through public art, we honor and enhance our culture and history. Public art ensures that all people on our reservation, whether they live here or are just visiting, can find beauty and curiosity about the Cherokee people’s rich heritage.
Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses have sponsored many works of public art across our reservation. Most recently we dedicated a new mural in downtown Claremore, in partnership with the City of Claremore and the Claremore Main Street Program. The partnership was sparked by the efforts of the local Cherokee Council member, Keith Austin.
Located on the outside wall of Main Street Tavern, the large mural profiles distinguished Cherokee Nation citizens from Claremore and Rogers County, including Cherokee Nation Chief J.B. Milam, U.S. Navy Admiral Jocko Clark, poet Maggie Culver Fry, distance runner Andy Payne, playwright Lynn Riggs and rodeo advocate and political leader Clem McSpadden.
We’re pleased to celebrate our shared history and educate the public about the influential Cherokees who have called Claremore and Rogers County home. Each of these Cherokees made an undeniable mark on the world. Storytelling is the foundation of Cherokee art, and this mural is the perfect example of how those skills are intertwined. As Councilman Austin said at the recent dedication ceremony “our hope is that the mural inspires the community to learn more about them so their legacies can continue to thrive for generations to come.”
The mural features the work of contemporary Cherokee Nation artist Sherri Pack. She sadly passed away last year, but we were able to digitize her mural concept and replicate it in Claremore. Much like the Cherokees honored in the mural, Sherri Pack’s talents and hard work continue to inspire us and add beauty to our lives.
In our capital city of Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation is also celebrating the first outdoor art installation within the downtown cultural pathway. Cherokee National Treasure Traci Rabbit is the inaugural artist to be featured within the cultural pathway, and we have several large-scale reproductions of her work on temporary display.
The cultural pathway opened last year as a way to enhance walkability between cultural sites, while hosting both permanent and temporary Cherokee art exhibits. Additional art will be added to the pathway over time, and we will officially dedicate the space later this summer.
Vinita is home to another Cherokee Nation public art project at the Anna Mitchell Cultural and Welcome Center, named after the Cherokee National Treasure renowned for revitalizing traditional Cherokee pottery. The project was the vision of our First Lady, January Hoskin, who has encouraged us not only to increase our investment in public art, but to make it accessible to all part is our reservation.
The Anna Mitchell Cultural Center’s primary structure, with its high walls and designs, resembles stamped pottery vessels created by the Cherokee people since time immemorial. Cherokee National Treasures Bill Glass and Demos Glass have built multiple large-scale art pieces for the site, including a sculpture of seven arrows reflecting the seven clans of the Cherokee Nation and the seven sacred directions. Cherokee Nation artist Tama Roberts built several of the art elements located inside the center.
Art represents life in many ways, and these public art offerings prove just how committed Cherokee Nation is to the communities and people within our reservation boundaries. Works of public art, sculptures and installations in open spaces are a strong component of all Cherokee Nation spaces and properties. By Cherokee Nation law, we dedicate a percentage of the cost for all major new construction projects to purchasing and displaying Cherokee art. No matter where you are in the Cherokee Nation, you will be surrounded by reminders of our interconnected lives, culture and history as Cherokee people.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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