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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 13, 2002 - Issue 65


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Cherokee Nation Subject of Exhibit

by Melissa Meridth The Oklahoman
credits: David Fitzgerald Exhibit, Lorene Drywater, 2001, Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Collection: OHS, Oklahoma Museum of History

Oklahomans will see the changing images of the Cherokee Nation through time, with the opening of an exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution at the Oklahoma Museum of History.

The exhibit displays photos dating back to the Civil War, illustrating Cherokee leaders, such as U.S. Sen. Robert L. Owen and George Murrell. The David Fitzgerald exhibit was visited by more than 400,000 people at its earlier home at the Smithsonian in Washington.

The Cherokee National Children's Choir performed at the opening, singing, "Orphan Child." The choir also sang the song during a Cherokee Comfort Ceremony and Memorial Service on Friday at Webbers Falls. The song is one which children on the Trail of Tears sang to comfort each other as parents and loved ones perished during the journey.

"With the Cherokee Nation owning the bed of the Arkansas River, the ceremony was our way of paying tribute to the victims and their families of the tragedy in Webbers Falls," said Jamie Jeneva, artistic director for the children's choir. "The song, "Orphan Child," was sung to encourage one another on the Trail of Tears. The choir now sings it as a symbol of our nation's comfort to others."

Chadwick Smith, principal chief for the Cherokee Nation, began the choir to help preserve the language and music of the group.

Composed of 6th through 9th grade children selected from across the Cherokee Nation, the children's choir has performed across the country, including in New York, for a commemorative ceremony of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

All events at the museum are in the first floor auditorium of the Wiley Post Historical building. The exhibit will remain open to the public for free admission though Dec. 31, said Dan Provo, director of the historical museum.

"The photographs of Fitzgerald capture the remarkable character of the Cherokee people," Provo said. "The Cherokee people have maintained their strong nation, despite more than two centuries of incredible upheavals, absorbing European and African immigrants, the tragic removal from the Southeast to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears, the Civil War, efforts to strip them of their heritage, the industrial revolution and high tech revolution."

Photos of the 1845 home of Cherokee leader Murrell show the remains of the only pre- Civil War mansion in Oklahoma, now operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. The oldest photo of the collection was taken in 1845 of Lizzie Duncan, the daughter of John Duncan, a Cherokee minister and National Council member.

"This photo (of Duncan) and other early Cherokee photos reflect the tremendous depth of our collections in recording the history of Oklahoma," said Bob Blackburn, executive director for the historical society.

This exhibit also will include a photo, from 1855, of Sarah Caroline Bell Watie, the wife of Confederate Gen. Stand Watie.

Fitzgerald said in a 2002 news release that he found himself interested in the history of the Cherokee and created the exhibit to portray their strength.

For more information on the exhibit and the Cherokee Heritage Center visit:

The Official Site of the Cherokee Nation

Oklahoma City, OK Map
Maps by Travel

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