Maggie Sourjohn cuts rawhide for a booger mask she is making
in Cherokee Language Class II at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah,
Oklahoma. Cherokee National Treasure Roger Cain visited the
class in May to teach students how to make booger masks. (photo
by Roger Graham - Cherokee Phoenix)
TAHLEQUAH, OK In May, Cherokee National Treasure Roger
Cain visited Cherokee languages classes at Sequoyah High School
to teach students how to make booger masks.
"I've been bringing a cultural component to the language class.
(Language teacher) Chris (Holmes) has been gracious to invite me
over to share some knowledge," Cain said. "We've got more stuff
planned for next year as well."
booger masks that were made by Sequoyah High School students
in a Cherokee Language Class. (photo by Roger Graham - Cherokee
example of a Cherokee booger mask made by Sequoyah High School
students with the assistance of Cherokee National Treasure
Roger Cain. (courtesy photo)
Cain, a CNT for his mask-making skills, said the class came
about thanks to the Cherokee National Treasure Mentoring Program,
which provides funds for CNTs to teach classes in communities and
schools. CNTs are artists recognized by the Cherokee Nation for
their artistry and for sharing their knowledge with others to prevent
the loss of Cherokee arts.
Thirteen Cherokee Language Class II students made large dance
masks, some with exaggerated features such as large noses, while
20 students in Cherokee Language Class I made smaller masks.
"They will actually be able to wear them (large masks), and
eventually next year we'll be able to go into the song and dance
of the booger dance as well to not just make the mask but also learn
the song and dance that goes with it," Cain said.
He said the booger dance is just one of many Cherokee dances
and is a "clown dance" that was used to teach non-Cherokees "how
to act civilized" among Cherokee people.
"That's what the booger dance is all about," he said.
He said the main components of the booger masks made by the
student are gourds, rawhide, animal hair and paints. Cain said SHS
students assembled the masks, as they would have in the 19th century,
without the aid of modern glues.
SHS student and CN citizen Trenton Rosson said along with learning
the Cherokee language, he got to learn how to make booger masks
out of gourds to help preserve Cherokee culture. He said he used
a Dremel drill to carve the mask the way he wanted it and then painted
designs on the gourd.
Holmes said the mask-making classes "enhance the learning process"
for students and allow them to learn Cherokee culture. The work
was hands-on for students, he said, and the Cherokee language could
be used to describe the work they did on their masks and the colors,
shapes and sizes.
"This is a first for Sequoyah High School. This is the first
time I've ever tried to incorporate this aspect into the classroom
working with our National Treasure Roger Cain. Thus far, it has
been a pleasant experience," Holmes said.
Student and CN citizen Cenia Hayes said making the masks is
"quite the process," but it's been fun. After drilling out the mouth
and eyes in her gourd, she painted a "lightning design" on the mask,
made the nose red and added buffalo hair to make her mask "stand
"I learned they (masks) were used in dances and were kind of
meant to scare people back in the day," she said. "He (Roger Cain)
made the process a lot easier. He's a really cool guy. He really
helped us out a lot and taught us a lot about these masks. It was
just great interacting with him and getting to know him."