Cherokee Messenger
March, 1999

Cherokee Cultural Society Meetings

Cherokee Cultural Society meetings are held at the Tracy Gee Community Center, 3599 Westcenter, Houston, Texas, 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., the first Thursday of each month. All interested persons are invited to attend. The upcoming monthly meeting is Thursday, March 4, 1999, with a social gathering at 7:00 p.m., and program at 7:30 p.m. Featured speaker: Catherine Clack, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs for Student Life, and Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Rice University.

Other Native Activities

Wilma Mankiller To Attend Red Nations Remembering

by Terry Thompson
Wilma Mankiller, renowned advocate for minority rights and former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, has confirmed her attendance at the Red Nations Remembering Commemoration on March 28, 1999. Ms. Mankiller, the first woman to be Principal Chief and first woman to serve as Deputy Chief of the Cherokee Nation, has a long standing relationship with the Cherokee Cultural Society of Houston. She and her husband, Charlie Soap, visited Houston in cooperation with the Going Snake Youth Project, cosponsored by the CCS in December 1994. Since that time she has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton.

Reminder: Red Nations Remembering is the annual CCS commemoration of the Trail of Tears and is presented under cover this year at Traders Village, located at 7979 North Eldridge Parkway in northwest Houston, Sunday, March 28, 1999, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Officials of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma will be guests. Event flyers are available: Contact CCS board members Judith Bruni, 281-556-1908, or Terry Thompson, 281-890-4403, or e-mail the newsletter editor for a press release.

Congratulations to...

CCS members and others who were selected as either delegates or alternates to the Constitutional Convention of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, held February 26-28, 1999, in Tahlequah, OK. Among delegates appointed by the Convention Commission were: Houstonian Dawn Westerman, and CCS friend from New Mexico, Julia Foster. Selected at a random drawing were Jonathan Hook and Brandy Miller. Alternate delegates drawn at random were Wade McAlister, Deborah Scott, and former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller. CCS Past President Cindy Linnenkohl recently was notified of her delegate status also. Texas was well represented in Tahlequah! See the Nation's webpage for complete details.

Tribal Election Reminder:

May 22, 1999 is the General Election Day for The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Part of the eligibility to vote requires citizens of the Nation to register to vote. See information at the web site: The Cherokee Nation also can be reached at: P. O. Box 1188, Tahlequah, Oklahoma 74465-0948. Phone 918-458-5899 or 1-800-353-2895; fax 918-458-6101.

Native Tidbits

Film/video competition
The Muscogee (Creek) Nation Communications Department seeks entries for its first film and video competition to be held May 7 and 8, 1999. Entries should be produced between January, 1995 through March 1999, and be from one of six categories: feature; documentary; animation; high school; and college/amateur. They must contain a Native American theme and be accompanied by: a completed entry form; signed regulations agreement form; a video home system (VHS) screening cassette per entry; and $25 entry fee per film or video. Submission deadline is March 26, 1999. For entry forms or more information, contact Gerald Wofford, Coordinator, (918) 756-8700, ext. 300; e-mail; or write P.O. Box 580 Okmulgee, OK 74447.

Choctaw Telecourse
A live satellite broadcast from Oklahoma on January 19 beamed a Choctaw Nation language lesson to New Mexico in what the tribe calls a first for Indians. Students at the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque were able to see, hear and question the instructor at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. Bingo operation revenues by the Durant-based tribe will finance the pilot project's $75,000 budget, said Joy Culbreath, Executive Director of education programs for the Choctaws. "There's just a really new interest in people appreciating their heritage, and they want to know their language...We don't want it to die." The one-semester Choctaw Language Telecourse Program represented the first attempt by a tribe to deliver courses long distance by interactive satellite. Tribal officials hope to make more of their 112,000 members fluent enough to read and write in Choctaw. The OU instructor will incorporate tribal legends and the history of certain Choctaw words.

- From the AP Wire Service (January 19, 1999)

Yellow Quill Lawsuit

by Robert Vann*
We lose a few and occasionally we win one or two. Here is news for the relatives of any Native American who is in prison in Texas. The Supreme Court recently settled the Yellow Quill lawsuit filed against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division. The suit was filed to permit the practice of Traditional religious ceremonies by incarcerated Indians. Under the settlement, Native Americans will be allowed to practice the Pipe Ceremony, smudging and other traditional practices including the wearing of medicine bags, headbands and other symbolic articles, possession of Eagle feathers under the rules of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Chaplain Service is the agency to provide liaison with tribes and Native religious leaders, to safeguard pipe bags and to provide the tobacco onto the unit for the ceremonies. There are many issues that are still under discussion and others that don't make a lot of sense (anyone who claims to believe in the philosophy and theology of Traditional Native American religious practices can be included into the circle, whether or not they are members of an established tribe, hold a B.I.A. card, or have any other form of official recognition.) This allows the inclusion of whatever wannabes who simply want a few puffs of tobacco without any spiritual commitment.

I will soon have the official package provided to prison units, and will be able to answer specific questions. For those who have friends or relatives incarcerated in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who have or are being denied the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, or are interested in helping provide support to them, please contact me at or R.H. Vann, P.O. Box 1897, Huntsville, TX. 77342-1897.

*Robert Vann is a member of the Texas Gulf Coast Cherokee, who serves as Council Member and Chief Elder. He works at the Huntsville Prison System. Thanks to Pat Poland, who forwarded this article to us.

The Magic of Sharing Our Heritage

by Judith Bruni
During the holidays, I was shopping for presents for my family and wandered into Foley's. There on a rack with other coats, was a solitary jacket of Native American design and 100% cotton. I knew I needed a lightweight jacket. "What luck!" I thought. "But what are the chances that it would fit me?" Needless to say, I couldn't try it on fast enough. Long story short, it fit perfectly! ...and I happily bought it on the spot.

During the week of January 11, it was just the right temperature to wear the jacket and I wore it to the bank. The bank teller said, "Pretty coat." I responded with, "Thanks! I'm of Native American descent and thought this was a great find. And I had a bit of a miracle in running into it." I then shared my story of finding the coat.

She then asked, "What tribe are you from?" I responded with, "I'm Cherokee!" She then added with a smile, "My dad is half Cherokee." That set me back a little. Not so much that her father was Cherokee, but how she spoke it...that her father was Cherokee and not including herself.

"Isn't it interesting," I responded, "that we are taught to say it that way: That he is half Cherokee, rather than you are Cherokee. You see, I too was taught that my grandmother was Cherokee, rather than we were or I am Cherokee."

I then shared about the Cherokee Cultural Society, who we were, what we did, about our meetings and newsletter. I suggested she might want to come and asked for her address to mail a copy of our newsletter to her. She said she loved things like that and that she wrote poetry about it. She then pulled out this extraordinary poem which I'd like to share with you. For me it is perfect for this time during Red Nations Remembering 1999.

Legend on a Hill

by C. S. Webb
August, 1995
The Indian sat upon the hill
And watched the lightning flash,
Like lances hurled by angry gods
In some unearthly clash.

The thunder boomed and shook the earth.
The Indian's horse stood still.
A sculpture of forgotten times
Sat there upon the hill.

The gods fought on, the warrior knew
From signs up in the sky.
They hurled their spears and beat their drums,
Those souls that never die.

The gods had warned them years ago
To stop the white's advance.
The proud red men had fought to live,
To hunt, to fish, to dance.

But white men came in wagon trains,
Across the prairie grass
Until the red man fought no more,
And now, he was the last.

The noble warrior felt a tear
Streak down his noble face.
The lightning marked the finish line
Of his forgotten race.

Sometimes at night, amid a storm,
The warrior sits there still,
Upon his horse, his lance held high,
A legend on a hill.

Copyright © The Cherokee Cultural Society of Houston