December 6, 2017
VINITA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and city of Vinita dedicated a new mural in honor of Cherokee National Treasure Anna Belle Sixkiller Mitchell in downtown Vinita on Tuesday.
Mitchell lived in Vinita and was designated as a Cherokee National Treasure in 1988 for reviving traditional pottery methods and sharing her skill with others.
Two of her daughters, Tribal Council Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez and Julie McPeek, attended Tuesday’s ceremony along with Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Tribal Councilor Keith Austin, Cherokee National Treasures Tommy Wildcat and Dan Mink, and leaders from the city of Vinita, Craig County and Vinita’s Eastern Trails Museum.
“During my mother’s career of over 40 years that she revived this art, she did receive recognition from Cherokee Nation and she did have people come from all over to buy her pottery, but she never would have dreamed that there would be this bigger-than-life-size poster on a building in downtown Vinita,” Vazquez said. “To our family, it’s just a wonderful, wonderful gift that the community made this happen. If mom and dad were here, daddy would be the most proud because he was her biggest fan. Truly, every time I see this I’ll feel their presence.”
Mitchell was a self-taught artist who began in 1969 after her husband requested she make a replica of Sequoyah’s pipe. That single project and an encounter with the University of Arkansas’ archeology museum archives led Mitchell to decades of studying, researching and reviving Southeastern style pottery, which is the traditional art of the Woodland Indians, including Cherokees, who originated from Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama. She received numerous awards, and her work is in the permanent collection of the National Museum of the American Indian – Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The Vinita mural includes a photograph of Mitchell working on pottery along with her biographical information. Dan Mink, a Cherokee Nation graphic artist, created the design and worked to improve the quality of the photograph it features.
“When I was first approached to do this project by Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, and it involved a truly national treasure in Anna Mitchell, I was very, very honored to have the opportunity,” Mink said. “This lady revived an art form that had been lost to us for a very long time. She laid the groundwork for other artists to follow in rediscovering true Cherokee art. I hope the mural serves her family, the folks in Vinita and all who were involved in this cooperation well for many years. Again, it was such an honor to have this opportunity, and hope I did her memory justice.” The Eastern Trails Museum in Vinita maintains an educational exhibit of Mitchell’s pottery and tools, which is on permanent display. The museum collaborated on the mural project with Cherokee Nation and the city of Vinita.
“We can showcase the history of Vinita, beautify our city and also educate our citizens with this banner. A lot of people may not know the contributions made by Anna Belle Sixkiller Mitchell, but because this is a well-traveled highway on Route 66, her story will be here on display for all to see,” said Vinita City Councilor Stephanie Hoskin. “We’re proud of the Cherokee Nation and the history of this area. You can’t have Vinita without the Cherokee Nation.”
The mural is on display near the intersection of West Canadian and South Wilson in downtown Vinita.