Cherokee Nation announces 2019 Cherokee National Treasure honorees

August 26, 2019

2019 Cherokee National Treasure honoree Candesa Tehee, Choogie Kingfisher and Lula Elk.  2019 Cherokee National Treasure honoree Candesa Tehee, Choogie Kingfisher and Lula Elk.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Three Cherokee Nation citizens will receive the distinction of Cherokee National Treasure for their work in preserving and promoting Cherokee art and culture during the 67th Annual Cherokee National Holiday Awards Banquet on Thursday.

The Cherokee National Treasure distinction is an honor given by the tribe to individuals who are keeping the art, language and culture alive through their crafts and work.

Candessa Tehee, of Sallisaw; Choogie Kingfisher, of Tahlequah; and Lula Elk, of Stilwell, were selected as this year’s recipients.

“The Cherokee language, culture and heritage is an invaluable part of our identity as Cherokee people. Those who dedicate themselves to the preservation and promotion of those portions of our identity deserve to be honored and revered as Cherokee National Treasures,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We are proud to honor the lifelong efforts of these recipients to promote and protect - as well as educate the public about - our Cherokee traditions, language and culture.”

Tehee received the distinction for her craftsmanship in the traditional art form of finger weaving in oblique and warpface styles. Made only by hand, these art forms use different colors and interlocks in the yarn to create designs, and occasionally incorporate beadwork. She has received many awards for her artwork from competitions such as the Cherokee Heritage Center Trail of Tears Art Show. She has a Ph.D. in Linguistic Anthropology and is currently an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies and Coordinator of Cherokee Language Education and Cherokee Cultural Studies programs at Northeastern State University.

Kingfisher was nominated for his work as a Cherokee cultural educator and storyteller. A well-known actor with several documentaries and voice over work to date, he has travelled extensively for the past 35 years presenting his Cherokee culture, history and stories to the public and Cherokee Nation. Kingfisher also serves as a master of traditional ceremonies such as powwows, gospel singing and other tribal events. He was the youngest recipient for the Cherokee Honors Award in 2005 and awarded Tahlequah’s Best Male Actor in 2003.

Elk was nominated for being a traditional Cherokee shell shaker. She has been immersed in tradition her entire life, first shaking shells at stompgrounds at the age of five. Her grandfather was the chief of the stompground in her community, and she learned the art of making traditional turtle shell shakers from her mother and aunt. As a fluent Cherokee speaker, she taught at the Cherokee Immersion School as a communication language instructor, and passed down the art of shell shaking to girls at the spring and summer camps of the Cherokee Heritage Center. In 2001, she started work at the Cultural Resource Center, and is still employed with the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation will also honor tribal citizens and organizations that made significant contributions for statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the Cherokee Nation at the awards banquet. Award recipients include:

Medal of Patriotism Award

The Medal of Patriotism Award is given in recognition of those who answered the call of duty, made great sacrifices and risked their lives in service to Cherokee Nation and the United States of America, tirelessly defending and promoting freedom and liberty for Cherokees and all mankind. The 2019 Medal of Patriotism Award honorees are:

• Earnie Frost, of Tucson, Arizona

• Jerry Keener, of Locust Grove, Oklahoma

• Meda Nix, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Statesmanship Award

The Statesman Award is given in recognition of those who, as public servants, epitomize the servant leader ideal, exemplifying Cherokee values and acting with respect, dignity and graciousness while working for the betterment of Cherokee Nation and its citizens. The 2019 Statesmanship Award honorees are:

• Former Principal Chief Bill John Baker, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma

• Former Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, of Stilwell, Oklahoma

Community Leadership Individual Award

The Community Leadership Individual Award is given in recognition of Cherokee Nation citizens who tirelessly have given, without hesitation, their time to make their communities more vibrant, livable places. Their example of servant leadership embodies Cherokee values, and is held high esteem by their peers for strengthening the bonds of Cherokee Nation citizens. The 2019 Community Leadership Individual Award honorees are:

• Cynthia Ruiz, of Los Angeles

• Tom Belt, of Cherokee, North Carolina

• Sol Bird Mockicin, of Flute Springs, Oklahoma

Community Leadership Organization Award

The Community Leadership Organization Award is given in recognition of Cherokee Nation communities that have demonstrated the spirit of working together through servant leadership, as well as applying Cherokee values to make their communities a better place for Cherokee Nation citizens. The 2019 Community Leadership Organization Award honorees are:

• Rural Communities Initiative Foundation, of Sequoyah County, Oklahoma

• Native American Fellowship Inc., of South Coffeyville, Oklahoma

• Georgia Cherokee Community Alliance, of Marietta, Georgia

Samuel Worcester Award

The Samuel Worcester Award is given to a non-Cherokee who has made substantial contributions to the preservation of Cherokee heritage, culture, community and sovereignty. The 2019 Samuel Worcester Award honorees are:

• Joe West, of Pine Grove, California

• Don Marshall, of Oaks, Oklahoma

• Sherry Baker, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma

67th Annual Cherokee National Holiday Parade Marshals

The Cherokee National Holiday Parade Marshal honor is given to an individual or individuals for professional, civic or personal accomplishments. This year’s honorees devoted decades of service to the Cherokee Nation and its citizens. Both individuals made an indelible and extraordinary contribution to the success the Cherokee Nation enjoys today. The 67th Annual Cherokee National Holiday Parade Marshals are:

• Former Principal Chief Bill John Baker, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma

• Former Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, of Stilwell, Oklahoma

For photos of the 67th Annual Cherokee National Holiday Awards Banquet, like the Cherokee Nation’s page on Facebook.