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justin brotton - Wednesday, April 01, 2015

By Gene Lehmann


A Brent Greenwood painting is instantly recognizable. His brush strokes are deliberately fixed to canvas in an array of brilliant acrylic colors – textured, nuanced and infinite in delivery, style and substance. Whatever image is occupying the artist’s mind is expertly re-created on canvas, framed and served up to art lovers for final judgment.

Greenwood, of Chickasaw and Ponca heritage, has found exceedingly favorable judgment from art lovers and judges alike. Fresh off January 2015 honors as “Best in Show” at the 22nd Annual Coors Western Art Exhibit and Sale in Denver, Greenwood is preparing for the May 2015 Artesian Arts Festival hosted by the Chickasaw Nation.

“The Denver award was a huge honor for me and for the Chickasaw Nation. The Nation’s support is so vitally important to me,” Greenwood explained. “Most of my work has a narrative that goes with it. It was refreshing to know people can still connect with my art without knowing the full interpretation,” Greenwood said of the top honor his work Native Sisters claimed in Denver. His painting, adorned with elk teeth, was judged the finest out of 65 other works of art.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby said Greenwood is very deserving of the award.

“Brent Greenwood is a very talented artist who pays tribute to Chickasaw culture and history in his work,” Gov. Anoatubby said at the time. “He is a credit to the Chickasaw Nation.”

Faceless Recognition

Greenwood is known for his historically poignant paintings coupled with abstract imagery. He strives to make an emotional and spiritual connection with those who view his art.

Most of his subjects are faceless. Greenwood’s desire is for the viewer to fill in the features with their life experiences and stories so the artwork has a sincere emotional meaning known only to them.

Such is the case with Greenwood’s painting Alikchi – meaning “healer” in the Chickasaw language – which was commissioned by Oklahoma City University to be displayed in the entrance to their Kramer School of Nursing. The canvas – measuring 7x5 feet – is open to the viewer’s interpretation. It illustrates two women tending an ill child.

Greenwood’s painting has great personal meaning to him. The healer in the painting is a combination of his grandmother’s sister, Sarah Alexander, and famed Chickasaw healer Bicey Walker.

“Bicey and Sarah were both petite. They both were healers. They dressed alike and carried themselves alike,” Greenwood said. “I want the viewer to see their history, too, not just my vision.”

I wanted the message to be about the healing power of humans. Native people still have an understanding of (holistic) medicine," Greenwood continued. "It is comforting to know if I have a sore throat or something simple, I can use this knowledge. It's a link between (modern) medicine and Native culture.”

Sulphur Bound

Greenwood and a host of noted and award-winning Native American artists are preparing for the Artesian Arts Festival to be held on Saturday, May 23, 2015, Memorial Day weekend, at the Artesian Plaza in Sulphur.

It will mark the second time the festival has been hosted by the Chickasaw Nation. The festival highlights diverse art media and a variety of visual art such as paintings, basketry, jewelry, sculpture, metalworking, beadwork, textiles and pottery. Artists will also be demonstrating, sharing and discussing their craft in the ARTesian Art Gallery.

Sixteen bands will provide continuous entertainment on two stages. The lineup includes noted musical act Injunuity. The band blends various musical genres into a unique Native sound. It has won multiple Native American Music Awards (NAMMYS) and is internationally recognized as a headliner at foreign music festivals.

Artists renowned nationally and in Indian Country are preparing for the festival, too.They include Joanna Underwood, a brilliant potter whose work is recognized as among the finest. She also is responsible for works of art displayed in a park called Oka Chokmasi, Chickasaw for “beautiful water,” located southwest of the Artesian Hotel. Festivalgoers may rest and enjoy her works, which incorporate the soothing sounds of water.

Another artist on hand will be Margaret Roach Wheeler, whose textile art and historically accurate Native American fashions have been featured in national magazines and other media. Also scheduled to participate is Mike Larsen, whose painting of an Oklahoma sunrise inspired a U.S. Postage stamp, and whose portraits and stories of 48 Chickasaw elders fill the pages of two books. Larsen also created The Arrival sculpture, which depicts a Chickasaw family arriving in Indian Territory during the 1830s removal from their homelands. The Arrival is a permanent fixture at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur.

The festival is free, and all are welcome. More than 4,500 art enthusiasts clogged the streets at last year’s inaugural gala.

For more information about the Artesian Arts Festival, contact the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts & Humanities at (580) 272-5520, visit http://chickasawcountry.com/events/view/artesian-arts-festival, email at

artistinfo@chickasaw.net, or visit The Artesian Plaza is located adjacent to the Artesian Hotel and Spa, 1001 W. First Street, Sulphur, Oklahoma.

Pursuit Of Passion

Greenwood is preparing, selecting art and working through a hectic schedule to show his works at the Artesian Arts Festival.For 19 years, Greenwood delivered the mail in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Despite a day job, the passion of painting fueled him forward and he has been active in the arts scene for many years.

“I always found time for my art, even when there wasn’t much time,” he said with a laugh.

Finally, it was decided that art would be his full-time work. The commissions were flowing in, his art show sales were up, he was finding a following among patrons and was accepted by his peers.

Then his “perfect-for-me” job appeared out of nowhere. For several years now he has served as Indian Education Program Assistant for Edmond Public Schools, working with Native and non-Native students. The job accords him the opportunity to teach at the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, and allows a full slate of summer art show activities.

He has been featured in Chickasaw Nation “United We Thrive” television spots; appeared in a critically-acclaimed movie, “The Last of the Mohicans;” as well as an independent documentary film titled “I Said I Would Never Paint This Way Again.”


Wide-open Spaces Lure Chickasaw Photographer

justin brotton - Sunday, March 01, 2015

By Gene Lehmann

The awe-inspiring and ever-expanding timelessness of the universe are Jim Trosper’s canvas.

“I’ve always been interested in how vast is the universe. You are not able to wrap your mind around its immenseness. One does not have the ability to comprehend how large it really is,” Trosper explains.

The 22-year-old University of Central Oklahoma graduate is attempting to evoke emotions and questions through his photography. He uses a Canon 5D Mark III camera aimed toward the sky, and hopes the resulting photograph will open minds and inspire introspective wonderings about live – primarily life as experienced by the viewer.

Trosper’s photographs are to be featured in two art shows – one in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa, both of which began last month.

The Chickasaw man will show approximately 20 photographs at Tree & Leaf Print Shop, located in the Rockwell Plaza Shopping Center just off state Highway 3, between Lake Overholser and Lake Hefner. A second show is planned at Foolish Things Coffee Co., located near downtown Tulsa at 1001 S. Main. His photographs will be on exhibit in Oklahoma City until mid-March, while the exhibit in Tulsa will continue through the end of March.

The exhibit in Oklahoma City came about when employees at Tree & Life admired Trosper’s cosmic images through the photo-sharing medium Instagram. After meeting Trosper, they agreed that his work should be featured in an upcoming art show at their studio. Through networking, the opportunity to participate in the Tulsa exhibit came about.

Where the Road Leads

It is a daunting task trying to capture the universe. Trosper’s workday usually starts in the wee hours of the morning, often with a two-hour drive to find the perfect location for his photo shoot.

One of his favorite photographs is titled Road, a 30-second time lapse exposure, taken at an aperture setting of F-4. The photo was taken on a lonely stretch of road near Hennessey, in central Oklahoma. Trosper captures the clear, starry sky, while the glowing lights of Enid, Oklahoma can be vividly seen at the end of the long stretch of road. Even wisps of the Milky Way are visible.

“The darkness makes it possible to capture images of things people take for granted,” Trosper explains. “The exposure is long enough to capture space – to allow the stars to really ‘pop’ – yet short enough so the planet’s movement doesn’t blur or streak the stars,” he added.

The personnel at Tree & Life agreed with Trosper that his photography is unlike anything they had ever experienced.

Since its launch in 1990, the Hubble Telescope has provided Americans with stunning images of deep space, but ground-based photography of space is rare.


Trosper is currently in the Chickasaw Nation’s School to Work program, and has honed his skills by photographing at various locations in the Oklahoma City Adventure District, including Remington Park, the Oklahoma City Zoo, Science Museum Oklahoma, and other facilities.

He enjoys the paradox between how insignificantly small Earth and man are in the universe, yet what a significant role each plays within it.

“I think these photographs address … that we are small, yet we’re large. We see hate crimes, terrorism, racism, climate assault … and have a tendency to wrap ourselves within that context when it doesn’t necessarily have to be like that; look up and be inspired,” explains Trosper.

He goes on to explain that these photographs that will be on display almost didn’t happen. He had to work through a mental block and his own personal frustration.

“The first few photographs were lackluster at best,” he said. But with the help of a sturdy tripod and by experimenting with shutter speeds and lens apertures, Trosper finally met with success. But thanks to his Chickasaw grandmother and support from his parents, Patty and Kevin Trosper, of Edmond, he kept pushing himself to produce even more impressive photographs.

“I take great pride in being Chickasaw. I refuse to be anything other than the best, and I am willing to work at being the best. My grandmother instilled that in us at a very young age. It’s in the blood of all Chickasaws.”

Trosper is proud of the work he has been able to produce, and hopes to continue photography throughout his life.

Chickasaw Nation’s 54th Annual Meeting and 26th Chickasaw Festival

justin brotton - Monday, September 01, 2014

By Gene Lehmann

In October 1960, approximately 100 Chickasaws gathered at Seeley Chapel to hear a report on the state of their efforts to rebuild a nation. It seems unlikely any of those in attendance realized what was on the horizon. While more than a decade would pass before those Chickasaws could elect their own governor, the meeting marked a milestone in the resurgence of a people and a nation known for their perseverance.

At that inaugural annual meeting, the tribe had one employee – a governor appointed by the president of the United States. Fifty-four years later, citizens of the tribe will learn of the impact almost 13,000 Chickasaw Nation employees are making in the state, across the nation and around the world.

This year, thousands of Chickasaws from across the U.S. will gather on October 4 in Tishomingo to hear Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby deliver a state of the nation address detailing the recent accomplishments of the tribe.

Since 1988, the annual meeting has served as the culmination of a weeklong festival of culture, art, history and all things Chickasaw.

“Honor, Tradition, Courage – Our People” serves as the theme for the Chickasaw Nation’s 54th Annual Meeting and 26th Chickasaw Festival.

“Honor, tradition and courage are all important aspects of the Chickasaw culture and heritage,” said Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby. “As Chickasaws, we share a sense of pride in our heritage and look forward to the Chickasaw Annual Meeting and Festival as a special time to celebrate the culture that binds us together as a people.”

Seeley Chapel
Only a few miles separate the site of the first meeting held by the Chickasaw Nation in 1960 and Tishomingo, the historic capital city.

Ten miles northeast of Tishomingo, on Highway 377, a grassroots movement was underway in 1960 at the modest Methodist Church known as Seeley Chapel, which is recognized by the Chickasaw Nation as a place of historic significance. Chickasaws gathered there frequently to discuss the issues of the day and to seek political and social changes they believed would improve the quality of life for all Chickasaws. A primary issue was regaining the ability to exercise tribal sovereignty to address the need for access to health care, better nutrition, affordable housing and higher education.

Throughout the 13-county Chickasaw tribal territory, churches were the gathering places where Chickasaws would engage in planning, dreaming and working toward those goals.

At the first meeting, they dined on Pashofa – a thick hominy-based soup which had been a staple of the Chickasaw diet for hundreds of years. Chickasaws listened to reports by tribal leaders and elders concerning the Chickasaw Nation, and were determined and working hard for the changes they desired. They agreed to meet each year in October to discuss progress and continue planning.

Dreams Realized
It probably did not feel like it happened quickly enough, but from that first meeting in 1960 to 1975, Chickasaws persevered to see many of their basic desires come to fruition.

In 1970, President Richard Nixon laid the groundwork for one of the most important pieces of legislation to benefit Native Americans. Nixon’s special message to Congress explained that the United States’ policy of termination of Indian tribes was a failure. Instead, he proposed self-determination be granted so that tribes could decide their own course of action, elect leaders, and determine their own future away from federal oversight.

That initiative became reality in 1975 when Congress passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistant Act. The Act paved the way for Chickasaws, and all federally recognized tribes, to exercise their sovereign nation status and re-established the government-to-government relationship with the federal government.

Meeting for 54 Years
Chickasaws seized the opportunity. Since 1960, the nation had been conducting its annual meeting during a single day in October. Eventually, what started at Seeley Chapel moved to Byng, a small community north of Ada, and ultimately found its home in Tishomingo.

Under Gov. Anoatubby’s leadership, an arts festival was added in 1988, and the one-day session grew into a weeklong celebration where the culture of Chickasaws is practiced, encouraged and open to everyone. Artists from Southeastern tribes pull out all stops to bring their finest crafts, paintings, carvings, pottery and artistic endeavors to the Southeastern Arts Show and Market, commonly referred to as SEASAM.

Stomp dances, cornstalk shoots, tours for area school children to visit historic Chickasaw Nation landmarks, and learning to play stickball are on the agenda.

The annual meeting and festival officially kicks off on Saturday, September 27, but Chickasaw stomp dancers start celebrating at 8 p.m. Friday, September 26, at Kullihoma campground east of Ada.

Chickasaw princesses will be crowned, and highly coveted arts and cultural awards will be presented at a gala affair at the Chickasaw Cultural Center on October 2. The center is the largest single-tribe cultural center in America. Located in Sulphur, the 109-acre campus was opened in 2010. It has seen more than 250,000 people soak in Chickasaw culture, heritage and history since then, many of them visiting the site from international locations.

State of the Nation
The highlight of the celebration is Gov. Bill Anoatubby’s speech at Murray State College in Tishomingo. He will address the recent progress of the Chickasaw Nation and outline his vision for the future.

So many dreams from that first meeting have been realized after 54 years.

A recent study by Oklahoma City University showed the Chickasaws contributed more than $2.4 billion to the Oklahoma economy in 2011. Tribal citizenship has grown to more than 55,000.
The $150 million state-of-the-art Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, located in Ada, treats medical needs of all Native Americans, promotes wellness initiatives, and employs hundreds of local residents.

The Chickasaw Nation’s diverse and growing business portfolio includes tourism, recreation, gaming, oil and gas, banking, venture capitalism, and much more. With almost 13,000 employees, the Chickasaw Nation continues to make a significant impact on Oklahoma’s economy, and its contribution is growing nationally and internationally.

For a complete schedule of events for this year’s celebration, visit www.chickasaw.net/annualmeeting.

Chickasaw Kayaker Competes in Hungary

justin brotton - Friday, August 01, 2014

By Andrew Ryder


Szeged, Hungary marks the place a 16-year-old Chickasaw youth will compete internationally for the first time. Situated near the border of Serbia and Romania, Szeged is a long way from Chickasaw Country. But the trip shines an international spotlight on a Chickasaw whose dream is to become a U.S. Olympic athlete.

Joshua Turner, of Mustang, Oklahoma, and his teammate, Dylan Puckett, plan to compete in the 200-meter two-man kayak event at the 2014 International Canoe Federation July 17-23. They will be competing in the Canoe Sprint Junior World Championships.

“Joshua has come a long way in a relatively short time since he first began paddling in 2011 as part of the Chickasaw Nation Canoe/Kayak Program,” said Shaun Caven, director of canoe/kayak and head coach of the OKC Riversport Team.

The Chickasaw Nation has partnered with OKC Riversport to create the Chickasaw canoe/kayak program. The tribe underwrites the program for Chickasaw youth, such as Joshua, to participate in summer camps, lessons and OKC Riversport youth kayaking teams.

“It’s very encouraging to see how well he and Dylan are doing to be heading to junior worlds, and demonstrates to our younger athletes and incoming team members that they have everything they need here to succeed if they put in the effort,” Caven said.

Proud of their Chickasaw heritage, Joshua’s father, Jerry Turner, says, “Without the support of the Chickasaw Nation, Joshua wouldn’t have started kayaking, and he wouldn’t be preparing to compete at the junior world championship. Being 16 years old and having the opportunity to compete for the USA is not something he could have done otherwise.”

Joshua’s enjoyment of kayaking stems from his desire to improve and his camaraderie with his teammate.

“When I first tried kayaking, the sport really clicked for me and I thought, ‘Hey, I might be good at this,’” Joshua says. “It feels good to be on the water, to feel the sensation of the water splashing you. I see water in a different way now – every body of water I see, I wonder how fast I can kayak across it.”

The more time Joshua spends in a kayak, the faster he gets. In just eight short months he went from a ninth-place finish at the USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint National Championships in 2012 to third place at nationals in 2013, to qualifying for the national team.

“Dylan and I have already gone faster in the two-person boat than he and his partner did last year, and we’re shooting to improve on that, to bring home a medal,” Joshua said. “Kayaking means you’re not just out there doing it for yourself, you’re trying to do your best for your partner, too. I’m so glad for this opportunity, and am thankful to the Chickasaw Nation.”

“When we began the Chickasaw canoe/kayak program, we knew it was possible to see Chickasaw youth making strides toward the Olympic podium,” Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation said. “We’re extremely proud of all of our athletes, and to have Joshua and Dylan represent the USA at international competition this year is so gratifying to everyone who has believed in and supported the development of the Boathouse District and the Oklahoma River.”

Dylan Puckett is returning for his second junior world meet and is excited to compete with his OKC teammate.

“I remember seeing Joshua kayaking a few years ago, and I noticed right away that he had really good technique,” said Dylan. “In the past, I’ve been partnered with athletes from another club, which meant we had limited practice time together before international competition. Joshua and I will be training together from now until July, and our boat gets a little better, a little faster, after every practice session. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do together.”

“Joshua’s mother and I have enjoyed seeing him mature into such a responsible, respecting young man, and we believe he’s learning much of that from his coaches and the athletes he trains with each day,” Jerry Turner said. “We’re extremely proud of him, and look forward to watching him get better and better and becoming a contender for the Olympic Games.”

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