Two UKB Elders honored by AARP
BY TRISTA VAUGHN
OKLAHOMA CITY – Two United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians members were honored during AARP Oklahoma’s 10th Annual Indian Elder Honors on Oct. 2 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
UKB members Albert Shade and Sammy Still, both of whom are also UKB Tradition Keepers, were honored among a group of 50 elders that represented 28 tribal nations across Oklahoma.
This year’s AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder honorees are recognized for the way in which they have affected their community in a positive manner within, family, tribe and nation. They also represent what is best about Native American people including their love of family, dedication to culture and respect for all people.
Shade was honored for his knowledge of bow-making in the traditional manner and preserving the UKB heritage.
“Michelle Sourjohn called me and told me I was picked as an honor elder for this year’s ceremony,” said Shade. “When she told me she I was picked, I asked if this was prank call because I was shocked, and I couldn’t believe it.”
Shade said it meant “everything” to him to be honored.
“This award and the tradition keepers is one of the highest honors you can get in the tribe,” he said. “It is honor and the best feeling. I don’t feel like I deserve it, but they must think I do. I knew many people that were there getting honored and it seemed like to me that they were well deserved of the awards. It was an honor just being in the presence of the other honorees.”
Shade said his interest in bow-making has been a constant throughout his life, though he didn’t begin making his own bows until later.
“I have been around bow-shooting and cornstalk-shooting all my life,” he said. “When I got older, I talked to many of the elders on how they made their bows and I just picked it up. I was self-taught for the most part, but some elders gave me some pointers. I had a bow that was given to me and I thought, ‘I can make one,’ and that’s how I started making bows.”
In addition to working with his hands, Shade added it is also important to verbally preserve the Keetoowah Cherokee culture.
“If we don’t preserve it, it is going to be gone,” he said. “When you lose heritage, it is over. We have to keep it up. The language is the most important thing to me because it is dying fast. If we let it slip away, it will never come back.”
Still was honored for his expertise in blowgun-making, bow-making, stickball-making and basket weaving. He is one of the last known traditional stone marble-makers that is affiliated with Keetoowah Cherokee.
Throughout the last decade, 10 UKB members have been given the AARP Indian Elder honor.