Cherokee Nation mourns the loss of steelworker Toneh Chuleewah | New


TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation mourns the loss of one of its most renowned artists with the loss of blacksmith Toneh Chuleewah on August 3.

The award-winning artist was known for creating works of art from copper, silver, gold, brass, nickel, aluminum and steel in both traditional and contemporary styles. He was a second-generation jeweler, following in the footsteps of his father, Quannah Chuleewah of Pryor. Toneh was born in 1959 and has been practicing his profession since he was 14 years old.

“I love doing art for art’s sake, not just for a living,” he said in a 2011 interview. “I want to do what I feel like I want to do right now, otherwise, it’s a job.”

For his more recent works, he has focused on the revival of pre-Columbian copperwork from tribes in the southeastern United States. He held a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Museum Studies from the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He also interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

“Toneh Chuleewah told the story of the Cherokee people through his intricate works of art,” Senior Chef Chuck Hoskin Jr. told the Heritage Center. Toneh also believed in sharing one’s passion for art and giving back, often teaching classes at the Cherokee Arts Center. He left a great void in the Cherokee Nation and Aboriginal arts community.

Chuleewah was from the Evening Shade community near Vian in Sequoyah County. In addition to teaching metallurgy at the Cherokee Arts Center in Tahlequah, he also owned bike shops for most of his life.

“Toneh was not just a talented artist. It was always nice to talk with him about the technical skills, concepts and stories in the work. He was a lifelong learner of culture and stories. Toneh was a master craftsman who directly or indirectly taught many of us by revitalizing the wearing of copper to a much higher level. Many of us who work with this medium have been influenced by it,” said Joseph Erb, Cherokee copper artist. “Although I never beat him in a jewelry contest, I was always improving myself by striving to achieve his high level of vision and technical skill. He was influential in the direction that the Cherokee arts have taken over the past 20 years, and I believe his impact will be felt for generations to come. We will miss him and cherish the creations he made.

CN cultural specialist and artist Matt Anderson said “Chuleewah’s imprint on Cherokee arts will last as long as the iconography he helped revive.”

“His contribution to the revival of Mississippian period iconography can be seen in his highly sought after copper jewelry. He taught extensively here at the Cherokee Arts Center and taught metalworking classes when the doors first opened. “His legacy will live on in the work his students create and those with whom they share the craft. He will be missed by the Southeast Indian Artists Association of which he was a vital part,” said Anderson. of art at the Cherokee Heritage Center will miss the award-winning (copper) gorgets he has created all these years. He was a kind man, a great artist, a talented photographer, a gifted chef, an enthusiast of vintage bicycle parts and a friend who will be greatly missed.

Chuleewah recently said he enjoys focusing on his pre-Columbian copper work.

“I feel passionate about playing a part in bringing Southeastern design to the world’s attention,” he said.

Funeral services are pending and will be announced later.

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