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(Many Paths)
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Cherokee Heritage Center Displays
'Cherokee Nation: A Portrait of People'
by Will Chavez - Senior Reporter, Cherokee Phoenix
credits: photos by Will Chavez - Cherokee Phoenix

PARK HILL, OK. – An exhibit showcasing portraits of Cherokee people from all walks of life is on display at the Cherokee Heritage Center through April 6.

CHC Curator Mickel Yantz said "Cherokee Nation: A Portrait of a People" is a traveling exhibit consisting of portraits taken in the Tahlequah area 12 years ago by award-winning photographer David Fitzgerald.

The exhibit has been traveling for 10 years and has even traveled to the Smithsonian's Arts and Industries Building in October 2001.

"We wanted to bring this back and show what happened 12 years ago, but we also wanted to honor the people that were there. Some of these people aren't with us anymore, and we wanted...their families to see the portraits," Yantz said.

Cherokees from different backgrounds such as firefighters, artisans, Cherokee National Treasures, politicians and every day people are a part of the exhibit, Yantz said.

"We have plenty of National Treasures that are on display. Actually, what's really exciting about this exhibit is that we've been able to showcase some of the permanent (art) collection at the (Cherokee) Heritage Center that complements the (National Treasure) portraits that are on display," he said.

In addition to the photographs, pottery, baskets, weavings and personal items that belonged to the people who are a part of the exhibit but now deceased are on display.

A photo of CHC Gift Shop lead cashier Colleen Jumper and her son is a part of the exhibit. She said Fitzgerald wanted a portrait of a Cherokee mother and child. At first she said she was not interested in sitting for a photo, but eventually Fitzgerald convinced her to take part.

"It's just a picture to me. I like it because it has my son in it. He's 15 now. He was 2 at the time, so it's good to his picture all over the place," she said.

Fitzgerald is a lifelong Oklahoma resident and has been a professional photographer for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in April 2005 and has been named Oklahoma Photographer of the Year three times. His work has been published in periodicals as well as popular "coffee table" photography books, including "Oklahoma," "Oklahoma II," "Oklahoma III," "Cherokee," "Chickasaw," and "Portrait of the Ozarks."

The portraits included in the "Cherokee Nation: A Portrait of a People" were taken for the 2002 book "Cherokee." Fitzgerald also photographed Cherokee people in 1998 while researching the Trail of Tears, which led to the portraiture project for the State Museum of History in Oklahoma.

Fitzgerald started taking pictures in 1964, during a two-week training stint in the Army. Before that he had been illustrating greeting cards. Along with coffee table books, his photos have been displayed in museums and galleries and appeared in documentaries and advertisements.

The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive in Park Hill. For more information, call 1-888-999-6007 or email or visit

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Cherokee Heritage Center
The Cherokee Heritage Center is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture, and the arts, located in the heart of the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It was established in 1963 by the Board of Trustees of the Cherokee National Historical Society to preserve and promote the Cherokee culture while sponsoring dynamic educational programs, reconstructed historic villages, engaging exhibits, and scholarly research stimulating interest in the enduring legacy of the Cherokee people.

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