VSthe herokees are known for their craftsmanship, and those designated as national treasures are prolific in their ability to preserve and promote the art, language, and culture of the tribe.
That’s why the Cherokee Nation’s Department of Cultural Tourism likes to showcase the various people who carry on Cherokee customs through their work, and the Saline Courthouse Museum is currently displaying Al Herrin’s life’s work.
“Al Herrin: The Bow Maker’s Calling” gives visitors the opportunity to see some of the longtime craftsman’s work and learn more about his commitment to maintaining traditional Cherokee techniques.
This is one of many exhibits the CNCT shares to promote the treasures of the Cherokee Nation.
“These are very special to us because they promote our national treasures – those who have been in their trade for a very long time, and they all certainly deserve attention and respect,” said interpreter Karen Shade-Lanier. of the CNCT. Project coordinator.
Herrin, 85, grew up in northeast Oklahoma and moved to the Muskogee and Tahlequah areas when he was in third grade. Thanks to a Cherokee elder, Richard McLemore, who gave him a small bow as a child, he became fascinated with bows and arrows.
At just 8 years old, Herrin made his first bow out of bow wood and fox skin.
The bow maker earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and worked as a chemist in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He went on to obtain a master’s degree in biological sciences and a doctorate in science education. He also taught biology at Tahlequah High School for nearly 10 years, until he decided to make bows and work as a full-time author. He also wrote a column for the Tahlequah Daily Press for several years.
Throughout his life, he passed on his skills to others.
“He was designated a Cherokee National Treasure in 1991 for making bows and arrows in the traditional sense – everything from sourcing the material he used to create the bows, as well as the arrows, and then assembling at all based on traditional techniques that he learned from elders when he was a young boy,” Shade-Lanier said. “It’s something he’s done for probably most of his life. He continued that tradition of sharing that knowledge as a teacher and telling others how they can do it and maintain it.”
Herrin is an author, having written the White Bear Newsletter and three books: “Cherokee Bows and Arrows: How to Make and Shoot Primitive Bows and Arrows”; “Surviving the Illinois River”; and “Cherokee Calling: A Guide to Spiritual Growth.” Those visiting the exhibit will be able to see examples of his work, including specialized arrows used for corn stalk competitions.
“In addition to those, you can also see beautifully carved details on things like little harmonic boxes and little wooden carvings,” Shade-Lanier said.
“The sheer attention to detail that he brings to some of his work is a delight to behold. I don’t know if everyone knows he has that ability to this extent, as he is so known for his bows and his arrows.”
check it out
The exhibition will run until March 26. CNCT museums are currently limited to groups 10 and under, and masks are recommended for patrons. The Saline Courthouse Museum is located at 55870 S. 490 Rd. in Rose. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday.