An arts group, the Associates of the Southeastern Indian Artists Association, based in Tahlequah, had discussed why art is a complex term to interpret in Cherokee. It’s like including word art into the term. It was discussed in the panel “Historic and Contemporary Cherokee Art Movements, actually held last April 12, the 45th symposium on the American Indian at Northeastern State University.
Moderating the panel was assistant professor for American Indian studies, Dr. Candessa Tehee. The panel included America Meredith, editor and founder of First American Art Magazine; Elizabeth Toombs, former cultural arts manager for Cherokee Nation Business; Ryan Mackey, cultural specialist at the Cherokee Nation; and, David Crawler, translator at the Cherokee Nation.
In English, the term art can always refer to a number of things, from opera to dance to painting. According to Tehee, “ditlilosdodi” can be used as a term like art is to English. It embraces various art forms from dance to basketry to painting.
Unlike English, Cherokee is a non-analytical language. In English, individual terms are placed together to form a sentence. In Cherokee, a term can impart a real meaning for the whole sentence. It may have word art included into its real meaning.
Mackey composed each segment of the word in Cherokee script, telling that each segment instills disparate meanings. For instance, the segment “atlil” means a long and rigid shape, while the segment “do” shows a thing to influence. Like many Cherokee terms, “ditlilosdodi” cannot be accurately interpreted in English, but it’s literal meaning suggests measuring or drawing. So for the term art, it’s very illustrative and substantially interpretative.
Crawler is responsible for making turtle shell shakers that Cherokee women wear during ceremonial preparations. He claims that he can’t use the term “ditlilosdodi” as it may mean to copy other’s work. He spoke in Cherokee and invited others to purchase his turtle shell shakers mostly for good looks, which may not be really ideal.
Despite finding difficulty in the interpretation of term Cherokee art, Meredith says the Cherokees are extremely lucky. Word art may also be interpreted through Cherokee art.
According to Toombs, the exact terms for Cherokee art means responding to the question of what makes a Cherokee artwork.
Tehee concluded the discussion with inviting more artists to participate in such conversations.