Citizen teaches Native culture, gives back to community

Citizen teaches Native culture, gives back to community
(Shutterstock) Tonya Smith (Muscogee (Creek)/Choctaw) is teaching a basket weaving workshop for the Muskogee Art Guild, works for various charitable outlets and teaches Native culture in the Wagoner School District.

‘I have seen over the years that I have more students that are less aware of their Native descent or they don’t even know which tribe they belong to.’

– Tonya Smith

Sterling Cosper/Manager

Smith holds basket weaving class through Muskogee Art Guild

OKMULGEE, Oklahoma — Tonya Smith (Muscogee (Creek)/Choctaw) is teaching her first workshop through the Muskogee Art Guild on basket weaving and met MAG workshop committee head George Folk while they were building a home through Habitat for Humanity.

“A group of college kids from out of town and helped us build a house and after dinner, she just got her basket stuff out and started showing these college kids how to make baskets and it was pretty nice so I was looking for somebody who could teach a workshop and found her,” Folk said.

Smith said she started with HFH around 10 years ago through their Women’s Build Project and has helped complete around eight homes.

‘I was also a board member for about six years, and still volunteer on builds when I can as well as cultural activities to college students that visit as part of Collegiate Challenge and AmeriCorps,’ she stated by email.

According to www.tahlequahdailypress.com that announced the workshop, ‘Smith has taught Native culture in the Wagoner School District for 15 years and enjoys sharing her knowledge and wants her students to experience Native American history, culture and language.’

‘I have seen over the years that I have more students that are less aware of their Native descent or they don’t even know which tribe they belong to,’ Smith stated.

Along with basket weaving, she also teaches beadwork and Native dyeing practices.

‘I love learning new things, and if I see something I have not done, I want to learn. In turn, I teach what I learn to my students and anyone else who wants to learn,’ she stated.

As far as her own education, Smith stated she picked up the Mvskoke language from her uncle George Bunny who taught it.

‘I loved creating things at an early age, and would watch my mother and her friends make things,’ she stated. ‘I think I may have either shown enough interest to learn, or bugged them to death until they taught me.’

The workshop announcement stated Smith, ‘was born in Brigham City Utah and currently resides with her husband in Tahlequah.’

‘My mother was Creek; her maiden name was Bunny and grew up in Dustin,’ she stated.

The deadline to register for this workshop was Sept. 29 but Smith said she would be glad to do another one.

‘If I am asked and I am available…’ she stated.

Beyond HFH, she has also volunteered for five years with the American Red Cross as a disaster assessment team leader for Cherokee County.

According to www.muskogeeartguild.org, MAG is a nonprofit organization founded in 1936 with the purpose of fostering art and its appreciation in the Muskogee area and to sponsor exhibits and other visual art forms.

It seeks members who have an interest in the visual arts and are 18-years-old and over.

For more information visit the website or call: 918-360-2830.

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