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How Did I Miss That? Cherokee T-Shirts and Vulture Culture

A killer Cherokee t-shirt, vultures, pigs and bees of the spelling variety round out this week's list of unusual stories lurking in the eddies of the mainstream media.

The Cherokee Nation throws a big party every year on Labor Day weekend called the Cherokee National Holiday, and the population of Tahlequah—about 16,000, give or take a few head of cattle—swells to 70,000-plus. The Labor Day connection is coincidence. What is being celebrated is the signing of the Cherokee Constitution in Indian Territory on September 6, 1839.

Staying a bit longer in the Way Back Machine would get us to February 21, 1828, when The Cherokee Phoenix came off the press in New Echota, Georgia, and became the first bilingual indigenous newspaper in North America, publishing in English and Cherokee.

The Phoenix has begun printing its own commemorative t-shirts for the National Holiday. The artwork is selected from proposals by artists who are citizens of the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band, or the Eastern Band. Last year’s artist was Buffalo Gouge.


The Phoenix just announced this year’s shirt will feature a design by Daniel HorseChief. The central image is Selu the Corn Mother. Behind one of her shoulders is corn. Behind the other one, a Phoenix rises from the sacred fire. Above the images is “Cherokee Phoenix” in Cherokee.

Moving from mythical animals to real ones, Associated Press reported that two male griffon vultures have successfully hatched an abandoned egg at the Amsterdam zoo. The relationship between the vultures is not fly-by-night. They have a long time same sex relationship.

The vultures took turns sitting on the egg until it hatched. Now they share the task of keeping the chick fed regurgitated food. The zoo said it’s not unusual for animals to form long term same sex relationships, but it’s rare they manage to become parents.

WSAZ, Channel 3 in Charleston, West Virginia reported that police were called to an unattended truck that was making a lot of racket. Police summoned Charleston Auto Towing to open the cab so they could check on the driver. The cab was empty. The noise was coming from the cargo: 165 pigs who were most unhappy at having been confined in a hot trailer for over four hours.

They towed the rig to their garage, where they cooled the pigs down with fans and water hoses, at which time the pigs quit complaining. Just before the police filed a missing person report, the driver showed up. He had pulled over because he wasn’t feeling well, laid down on the grass, and fell asleep. When he awakened, the truck had been towed.

Miss C was born at the Adelaide, Australia zoo in 1974. Her species, Hofmann’s two-toed sloth, lives 10 to 12 years in the wild. The Daily Mail reported that Miss C died of age-related illnesses at the ripe age of 43, the oldest sloth in captivity and the last sloth in Australia.

Because the National Spelling Bee has had three consecutive ties, it changed the rules on breaking ties. NPR reported that it was looking like tiebreaking would be necessary as Rohan Rajeev and Ananya Vinay slugged it out.

Then Rajeev missed “marram.”

With the championship on the line, Vinay spelled “marocain,” winning $42,500 and a veritable library of reference books. Indian-American students have come to dominate the spelling bees like Kenyans dominate distance running, winning nine of the past 13 contests even though they are less than one percent of the population.

Pawan Dhingra, a curator of the Asian Pacific American Program at the Smithsonian, is putting together an exhibition next year to explain the phenomenon. Dhingra told NPR that “spelling bees offer a kind of perfect mix of everything that resonates deeply with Indian-Americans: the competition; the focus on academic achievement; the discipline it takes; and the way a tightknit family can team up to train together.”

My cousin Ray Sixkiller, like me, had to look up “marocain” and “marram.” Then he said, “It could have been worse. The training materials included “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.”


If the Washington swamp had a door it would be a revolving door. In the latest turn of the revolving door, The Wichita Eagle reported that Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force in the Obama administration, has just joined the board of Wichita-based Textron Aviation. The Eagle reported that she comes to Textron as it is about to enter a USAF competition for an off the shelf aircraft to serve alongside the A-10 Warthogs that have been the combat infantryman’s best friend. The Warthogs are getting a bit long in the tusk.

National Geographic reported that Alex Honnold, 31, has become the first rock climber to free solo El Capitan, the 3,000 foot wall of granite that commands breathtaking views over Yosemite National Park.

“Free climbing” means that ropes are only along to catch the climber in case of a fall. “Free solo” means no ropes.

After training for more than a year, Honnold made the June 3 ascent in 3 hours, 56 minutes. He began at 5:32 a.m. after consuming his “standard breakfast:” oats, flax, chia seeds, and blueberries. The successful climb was Honnold’s second try. The first, in November, he aborted after less than an hour, saying it “did not feel right.”

According to National Geographic, there are other climbers physically in Honnold’s league, but his advantage is an ability to control fear so remarkable his brain has been studied by neuroscientists seeking an explanation.

Honnold told National Geographic, “Obviously I know that I’m in danger, but feeling fearful while I’m up there is not helping me in any way. It’s only hindering my performance, so I just set it aside and leave it be.”

The magazine named three other climbers who might have had the chops to free solo El Cap. Two had died in climbing accidents and the third died in a base-jumping mishap in Yosemite.

Cousin Ray said he figured that all he and I could do to imitate Honnold’s day was eat oats and blueberries for breakfast. I have to agree.

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Sometimes I feel lost in this post-factual universe, where everything is a matter of opinion and all opinions are equal and the idea that your political opponents could be honorable while mistaken is quaint. I can tell that Cousin Ray, hanging by his fingernails in the Republican Party nine years after I gave up on the Democrats, feels the same way. As a writer, I have to give props to Maureen Dowd of The New York Times who penned a description as good as it’s likely to get:

America is living through a fractured fairy tale, in the grip of a lonely and uninformed mad king, an arrogant and naïve princeling, a comely but complicit blond princess and a dyspeptic, dystopian troll under the bridge.

Speaking of our mad king and tweeter-in-chief, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Filipino gunman who shot casino customers, denounced as a radical Islamic terrorist by The Donald, turned out to be a gambling addict who had been banned from Philippine casinos.

Do we really want somebody whose order of command is “Ready! Fire! Aim!” to be in possession of nuclear codes?

Chris Hayes of MSNBC has been inquiring of the White House every day whether President Trump has filed his taxes or asked for an extension. He finally got an answer and now we know why he asked.

Hayes suggested we circle October 18 on the calendar, which is the new due date. On that day, Hayes pointed out, there will be a set of The Donald’s taxes that he can’t claim are under audit.

Cousin Ray offered to bet $100 against my $25 that Trump will not release his 2016 taxes.


Harking back to the Watergate Hearings, there is enough interest in James Comey’s testimony this week that TVs are coming out in public places. WJLA in Washington did a roundup of what they used to call “impeachment specials.”

Duffy’s Irish Pub is offering a Covfefe Cocktail. about which Duffy would only say it’s “like drinking the Kool-Aid but only a small number of people know what’s in it.”

Union Pub will buy drinks for the house every time Trump tweets during Comey’s testimony.

Shaw’s Tavern will have specials on Russian vodka all day and an FBI breakfast (French toast, bacon, ice cream) and an FBI sandwich (fried chicken breast, bacon, iceberg lettuce).

The Partisan is offering $6 cocktails called Drop the Bomb and The Last Word. WJLA does not report the ingredients.

Cousin Ray wanted to take his hog fry paraphernalia and open “Trump’s Last Stand” on the Mall. I asked him what he would name his stuff.

“C’mon, man—it should be easy to think of something on the way to D.C. How hard could it be when we already have a dead pig?”

I don’t want to drive to Washington to sell pork tacos, but from the look in my cousin’s eyes Trump should not underestimate the wrath of a lifetime Republican who feels betrayed.

BarkPost ran a report from a female human who was not having much luck on dating sites. Figuring that any change would be an improvement, she posted a profile for her dog, Cosmo, on the hookup site, Tinder. Cosmo, she claimed, “got more matches in one day than I got in six months.”

The experiment left her grateful that Cosmo was willing to share. Here is the profile that reeled in the H. saps:

Hi! I’m kind of a shy guy, so this whole thing makes me a little nervous. I guess everyone says that though, huh? Once I feel safe, I’m very into sitting on feet. I love my mom, blueberries, and things that squeak. I don’t like men in uniform, so if that describes you, don’t even bother. I used to hate skateboards but now I’m just okay with them. Doorbells make me very angry, though. Sometimes I need help trimming my bangs and the hairs by my butt.

Char-Koosta News reported that Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D) managed to swim against the tide of education cuts in Washington to snag $6.7 million for Upward Bound, a program to aid low income and first generation college students. Of the funds approved for Montana, $1.86 million is for Salish Kootenai College and $1.67 million for the Fort Belknap Indian Community.

Tester, a former school teacher, also managed to convince the Department of Education to reconsider the University of Montana application, which had been turned down because of technical formatting errors. If the reconsideration is successful, then the University of Montana will join the two tribal colleges, Montana Tech, and Montana State with funded Upward Bound programs

The Cherokee Phoenix reported something that is common in both tribal and state elections but it’s always a good idea to report it as a message to those who claim “my vote doesn’t count.” The race for tribal council district 5 is headed for a runoff, with E.O. Smith in the lead with 39.4 percent.

The unofficial results reported first made Smith’s opponent to be Dink Scott, who edged out Uriah Grass by three votes. After all the challenged ballots were examined and ruled upon, the official count put Grass in the runoff by eight votes.

Your vote doesn’t count? Most people could swing that race by calling their extended family on election day.