Lindsey Bark
Cherokee Phoenix

CLAREMORE, Okla. — To achieve the Gold Award status, one of the highest honors in Girl Scouts, Cherokee Nation citizen Laurel Martich painted a mural that is representative of her heritage.

On the west wall on the inside of the Rogers County Cherokee Association community building is a painting of the Cherokee seven clans system.

“The Gold Award is supposed to be like a sustained project that benefits the community in some way and it's supposed to play to your strengths. I’ve always really liked art and so I was trying to play to my strengths with my art,” she said.

Martich, 18, who is entering the University of Tulsa this year, has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten.

“I’ve been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten and done all the programs and just worked through it,” she said. “Before the Gold Award you’re actually supposed to do the Bronze and the Silver Award. So it’s kinds of a gradual, work your way up. Then the Gold Award is the major one.”

Martich’s mother, an RCCA board member, created the mural idea for the building.

“My mom is on the (RCCA) board and they were looking at things to beautify the Rogers County Cherokee Association and that had to do with culture,” Martich said. “She was like ‘hey my daughter does art’ and they were like she could come out here and paint something. I felt like it was a good opportunity to do my Gold Award and have it be something about my culture. I think it’s really interesting.”

Martich chose to paint the seven clans, and it was an opportunity for her to learn more about her Cherokee heritage that she did not really know before.

“I hadn’t ever heard about the Cherokee clans before, and when I heard about it I felt it really wasn’t something that is talked about as much,” she said. “I thought the mural could just bring awareness and maybe teach people or help people get interested.”

She said in painting the mural, she talked to several people about the clans, their meanings and what animals would have the best representation.

“There was a lot in the mural that was up to antiquity, and I had to talk to a lot of people what the best symbols would be to paint on the wall. The dove started out as an eagle. And as I started talking to people I found that the dove would be more appropriate,” she said.

She said challenges in painting the mural were that she never painted such a large project and she never really painted animals.

“I very much work with people and painting people, so animals was very different for me,” she said. “When I originally painted the bear, its one of those things where you have to paint it and then you have to look at what you’ve done that wasn’t working, look at some pictures, watch people paint and then come back and paint it again. It was one of those things that was like very much a learning curve and I’d have to paint the animals sometimes several times before it would look like what I wanted it to look like.”

Martich said being in the Girl Scouts pushed her in ways she never thought possible.

“Girl Scouts has very much taught me that you can do things…if you told me that 10 years I’d paint a mural I’d be like ‘no, no, no.’ Girl Scouts has taught me that if you go out there and you have a vision, you can do it,” she said. 

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This article was originally published in the Cherokee Phoenix