Beyond the Panel Interview

Arigon with hat

It's me....cartoon-style. Yes, I drew it myself. AAY!

Greetings from Los Angeles, CA! It’s been a busy season so far…and I’m stealing a few minutes away from myself to quickly update.

If you’re interested in some behind-the-scenes info on the “Super Indian” comic, there’s an awesome interview that was posted this morning on Bitch Media. Here’s the link:

It’s part one of two….and I’ll give you a heads-up when the next part is online.

Enjoy my goofy self-portrait. It’s the first one I’ve done in a LONG while. I am now officially part of the “Super Indian” universe. Hooray!


October Arrives..and Henry Starr Rides Again!

Good Morning from a sunny Los Angeles. It’s one of those days when I’m multi-tasking. Writing emails, working on “Super Indian” and watching the Michael Jackson/Conrad Murray Trial.

I’m a dedicated trial-watcher….at least when it has something to do with Los Angeles. I watched most of the Rodney King trial…then the OJ Simpson trial. In fact, me and my fabulous co-worker at Showtime Networks (yay for Michele Morris!) got into the trial so much, we used part of her white board to make a list of what actors would play whom in the “OJ Trial” TV movie. I’m not sure how accurate we were in our casting sessions, but we sure had fun thinking of actors who looked like Johnnie Cochran or Mark Furhman or Marcia Clark.

Arigon with a bear decorated like Sequoyah

Arigon with one of the many decorated black bears in and around Cherokee, North Carolina. This one is dressed as the famous Cherokee linguist, Sequoyah.

Since I last wrote, I’ve been to North Carolina and back. I must say that I had an exciting time visiting Cherokee. The Southeast Writers Gathering was a small, but focused group. Robert J. Conley, the amazing Cherokee Author/Historian gathering folks at the Museum of the Cherokee.

As in my previous posts, I have been to Cherokee but a very, very long time ago. When I caught up with my Mom, she reminded me that we had stayed overnight as a family. “You and your sister were fascinated with the creek that ran behind the small motel we stayed at. We had to stop several times along the road west so you and Gay could dip your feet in the water.”

Yep, that creek is still there and still crystal clear. I didn’t get a chance to kick off my boots and get my feet wet.

I presented a panel on songwriting — which was really an extended version of my live show. It’s always fun to demystify the process for folks…but I know that when somebody says “It was just that simple” — that it probably wasn’t. I did encourage folks to write, write, write and got to hear some of the other folks’ music. I really enjoyed listening to Sara Snyder’s music that she was creating especially for her Cherokee students. Imagine Lady Gaga singing in the Cherokee language! That’s how to get the kids interested in learning and using their language. Smart, talented lady!

The Wordcraft Circle Group

L-R: Lee Francis IV, Arigon, Evelyn Conley, Janet Miner. The Wordcraft Circle of Native Storytellers represents Native writers in many genres. Here's group leader Lee Francis with Arigon, Evelyn and Janet in Asheville, North Carolina.

Was also privileged to meet Kim Roppolo and Lee Francis of the Wordcraft Circle of Native Storytellers. Their group has been around for a number of years and they help Native writers find mentors, plus give out annual awards for outstanding writing/performing achievement. I’m a past recipient and was really honored to meet Lee. His father, Lee Francis III was an amazing writer and was a champion of all Native writers prior to his passing. Lee’s son, Lee IV is keeping the group going. You can check out their work at their website, Wordcraft Circle. They are continuing many of the original programs, plus starting some new ones, including a new group for Native comic book writers/creators. More on that as the story develops.

Evelyn Conley also made sure that we got a special tour of the Cherokee School which is a brand new facility for K-12 tribal members and community on the Cherokee Reservation. Their facility is an amazing show place and is the best school I’ve ever seen. It was so fabulous, I wished I could enroll as a student. They teach the basics, but including tribal language and heritage. The kids are learning math alongside intricate traditional weaving and beadwork. Part of their mission is to also get the students interested in reading and writing. I’m now working with the school to develop a special writing program for February 2012. The school is sponsoring a Native Heritage Month and there will be writers from all over the country coming to teach the students what they know. I was really thrilled to be asked to be part of their mission and it’s going to be fun…and a challenge. Again, more on this as the story develops!

Cherokee Warrior dancers

Traditional Cherokee men performing onstage outside the Museum of the Cherokee in North Carolina. These are the Cherokee Warriors.

The conference was over on Thursday, which was followed by the Southeast Tribes Gathering. At their huge outdoor stage, dancers from the Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Western Cherokee gathered for social and exhibition-style dancing. There were stomp dances, ant dances, bear dances, two-steps…and some great storytelling and singing.

I was invited to perform — and did a short set on Friday evening. As many of you know, I wrote a song called “Mountain Windsong,” that is based on Robert Conley’s novel of the same name. It’s the story of two Cherokee lovers separated by the Trail of Tears. Robert wrote a happy ending for the two — and the song is celebration of love, sacrifice and determination. Every time I perform this song….Robert and his wife Evelyn end up in tears. This time, I had to really fight back the tears as I had an incredible wave of emotion performing this song in the place it was actually set.

Robert and Evelyn also gave us a tour of the entire Rez…including the large outdoor theater that is home to the long-running play “Until These Hills,” the big-as-Vegas Cherokee Casino and Kituwah — the original home of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Outlaw Henry Starr

Yep, it's one my kinfolks, Cherokee Outlaw Henry Starr.

As I’ve said before, my Mom’s mom, Flora Snow Cornell, was Cherokee and Seneca. Flora’s family were one of the many survivors of the Trail of Tears. She didn’t talk much about the old days that I remember — only that her brothers and Uncles were characters. Family lore includes Uncle Jack, the bootlegger…and of course, legendary outlaw Belle Starr.

Whenever anyone mentions Belle Starr in our family, they’re quick to say she’s only related by marriage!

Belle’s husband Sam Starr was a direct relation.

Robert Conley also told me that his hero is one of those Starrs — Henry Starr, who was a notorious outlaw who pulled for a double-bank robbery in the early 1900s. Henry Starr holds the record for most bank robberies, but he’s sadly forgotten. But as Paul Williams said in “Phantom of the Paradise,” “That’s today, Philbin….today.” Henry Starr will rise again!

That’s all for today….but there will be more, much more, as the week plugs along.


Happy Birthday, Dad!

Ken Wahpecome circa 1953

My Dad, Ken Wahpecome from 1953 -- just after he had joined the Navy.

Happy Birthday to my amazing Dad, Ken Wahpecome! He would have been 77 years old if he was still here! Wow!

As many of you know, my Dad was born in Oklahoma and was a member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. He spent his growing up years in and around McLoud, Oklahoma. Like most Indians at the time — he grew up dirt poor and luxury was something you saw at the movies.

Speaking of movies, my Dad used to go to an “budget” movie theater in downtown Shawnee, Oklahoma called “The Jake.” They used to show his favorite cowboy, crime dramas and thrillers. The Jake was a place where the kids would tear up the seats and the farmers were most likely to relieve themselves in the aisles. Hey, don’t want to miss any action on screen!

As Dad got older and suffered from arthritis, he would dispatch me or my sister to the local Blockbuster (remember those?) and rent a movie. He called it his own version of “The Jake” — because the movies there were never first run!

When I sit down at my TV these days with a Netflix DVD (remember those? AAY!) — I think of my Dad saying, “What’s on at the Jake?”

I’ll never forget my Dad and his irrepressible spirit and humor. He had a tough road — but he could always come up with a smile and some wry humor just when we all needed it.

Southeast Indian Writers Gathering

Nvkuse, the Bear

Here, in all his glory, is "Nugsy" aka Nvkvse (in Creek language). He stands stoically outside a souvenir shop in Cherokee, North Carolina.

I know there will be lots of friends waiting for me in North Carolina! Including this tore-up old bear, known as “Nugsy” to my friend Laura Harjo.

Laura used to have this as her profile photo and it always made me laugh. She said the bear was standing outside a souvenir shop along the road to Cherokee, North Carolina.

Laura also noted, “This bear also had a sign that said ‘Do Not Touch, Covered With Poisonous Chemicals!” For those of you wondering about the Creek language,  ‘Nugsy’ is diminutive of the Creek word for bear — ‘nokose.'”

I can only hope the bear is there to greet me on Thursday!

It’s time for the annual Southeast Indian Writers Gathering, organized by the Museum of the Cherokee and Western Carolina University’s Sequoyah scholar, Robert J. Conley.

I’ve known Robert for many, many years and he and his wife Evelyn are dear friends. Robert, as you probably know, is an award-winning Cherokee Author and Historian and a multiple winner of the Western Spur writer’s award. He’s the author of many books that I have on my shelves, including “Ned Christie’s War,” “Crazy Snake,” War Woman, “Mountain Windsong,” and the list goes on.

Arigon with Robert Conley

Arigon with Robert Conley at a joint booksigning event, Tahlequah, Oklahoma 2003

The Writers’ Gathering takes place at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 589 Tsali Blvd., Cherokee, North Carolina on September 14 & 15th. I’ll be presenting a panel on songwriting on Thursday morning (September 15th) at 10:00am. The cost of the workshop and event is FREE — so if you’re in the area, come on down and enjoy some lively presentations and discussions.

There’s a group of fine speakers planning on attending, including: Lee Francis (Laguna), Executive Director of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers; Dr. Kimberly Roppolo (Cherokee/Creek)  from the faculty at the University of Oklahoma; Vernon Schmid (Cherokee); and Bob Perry, (Chickasaw).

More information here:

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian

In response to yesterday’s post about the Indian guy asking for five dollars a photo — Agent 49 aka Dion Francis noted that the practice is known as “Chiefing” — and that it probably put his kids through college. Robert Conley wrote in his book “Cherokee Thoughts: Honest & Uncensored:”

“Here was a Cherokee, on the Cherokee Reservation, in a Cherokee town, doing exactly what the Hollywood filmmakers were doing. Here was a Cherokee feeding the myth that all Indians are alike, enforcing the ignorance that the general public was carrying around in its head, or its many heads. I was sickened. I was disgusted. I was ashamed. I was….”

Robert talks about a Creek artist who created stunning paintings of Plains Indians…even though he was from a Southeastern Tribe. The artist’s explanation — it’s because “white people want to buy those.”

Robert continues:

“When a Cherokee from North Carolina was asked about another practitioner of that racket, Carl Standingdeer, he gave the following answer. ‘He’s put several kids through college doing that.’ It’s hard to argue with success.”

See you in North Carolina!

Want a Picture? That Will Be Five Dollars!

Super Indian Hubert's Blog

Super Indian/Hubert Logan was brutally rebuffed by Tillie Thunder...and needs to find a way to make things right in his world, pronto!

Hello all out in the Blogosphere!

Really starting to feel like my character, Hubert Logan! In the current issue of “Super Indian,” Hubert started a blog and all heck is breaking loose. I’m not sure if I’ll go there with THIS blog…but you never know!

In my continuing pledge to keep writing — here’s another entry. It’s a stunning Monday here in Los Angeles. The sun in shining (as usual) — and I’m continuing the work on “Super Indian” as promised. Right now, “Hubert’s Blog” is about 65 percent finished. Just finished inking Page 16…and the pencil work has begun on Page 17. The total issue runs 23 pages….so I’m getting there!

I’m also prepping to attend/speak at the upcoming Southeast Indian Writers Gathering in Cherokee, North Carolina. A host of Native American writers are converging on the Cherokee Museum and there will be a few days worth of panels about all kinds of writing. I hope to have more information about this later today for tomorrow’s blog.

My guitar is making the trip — so most likely there will be a performance as well. It’s gonna be fun.

The last time I was in North Carolina, I was a wee child. My family was driving from Maryland to Oklahoma and we stopped in Cherokee on the way. While there, my dad, Ken Wahpecome saw this old Indian man decked out in full Western Plains regalia. Yep, we are talking headdress, buckskin, beadwork. [Why is it that even Indians want to get their photos taken with other Indians? (AAAY!)]

Now, as most of you know, Cherokee people don’t wear buckskin — you’re likely to see Cherokee men in ribbon shirts and turbans, not the stereotypical Hollywood Indian wear.

My Dad wanted to make sure we got the full experience of what was back then a small, sleepy town. Cherokee, North Carolina is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and this was way before the Casino days. Dad walked up to the man and asked to have him take a picture with me and my sister Gay.

The old man said, “Sure. That’ll be five dollars.”

My Dad was incensed. He gathered us up and stormed off. “Can you believe that guy? Didn’t he notice we were Indians? I’m gonna start charging five dollars for my picture, too.”

Ken Wahpecome circa 1971

My Dad, Ken Wahpecome back in his Navy Recruiter days in the 1970's.

He always told that story with an ironic laugh.

That’s a black and white photo of my Dad from back in the 1970’s. I think he could have totally sold his photo for five bucks a pop.

There will be more about North Carolina tomorrow. I have a feeling!