Tahlequah Daily Press


June 5, 2012

Erb embraces digital technology in art

TAHLEQUAH — When it comes to ancient civilized cultures, like the Egyptians or Aztecs, most people visualize them in terms of its art images.

Soon, people may visualize Cherokee art and culture with digital technology like iPhones. Joseph Erb believes art is culture.

“I don’t know if a culture could exist with out [art],” said Erb. “If you think about great cultures in the past, you think of their art. To have a strong and growing culture, the art must strengthen and grow with it. Artists have a big responsibility to culture. Art will tell future generations that this was a time where the Cherokee language and culture was getting washed away, and then it became strong one again. That is what I hope.”

The art Erb creates is also used in his work as illustrations and inspiration, and helped link the Cherokee language to worldwide technology.

“My art fuels my work and my work fuels my art; I got my job through my art. Animations led to a job,” he said.

Erb has worked for five years as a language technologist for the Cherokee Nation, and his work creating new niches for the Cherokee language is “amazing,” he said.

“Cherokee is now on iPhones and there’s a Google search engine in Cherokee,” Erb said. “Localization of one of the most popular operating systems in Windows 8 is going to be in Cherokee on every computer.”

With all the advances in technology, he hopes to help people better understand and appreciate Cherokee and tribal culture and people. He’s lived in other countries and noticed residents interface culture and technology.

“Every culture uses technology,” said Erb. “You don’t think of Italians not being Italian if they have technology, or Brazilians to be less Brazilian if they have a radio, but people think of Indians being less Indian with technology,” he said. “I saw a white couple shooting pics of an Indian in powwow regalia, talking on his cell phone like they’d seen a three-headed goat.”

He’s bothered by people having stereotypes of what they think native culture, Cherokee culture, is.

“You can be very technical and very tribal, like the Cherokee Phoenix printing press. It was advanced technology for them and for the time,” he said. “The first telephone was purchased by Cherokees, connecting Tahlequah with Fort Gibson.”

Erb said Cherokees have adopted every form of advanced technology.

“So it’s no surprise that Cherokees would continue to adopt the latest technology, like iPhones, social mediums and text messaging in the Cherokee language, and they were early adapters,” he said.

Erb derives immense satisfaction in being part of a team.

“One of the great things about doing this work is working with Roy Boney, Jeff Edwards, Durbin Feeling and all the great Cherokee speakers at the Cherokee Nation,” Erb said. “Preserving the Cherokee language is a group effort, and there are great people in this culture. It’s inspiring.”

For six years before his current job, he worked for the American Indian Resource Center on a variety of projects, including making claymation films with rural schools. His thesis work for his Masters in Fine Art in Digital Media from the University of Pennsylvania was creating the first Cherokee animation in the Cherokee language .

“I decided when I finished that [project], I would move back here and teach others how to do it – to continue making things in the Cherokee language. American Indian Resource Center wrote me into a grant that got funded,” Erb said. “I would go out in different communities and work with children and teach them animation. At the end of the project, the children at each school would finish a short animation in the Cherokee or Creek language, depending on which community I was teaching in.”

After a few years, he met Roy Boney, when Boney began working at AIRC, too.

This was really fun, great work,” said Erb. “And it was important for many reasons. The children needed computer skills. And they were learning more about the Cherokee language and traditional stories. It was building pride into the child. They were making something they thought was really cool and advanced, and using traditional community knowledge to do it.”

Erb blames the devaluing of the local community for the loss of language and culture.

“And it has great value,” he said. “The outside world, much of the time, sees it as backward or a lesser culture, and this influences our children. These Native American cultures are thousands of years old and have wisdom and knowledge built in the language. The key is to get the next generation to understand this before it is too late.”

Traveling has helped Erb appreciate more of his homeland’s beauty.

“I think everyday influence in Oklahoma has great potential in influencing young artists,” he said. “The key seems to be realizing how many cool things are here. There are great artists here who are inspiring. My friends and colleagues, like Roy Boney and Jeff Edwards, are always making art. That keeps my energy level high. Then other artists around like America Meredith, Troy Jackson, Tony Tiger and Bobby Martin. Murv Jacob, downtown, makes great work. They’re all making different types of work with similar concepts about culture.”

Erb earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from Oklahoma City University, where he met his wife, Nuket Erb Duman, at the Oklahoma City University. She is an artist and musician, and a native of Turkey.

“[I have been making art] as long as I have had an understanding of me,” he said. “When I could pick up a pencil or piece of clay, I was always making something. Art It is the way I communicate. Some talk, some sing, some write, I create.”

Even before the iPhone, he was doing animation and painting digital technology in them. He’s inspired by ideas expressed in new ways.

“I like digital, but I still paint, mostly with acrylic, but also drawing and some watercolor,” he said.

He’s also a sculptor and does bronze works, which he studied in Italy.

“It’s kind of cliché, but I wanted to see Michelangelo. I lived two blocks from his ‘David’ statue and near the library where he designed the front steps,” Erb said. “That experience helped me. When you go off and see different cultures and you come home, you can really see the culture and distinct values you missed or didn’t recognize before.”

Cherokee people and people in the south are more concerned with people’s well-being, more than what they do for a living or what they’re working on, he said.

“You can be considered very important by the community and not have a lot of financial wealth,” he said. “I think that is cool.”

Text Only
  • Dream, Brewdog’s to host music festivals

    One sign of spring’s arrival is the scheduling of music festivals, and 10 bands will visit a Tahlequah venue May 24, the Saturday before Memorial Day.

    April 17, 2014

  • rf-Zoe-thing.jpg Conference attendees get words of encouragement

    Words of encouragement and door prizes were bountiful Saturday morning at the annual Zoë Institute’s Women’s Conference.
    Ten women shared words of wisdom in areas from happiness to health, and 100 gifts were given out, including the grand prize of gasoline for a year.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • sp-symposium-art-panel.jpg Panelists discuss impact of Southeastern art

    Until recently, most people had a certain expectation of American Indian art – and it didn’t include images familiar to people in and around Cherokee County.
    “A lot of times, when people think about Native art, they immediately think of Plains art or Southwestern art,” said Roy Boney (Cherokee), Tahlequah artist and moderator of the panel discussion “Southeastern Indian Art: Building Community and Raising Awareness,” held Friday, April 11, at the NSU Symposium on the American Indian.
    Boney and the other panelists are frustrated by the divide between mainstream expectations of Native American art and their need for genuine self-expression.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • rf-Teacher.jpg Dickerson believes in putting the student first

    As a child growing up in Elk City, Cherokee Elementary teacher Debra Dickerson lined up the neighborhood children and animals to play school.
    “I’ve been a teacher ever since I could talk. My mother always said she knew where I was because she could hear me bossing everyone,” she said.
    The classroom then was a blanket tossed over limbs of her big cherry tree on Eisenhower Street. Recess was spent tree-climbing, running, riding in the bus (her red wagon) and being creative.
    “Those were the days before video games and TV,” she said.
    Dickerson, 2013-’14 Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year, believes a classroom should be a safe haven for children, because school is often the best part of their day.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • kh-trash-pickup.jpg Cleaning things up

    Lowrey was part of the Cherokee Nation’s Career Service Center contingency of 11 volunteers. Other volunteers cleaned up trash along the roadway from the Cherokee Casino to the NSU campus.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • SR-NinthAmendment.jpg Right to privacy leans partly on Article 9

    While the other articles of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights are straightforward – at least, enough for Americans to bicker over in court – the Ninth Amendment might cause a bit of confusion.
    It reads: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
    There are no rights enumerated, and it might be difficult to argue one’s Ninth Amendment rights in court, though it has been done successfully.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • stickball-2.jpg Stickball

    The American Indian Science and Engineering Society and Native American Student Associationat Northeastern State University hosted a traditional stickball game as part of closing cultural activities during the 42nd annual Symposium on the American Indian Friday. Participants included, from left: Nathan Wolf, Disosdi Elk and Chris Smith.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • green-bldng.jpg City council to discuss ‘green building’

    Tahlequah City Council will hold a special meeting Friday, April 11, at 5:30 p.m. to discuss, among other items, applying grant money to renovate the city’s “green building” at the corner of Water and Morgan, near Norris Park.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • alcohol-info.jpg Alcohol screening can be critical

    It has been decades since Prohibition brought Americans gangsters, flappers and speakeasies, but statistics for alcohol addiction are staggering.
    Millions of Americans suffer from alcohol addiction and abuse, which affects families and friends.
    Today, April 10, is the annual National Alcohol Screening Day, and raising awareness through education, outreach and screening programs is the goal, according to the website at www.mentalhealthscreening.org.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • jn-CCSO-2.jpg Law enforcement agencies to get new facility

    Area law enforcement agencies will soon have a new training facility in Cherokee County.
    The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office is building the new training room near its gun range, located north of the detention center. Sheriff Norman Fisher said tax dollars were not used for the building.
    “This is something we’ve been trying to work on, and it was built with no money from the taxpayers,” said Fisher. “It was paid for with drug forfeitures and gun sales.”

    April 9, 2014 2 Photos


What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case