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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Linda Taylor has a job many would be jealous of. She spends her days surrounded by the creative and beautiful art crafted by her people – and artists of other Native tribes. She is the manager of the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop and she’s been doing it for nearly 22 years.

“I love my job. It’s a variety every day. You meet all sorts of interesting people,” she said.

A box in the corner of her office is overflowing with T-shirts, sweat shirts and hoodies emblazoned with ‘OU’ – the University of Oklahoma’s logo. Only these ‘OU’ shirts have a distinct Native flair. The initials are etched in Native designs and are created by Tahlequah-based artist Buffalo Gouge, Cherokee and Muscogee Creek.

“There doesn’t seem to be a lack of talent in our area. I think it must be something in our Cherokee blood. I’ve seen so many natural artists. They don’t even try to sell anything. They just do it for themselves. It’s unbelievable.”

More items ready to be priced and stocked sit nearby.

“We carry predominately Cherokee art, but accept and sell art from other tribes as well,” Taylor said. “Everything that is made by a Cherokee tribal citizen is labeled with a card that declares that it is made by a Cherokee citizen. We keep their CDIB and citizenship card on file,” Taylor said.

The same goes for other tribes. To ensure patrons are buying genuine Native American art, the gift shop takes extra care to document each artist’s tribal citizenship – requiring a copy of their Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB) card and tribal citizenship registration card.

According to Taylor, the gift shop is one of the Cherokee Nation’s oldest enterprises. Started in July of 1967, the shop’s original location was in Catoosa. When the tribe built the Restaurant of the Cherokees and the adjacent motel in Tahlequah, the decision was made to open a gift shop in the lobby between the two. The tribe has been supporting and encouraging Cherokee artists ever since.

Taylor knows. She is a Cherokee artist herself.

“I started pottery eight years ago. I took classes from Jane Osti, who is a Cherokee National Treasure,” she said.

Osti encouraged Taylor to enter some art shows. In spite of having doubts, Taylor has won a first place and several honorable mentions over the years.

She credits Osti and other National Treasures with keeping traditional Cherokee art alive.

“I think that is so important with her (Osti) that they are passing on the art to others,” Taylor said. “It’s so important to pass on those arts to the next generations.”

Being introduced to new artists and works every day if just part of her job, Taylor says. And she loves it. She is proud to be in a position to share the work of her fellow artists and also be in a position to teach the public about that art and the people who create it.

“The thing I like about this job is when people come in and say ‘where’s the reservation?’ and my staff and I get to educate people. We get to explain that we’re NOT reservation people - that we are a Southeastern people. It’s a chance for us to teach people that not all Native Americans are alike. It’s a pretty neat part of the job,” she said.

Cherokee Gift Shops carry commercial items as well. Pendleton blankets, wallets and bags take up a sizeable area of one wall in the Tahlequah store. Another shelf is lined with coffee mugs, mouse pads and painted decorative tiles.

Other shelves hold T-shirts and hats bearing words in the Cherokee syllabary. Traditional Cherokee tear dresses and ribbon shirts hang in another corner. Glass cases are filled with hand-made jewelry and beadwork items – from hairpins to beaded ink pens and key chains.

A stroll to the back of store will show you more treasures behind glass. Examples of fine art such as paintings and baskets, and cultural items like turtle shell rattles and booger masks, beaded baby moccasins and pipe stems. On the floor sit two rare hand-painted benches by well-known artist Virginia Stroud.

“Virginia hasn’t made any more of those,” Taylor said. “Those are really special.”

You get the feeling everything in the store is special, and it is to Taylor.

“I’m really inspired by the work I see every day and the artists I get to meet. I love my job.”

Cherokee Gift Shop Locations:

Cherokee Nation Gift Shop

17725 S. Muskogee Ave

Tahlequah, OK 74466

918-456-2793 or 800-256-2123

Cherokee Art Gallery

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

777 W. Cherokee St.

Catoosa, OK 74015


Cherokee Nation Welcome Center

16200 E Skelly Dr.

Tulsa, OK 74116


Cherokee Nation Welcome Center

59914 US HWY 59

Kansas, OK 74347


Cherokee National Prison Museum

124 E Choctaw St

Tahleuqah, OK 74464


John Ross Museum

22366 S 530 Rd.

Park Hill, OK 74451


Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum

122 E Keetoowah Ave.

Tahlequah, OK 74464


Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum

122 E Keetoowah Ave.

Tahlequah, OK 74464


Cherokee Heritage Center

21192 S. Keeler Dr.

Parkhill, OK 74451

918-456-6007 Option #3


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