Tylerite honored by Cherokee Nation for art and culture contributions

Left to right, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Tommy Wildcat, Donald Vann, Martha Berry, Miss Cherokee Julie Thornton and Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden.

Martha Berry, of Tyler, was among 14 Cherokee Nation citizens honored this past week for her contributions to that tribe's art and culture.

Mrs. Berry, named a Cherokee National Living Treasure, said she was deeply honored by the recognition for spreading the word about Cherokee culture and her elaborately beaded moccasins, belts and purses, according to a Cherokee Nation news release.

She has won several awards for her beadwork and travels nationwide to lecture on the revival of Cherokee beadwork.

"I have always put my name on my work and tried to do a good job because it was my name, but now it's everybody's name on there," said Mrs. Berry, wife of Tyler Morning Telegraph Editor Dave Berry. "It's almost a rededication for me, to work even harder, do even better, teach even more and do a better quality of work, because I represent the great people in this fantastic tribe. I'm thrilled."

Mrs. Berry will be introduced to the Cherokee tribe Saturday.

Born and raised in northeastern Oklahoma to Cherokee-English-Scotch-Irish parents, she took her Cherokee heritage largely for granted for many years, according to her website, berrybeadwork.com. In her 40s, with her children nearly grown, she discovered the richness and importance of Cherokee culture and turned her skill with a needle to beadwork.

She was only 5 years old when her mother and grandmother began teaching her to use a needle and thread, and she was making her own clothes by age 9. At 20 years old, she became a seamstress for a touring ice show.

Today, she divides her time between research and creating beadwork inspired by the styles of the Southeastern Woodland Native American Indians. These native nations include the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Yuchi and Alabama. Her beadwork often illustrates stories and lore of her Cherokee ancestors.

She is a registered tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Her past honors include the Women in Tyler organization designating her one of eight Women Who Do Amazing Things. She also garnered first place in beadwork at the Cherokee Heritage Center's 17th annual homecoming arts show.

Mrs. Berry was among 14 whom the Cherokee Nation honored this past week. Awards were given in five categories: Cherokee National Statesmen, National Medal of Patriotism, National Community Leadership for organizations and individuals, and National Treasure.

"Our awardees, whether an artist or a warrior or a preservationist, exemplify the values that we hold so deeply as a people and sovereign government—our community, our culture and our commitment to leaving our world a better place for today, tomorrow and the next seven generations," Principal Chief Bill John Baker  said.

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