= O-si-yo = Hello
Like my Father and Grandfather(scroll to page 355) before me, I was born and raised inTahlequah, Oklahoma. However, I was the only one born after Oklahoma became a state (Nov. 16, 1907). They were born in Tahlequah, Indian Territory.
Also like them I, too, am a member of the Nighthawk Keetoowah Society, (the traditional religious segment of the Cherokee) where I served as Chief of the Seven Clan Council for over six years.
The Redbird Smith Nighthawk Keetoowah Society Ceremonial Grounds
(located north of Vian, Oklahoma off State Hwy. 82 on Moonshine Road)
The Ross family is steeped in the history of the Cherokee. Numerous members of my family have been involved with the tribal government and politics for over 200 years, with the most well known of our family being my Great-great grandfather, John Ross. He served as the (First Elected) Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1828-1866, being re-elected every four years until his passing in 1866. He served his people longer than any other Chief (a period of 38½ years).
After a stint in the military in the '60s, living in Florida, getting married and having children, moving back to Tahlequah and attending college and working at various endeavors as a student, I was there when the original movie, "Where the Red Fern Grows"was filmed in 1973. I not only got to work on the movie, but also appear on screen as an extra several times. Nearly twenty years later I gained some national exposure with appearances a couple of the episodes of Discovery Channel's award winning 13 part mini-series "How the West was Lost" (1993) and also had an appearance in the History Channel's "The Trail of Tears" (1994), by Greystone Productions.
After having moved back to Florida, in the late '70s and back to Tulsa and Oklahoma City, I returned home to Tahlequah in 1982 and in July, 1984, I became the Curator/Site Manager of the Historic Site George M. Murrell Home and State Park, at Park Hill, Oklahoma. The Murrell Home is the only remaining ante-bellum home in the State of Oklahoma, and is listed in the National Registry as a National Historic Landmark. The home was built in 1843-44 by George M. Murrell for his wife Minerva Ross, a niece of Cherokee Principal Chief ~ John Ross.
The State of Oklahoma acquired the home and forty acres in 1948, for approximately $8000, and placed it under the Oklahoma Planning and Resources Board. They spent the better part of two years renovating the home before it was opened in 1950 as a free museum, and remains so today. It depicts the affluent lifestyle of some Cherokee living in Indian Territory, prior to the War Between The States (1861-65). For nearly forty-five years the State of Oklahoma saw fit to employ the services of members of the Ross family as caretakers of this beautiful home and property. One of my Father's older sisters, my Aunt Jennie (Ross) Cobb, became the first Curator of the home. Being an accomplished photographer, noted for many of her early photographs (and personal accounts) aided greatly during the restoration of the home.
As a young girl (11), my aunt Jen, her parents and 3 or 4 of her siblings including my father (6) moved into the home (aka Hunter's Home) in November 1894 (three days before Thanksgiving) and lived there until statehood in 1907 when another of my aunts, Lulah (Ross) Henderson, received the home as her Cherokee Allotment according to the dictates of the Dawes Commission.* There were countless members of the Ross family living at the Murrell Home up until 1994, a period of 150 years. The Home was often and erroneously referred to as "The Old Ross House."
My Aunt Jen and a her younger sister, my Aunt Anne (Ross) Piburn,**lived on the property from 1949-1959, renovating and conducting tours, they were instrumental in establishing the home as a destination for tourists to Cherokee country. After Aunt Jen passed away, my Mother, Marguerite (nee Clay) Knight Ross became the Curator. Mother, Dad and I moved there in May 1959. For Dad, it was like coming home as he had essentially grown up in the home living there from 1894-1907. Mother was curator from 1959-1966 when she reached the mandatory state retirement age of 65. Upon Mother's retirement another cousin, Macie Osburn, was there from 1966-1984. It was during her tenure that the home was transferred to the newly formed Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, Division of State Parks. Upon the retirement of Macie Osburn, I was fortunate enough to become Curator/Manager, and got to return to my childhood home. Being part of a state agency, the Home was legislatively transferred to the Oklahoma Historical Society in July of 1991. I remained at the Murrell Home until September of 1994, when I was arbitrarily transferred to Fort Gibson Military Park in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. With this not being an equitable transfer, I opted to leave the employ of the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) at the end of 1994. At this time I set about devoting my time to sharing my knowledge of the Cherokee people and northeast Oklahoma by speaking on the history, heritage and culture of the Cherokee, in addition to doing genealogical research for those interested in tracing and proving their Cherokee ancestry.
In September of 1997, the opportunity arose for me to come to Arizona to take a position at Casa Blanca Community School, on the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Indian Reservation with the Pima and Maricopa tribes. GRIC is located just south of Phoenix, Arizona in Pinal County. While at Casa Blanca, I served in numerous capacities with each year evolving into more and more duties/responsibilities. While there we established a middle school and the very first high school on the Rez. In 2000 I became the Transportation Director. I also continued to serve as Recording Secretary & Parliamentarian for the three School Boards, and the editor of three newsletters for the schools. I also continued to work with the cultural component for the schools. I would search out various artisans, elders, crafts-people, singers, storytellers, dancers, essentially anyone that could, and would, share their innate talents and traditions with our native students and members of the Community. As a sideline, and with time permitting, I would speak periodically for various groups, schools, banquets, etc..
After leaving Casa Blanca and the Gila River Indian Community in July of 2003, I began devoting more time to completing a novel relating to my Cherokee ancestors as they were an integral part of the Removal process during the Cherokee Trail of Tears. I have let this project sit on the back burner far too long. Today I am still pursing the completion of this endeavor and will hopefully get to see it published and possibly turned into a major motion picture ~ or at the very least a movie made for television, if I can just connect with the right contacts to help me find the right path.
During the latter part of 2003 I worked with an Arizona State Charter School in the Tempe/Scottsdale area - setting up their transportation program, and a couple of other minor projects, all leaving me wanting more than just a job. Ultimately this took me to the Navajo Reservation and Window Rock Unified Schools in Fort Defiance, Arizona in March of '04, when I became Transportation Director for the District. Unfortunately, in mid-2004 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and opted to have surgery to remove the prostate and hopefully the cancer as well. The operation was successful, but still today, there are residual effects lingering. The after effects of the surgery in conjunction with my choosing to return to work (too quickly and far too many hours - 12 to 14 daily), prompted me to resign my position at Window Rock effective March 1, 2005 - I returned to the Phoenix area, where I took employment as a charter bus driver.
It was pretty nice to have a job where I wasn't making life altering decisions 24/7, and so nice to be able to come home at the end of the day and, essentially, leave the job there, and not be tethered to a phone or a radio around the clock. After nearly three years, of loving the type of work I was doing, and the people I was working with, I found myself in a rather depressed mood most of the time and hating the irregular and erratic work hours. Never knowing if I was working the next day or not, which became quite unnerving, I ultimately, came to realize that this wasn't conducive to my maintaining a good sense of well being. So I began a search for something better suited to my needs, and came across a company which I felt met my needs and desires.
So, the first of April of ’08 I began working with a small, but growing, transportation company in Scottsdale, Arizona where I would be driving a Trolley in 'Old Town' Scottsdale and picking up some charters from time to time. From what I observed, this company far exceeded all the expectations of the type of company I wish to be associated with. They seem to be as excited about my joining their team, as I was to be joining them. This is a company that won Phoenix Business Journal's A Best Place to Work Award in 2007 & 2009. After three years with them it was time for another change. I left there in July 2011. I'm currently re-focusing on trying to get my novel completed. Hopefully I can see some results of this project within the next few months. I have also taken a driving position with a small shuttle company transporting people to and from various airports and their homes...
Being a Native Oklahoman (aka OKIE), there is always that lure tugging at me to return home. Yes, at some point in the immediate future, I do plan to move back to Northeastern Oklahoma, but there is no definite timetable for this move (as yet). Hopefully within the next 8-9 months ~ the sooner the better. I'm shooting for Spring of 2014. I want to be there in time for the budding of the Dogwood and our state tree ~ the Redbud.. To pick wild onions and Kochani. To spend time with my grandchildren. I do love the beauty of Arizona and the people, and I will miss it all ~ but my heart is back in the foothills of the Ozarks in Cherokee Country of Northeastern Oklahoma.
The summer of 2011 was a pretty difficult and quite interesting (healthwise). Suffice it to say that after a couple of stints in the hospital, I lost about 35 pounds, but now have put about 20-30# back on. I got down under 200# for the first time in over 40 years. At the present, I am maintining a relative comfortable weight of between 220-230. It felt pretty strange, but nice. When I left the hospital the second time I was minus 80% of my right lung. Recovery is slow ~ but ongoing... I think the best way to sum it up is to say that instead of getting better, I'm becoming more tolerant of the discomfort. I am improving a little with each passing day, which is good. However, there are some bad days thrown in just to keep me on my toes.
It is in times like these when you truly learn who and where your friends are. I am certainly blessed to have such good friends. Without mentioning any names (you know who you are) I'll just tell you a little of what they did. Between my co-workers, classmates from the Tahlequah High School Class of '63 and other friends here in Arizona. Visits in the hospital was a most welcome respite from the grueling incarceration. Work time was donated by some of my co-workers going in and working shifts so that I could receive a paycheck. One of them worked an entire week for me. They even passed the hat at work, so I wouldn't fall too far behind on my financial obligations. Home cooked meals were prepared and delivered. Oh, I truly miss a home cooked meal. Occasionally when my mail was checked, there'd be notes of encouragement and some most needed and welcomed $$$, for which I am, most humbly, appreciative and grateful. I truly am blessed with good friends... THANK YOU, everyone, for all your support!!
As for my immediate family, We suffered the loss of my youngest daughter, Heather, in an freakish accident ~ in Florida, on October 23, 2011, just barely a month before her 34th birthday. As sad as this loss is I am still Blessed with a son (Bruce) and a daughter (Kelli). My three children have blessed me with six beautiful grandchildren.
Bruce and his wife Carrie (nee Coleman) are in OKlahoma with two daughters Tera LeeAnn, 14 and Mackenzie Lynn, 5 and a son Gavin Robert, to be 4 in Oct.. Bruce has been managing a hay farm outside Fort Giibson, Oklahoma, for the past 18 years. Kelli is now a retired Marine Master Sergeant (E-8) with 20 years service. She and her son Austin Ross Guy, 14 have moved home to Tahlequah. Heather's two daughters, Jena Rene Kirby, 18 and Chelsea Lynn Kirby, 16 are living in Florida. My oldest granddaughter, Jena, Blessed me with my first great grandchild. On Mar. 23, 2012 Jhaeden Antony James Augustin was born in Palatka, Florida. The best of all is that everyone is healthy and doing well. The worst of all is that THEY ARE WAY TOO DURN FAR AWAY FROM ME!!!! Did you know it cost a fortune to move a measly 1100 miles(?) I'm praying to rectify this distance situation as soon as possible. ... Otherwise ~ LIFE IS GOOD.
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* The advent of the 20th century brought many changes to the Cherokee People. Just after Oklahoma statehood in 1907, was the first time that an individual Cherokee plus all Indians in the old Indian Territory actually owned the lands on which they lived. Prior to this time, it was tribal land and held in common for all the People. Since they had never owned land, they had absolutely zero real estate sense, ergo they became very easy prey for most unscrupulous white land developers and white attorneys causing a large portion of Cherokee lands to be lost forever to the white-man. Thus making themselves very wealthy, all at the expense of the Indians. As a cousin of mine, Joanna Parris, said as she neared 100 years of living in Park Hill, when asked about how the Indians felt about statehood. She simply replied, "It weren't good, it weren't good."
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**Anne (Ross) Piburn (1891-1961) an accomplished entertainer and storyteller Anne traveled extensively even entertaining troops in France during World War I. She is the grandmother of internationally renown Storyteller, Gayle Ross, a Master Storyteller and author of several children's books. She travels extensively, demonstrating her skills as a most captivating and mesmerizing, Storyteller. One highlight of her career was during the 3rd Annual National Book Festival held in Washington, D.C. on October 3, 2003 (213th anniversary of the birth of Chief John Ross) Gayle appeared (also her birthday) at the Library of Congress on the same program as Julie Andrews, Bob Schiefer, Tom Clancy and Stephen Carter when they spoke in front of: President and Mrs. George W. Bush (Laura Bush is the Founder of the National Book Festival); Cherokee Principal Chief and Mrs. Chad Smith; several members of the U.S. Cabinet and many Members of the 108th Congress.
Earlier in the same year, Gayle appeared on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
If you'd like to view this performance click Here.
(Then scroll down to near the end and click on Play this Performance)
I also have another link I'd like you to check out ~ it's about my Father. (FYI, he's No. 5 in the pic.) then read down to his stats. I was very pleasantly surprised when I found this on the Internet ~ especially when I looked up on my living room wall and saw this same picture hanging there.
PLEASE NOTE: There has been some talk of holding a Ross Family reunion in 2013. If you are reading this and know any descendants of Chief John Ross, please pass the word along, and have them get in touch with me for information as it develops. I will post details as they come in. Plans are only in the talking stage at this time, and nothing specific is set. Without a lot of effort by a lot of people, we may have to hold off until 2014, but hopefully it can be held in conjunction with Cherokee Holiday on Labor Day weekend.. If anyone is interested in helping with setting this up, please let me know..(contact info. below)
I hope you have enjoyed my site and if you should have any comments
and or suggestions, please contact me via the email link below.