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October 2016
Born in Born in Nubbin Ridge, Oklahoma
Living in Living in Tahlequah, Oklahoma
Primitive technologist

“When Europeans first came they were appalled that Native Americans would go up to the creeks and drink the water, because it was clean. nowadays its not.”

During a visit to Tahlequah we went to Diligwa, a 1710 replica from a Cherokee village, where we met Noel, a full-blooded Cherokee dressed in historical clothes. Historical but not old, his outfit is recent, like the artefacts around him, and built by Noel’s own hands. “I’m hired out as a primitive technologist, because I make primitive stuff, bows, arrows… My father showed me how to do it, when I was a little boy. This kind of knowledge just has to be passed on. You can’t force it on anybody. When I find people to teach, I teach as much as I can. Anything they might want to learn.” ‘Anything’ includes transforming animal skins into leather, making stone tips and knives or manufacturing clothing and moccasins. Noel has been a full-time employee of the Cherokee Nation for the last seven years and he sells what he creates as art. Anyone interested should send an email to  We asked him if he felt American or Cherokee and the answer was: “American Indian. There’s really not many of us left. I think we are down to one per cent of the U.S. population. Not just Cherokees, that’s all the Indians banded together.” Joel doesn’t dwell on past trails of tears but he’s worried about something very basic and universal. “I think we are going to have a rough future, all of us. We’re loosing water by the tons. (…) You can only last three days without water. You got to have it. And we are losing it.”

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