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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Osley Bird Saunooke, Colorful Chief of the Cherokees

Folks, this is EBCI Chief (1950-1954; 1958-1962) Osley Bird Saunooke posing for a picture in the sports pages when he was a "world-class bruiser-weight" wrestler. Mr. Saunooke, or as he was known on the wrestling circuit, "Chief Sunoco," is still remembered today in wrestling circles as a "big man who fought fair."

On Thursday May 17 at 7:00 pm at WCUs Mountain Heritage Center auditorium The Liars Bench will present the third of the "Balsam Chronicles" series continuing with the story of Osley Bird Saunooke, "Colorful Chief of the Cherokees."

Supported in part by a grant from the Grassroots Arts Program of the Jackson County Arts Council and the North Carolina Arts Council, this is the fascinating story of a young EBCI man's rise from Indian boarding school, entry into and success in the world of professional wrestling, and finally becoming the elected leader of his band during a turbulent period in their history.

Carden said “Chief Osley Saunooke had a reputation for honesty and was quite popular all over WNC. Historical accounts say he was the most approachable, the most well known—and in terms of being chief and politics, he was the most amenable--he was totally in favor of tourism and development for the Cherokees.”

In addition to Liars Bench regulars Gary Carden, host and storyteller; Lloyd Arneach, the Cherokee storyteller; Paul Iarussi, claw-hammer guitar specialist; William Ritter, vocalist and musician; and Karen Barnes; the May 17 performance will also feature Dave Waldrop singing home-spun vocals.

During the past year, Carden has designed and directed a series of shows that dealt with Cherokee history and culture; religious music, Jack Tales, and myths and legends. After a show from last October was recently featured on the regional television program Life in the Carolinas, both the performers and the staff of the Liars Bench became convinced that the show should move toward becoming a significant voice in defining and preserving the region's culture. This decision was confirmed by the cover story publication in a WNC newspaper recently of Carden and his creation, The Liars Bench show.

Recently, The Liars Bench, in conjunction with the Mountain Heritage Center, developed a grant proposal that was funded by the Jackson County Arts Council. “This grant has given us the resources to develop programs that deal with topics such as Dr. John R. Brinkley, the hanging of Jack Lambert, and the historical basis for the belief that Abraham Lincoln was born here. We continue to do this with storytelling, music, poetry and drama.” The story of EBCI Cherokee Chief Osley Bird Saunooke is the third “Balsam Chronicles” presentation. For additional information, call the Mountain Heritage Center at 828.227.7129.

The North Carolina Arts Council works to make North Carolina The Creative State where a robust arts industry produces a creative economy, vibrant communities, children prepared for the 21st century and lives filled with discovery and learning. The Arts Council accomplishes this in partnership with artists and arts organizations, other organizations that use the arts to make their communities stronger and North Carolinians-young and old-who enjoy and participate in the arts. The Arts Council is a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.

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The Mountain Heritage Center at WCU: 828.227.7129
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