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Cushing Luncheon For Native American Festival

Bill O'Brien / Red Dirt Report
Native American art on display at the luncheon.
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CUSHING -- A luncheon was held on Friday, September 8th at the Steer Inn here to commemorate the upcoming Native American Festival held here last Saturday in downtown Cushing.

The attendees were addressed by Valerie Branyan  who referenced  the descendants  of champion athlete and Olympic gold medal  winner Jim Thorpe who were  present.

Branyan then introduced Evelyn Conley, a Native American, whose late husband Robert Conley who was a member of the Cherokee Nation and  authored numerous books regarding  the Native American experience. 

Conley thanked the guests for attending and also expressed gratitude to  the gathering  and thanked the  Cushing  Public Library for their commitment to Native American literature and said that   she has  donated some of her husband’s book to the library.

Evelyn Conley during her presentation. (Bill O'Brien / Red Dirt Report) 

Her husband was born in Cushing and  he was proud of that fact and was honored by Cushing in 1996.

His father had served in the U.S. military and had lived  on various military installations around the U.S.  After his father ended his military service the family moved to Cushing where the senior Conley worked in the oil business.

The younger Conley had always been interested in writing and as a young man began to write historical  fiction  that dealt with the experience of the Cherokee people. He attended Middle State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.    

He subsequently taught in several different colleges and universities as well.  She also distributed to those a present  a list of his published works. In addition, she reported that she has recently signed a contract with the University of Oklahoma Press to publish some of his articles.

And despite the fact that his fiction dealt with the Native American experience, for decade his publisher insisted on  publicizing it as “Western”.

After the luncheon concluded, some  of those present made their way to the downtown theater that will host the Native American art that will be shown, and it included baskets, paintings, and pottery.

And while the downtown area is moribund in places with faded tiles encrusted in powdered red bricks on several unused  doorways, there are intriguing signs of rebirth that include a ground floor location on the corner of Broad and Cleveland Streets that is being remodeled into a coffee shop  with a new stone floor and a pressed metal ceiling that was recently taken from a nearby structure.  

Four different workmen could be seen on ladders working on the exteriors of buildings in close proximity to one another, which is indicative of the fact  downtown Cushing is poised for revitalization.  

Several of the downtown buildings in Oklahoma City that have recently been constructed have been  part of designated “tax increment financing” districts, and  the city of Cushing will also be using that mechanism through the Downtown Cushing Revitalization Association  to foster the renovation of some its downtown structures.

And like many other communities in Oklahoma that have experienced downtown rebirths,  the now unused upper stories of Cushing buildings may eventually be converted into lofts for people who want to live there  who will be able to walk to nearby restaurants,  shops, and theaters and may at some time in the future be able to  telecommute to work in  distant locales. 

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About the Author

Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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