Lynzi Smith, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, loves sharing what she has learned with others. She particularly loves sharing what she’s learned about basket weaving, beadwork and dressmaking.
“When they’re done, everyone’s always proud of what they did and they’re happy and they always want to learn more,” she said.
Smith said she teaches whenever she’s called on. She has taught children at Murrow Indian Children’s Home how to make baskets and earrings. She also demonstrates basket weaving at the recent Muskogee Oklahoma Native American Association’s spring fling.
She said the key to teaching is “being willing to share your knowledge and have patience.”
Basket weaving is her favorite thing to teach.
“Anyone can do it, any age group,” she said.
Smith said she wasn’t very interested in Native culture while growing up, however.
“Just like any kid, really, I wanted to have fun,” she said. “But when they brought it into class, I would always be willing to do it.”
Her interests in Native culture grew stronger as she got older.
She has worked at the Cherokee Nation Health Center, as well as a casino. She has also been a house parent at Murrow.
“If the Murrow children’s home needs me to come fill in every now and then, I will,” she said.
Smith now is a full-time student, studying nursing at Connors State College. She said she seeks to be an RN and possibly a traveling nurse.
Her own children, ages 5, 12 and 16 have differing interests. She said she doesn’t push them to learn her culture. She said her daughter has expressed an interest in drawing.
Youngest child, Jacob, already has shown an interest in powwows, she said.
“He begs me to take him to powwows,” she said. “He’ll go out there by himself. He’s actually dancing and not walking around watching everyone else dance.”
Smith said watching her son makes her “feel pretty great.”
“Glad he’s wanting to go out there and participate,” she said.
Lynzi Smith started weaving baskets when she was younger. She said she learned the craft in school.
“It really picked up when I did summer youth programs, like working at Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah,” she said.
Reeds honey were made from such plants as honeysuckle, she said, adding that she now gets reed commercial.
Smith said she wets her reeds before she starts.
Basic basket weaving begins with a bottom, which helps hold it together, Smith said. She showed how the bottom might have six reeds going one way and six going perpendicular.
“Then you’re going to have a runner, which is a long, separated reed,” she said. “Then, you’re going to wrap it around.”
She demonstrates how the runner goes over one set of reeds and under another.
“They’re going to hold it together,” she said. “You start going over and under and over and under.”
Loose edges are snipped off to keep the bottom even.
“Then you just keep going,” she said. “Whenever you’re ready for your walls to come up, you just bend these (bottom reeds). It will come up.”
She showed how to make a sturdier double-wall basket by turning the support reeds down at the top.
“Then I weave it back down,” she said.
Smith said she’s made baskets of various sizes.
Smith’s beadwork comes in many forms, including keychains, earrings, pendants, even pop socket grips that stick to smartphones.
“I did my son’s medallion when he dances in a powwow,” she said.
Her current beading projects include pendants that show football team logos. She already did a white one depicting Miami Dolphins.
“I’m working on a Dallas Cowboys one for my brother in San Francisco,” she said. “I’m going to do the whole NFL eventually.”
Such projects are one way to keep the culture alive, she said. “Beading is still a part of the culture, but it brings in something that we like.”
Smith said she taught herself to do beadwork and has been doing it for about two years.
She said beading is easy to do, “if you’re willing to learn and want to learn it bad enough.”
Beadwork takes time and a good eye.
It takes two to four hours to make a pair of earrings, she said.
She said she strings the beads, then tacks it down on the pellon, a stiff fabric supporting the bead’s pattern.
“Once you get your design down, you glue the back on, then you can start doing the edging of it.
On the other hand, she said the NFL pendant could take a week or two “depending on how much time you have to work on it.”
Smith said she would do the medallion separately and wrap the stringed beads around the neck cord.
Smith also seeks to share her culture by making clothing and regalia.
Her interest began about two years ago when she took a class at Claremore. She said she learned how to make a tear dress, which is made with fabric torn across the grain.
“I went over there every weekend for about two or three months and finally got my dress finished,” she said. “Ever since, I’ve been wanting to do more skirts and dresses.”
Smith said she had a great teacher for her tear dress class.
“Wendell Cochran, he’s one of the Cherokee Nation’s National Treasures,” she said. “He was willing to teach and he knew a lot about the history and his story.”
However, even with the history and tradition, Smith said one valuable thing she learned was to have good scissors.
“I had just these cheap Walmart ones, and he was like ‘no, you need some Gingher,'” she said. “I ended up buying them. They were $50 scissors.”
Smith also has made ribbon shirts for her son.
“I also made his grass dance regalia,” she said. “But, now I want to do more regular ribbon skirts.”
Q and A
HOW DID YOU COME TO BE AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“I started working at the Cherokee Nation Health Center before it moved. Then I worked there. Then I worked at the casino for 10 years.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“There are a lot of groups to join in and volunteer for.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“More places for people to do things, activities for kids. There’s not really anything to do around here. Usually we go to Tulsa or Arkansas.”
WHAT PERSON IN MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE MOST?
“Probably Lynn Clinton. She’s the main founder of Gee Gals. She’s really giving and always trying to help the community and the group members. She’s a take-charge type of woman.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“To be able to go to school. And it’s here in town so I don’t have to travel.”
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“Either studying, doing homework, or I go out to Stilwell, where my family is and go visit them. Have get-togethers and cookouts.”HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“Muskogee is a great community to be in. It’s very welcoming and very caring community. If you need help there are a lot of resources for people.”
Meet Lynzi Smith
EDUCATION: Sequoyah High School. Currently attending Connors State College.
PROFESSION: Full-time student. Work when needed at Murrow Indian Children’s School.
FAMILY: Husband, Randall; three children, Kennah, Zaylin, Jacob.
HOBBIES: Beading, sewing, basket making, fishing.