Joseph L. Erb

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Joseph L. Erb
Born (1974-01-07)January 7, 1974
United States
Nationality Cherokee
Education MFA University of Pennsylvania
Known for Filmmaking, sculpture, painting

Joseph Erb (born 1974) is a Native American computer animator, educator, and artist enrolled in the Cherokee Nation.


Joseph Erb was born on January 7, 1974 and currently lives in Gore, Oklahoma. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He used his artistic skills to teach Muscogee Creek and Cherokee students how to animate traditional stories.[1] He currently serves on the board of the Cherokee Arts and Humanities Council.[2]

Animation for language preservation[edit]

Erb created the first Cherokee animation in the Cherokee language, The Beginning They Told. The 11-minute animated piece relays parts of the Cherokee's creation story, featuring Buzzard, Beaver, and the Water Beetle, who brings fire to humanity.[3]

He combines traditional storytelling with 21st-century technology as a means of teaching the Cherokee language to young people. His work has frequently been screened by the National Museum of the American Indian.[1] "We're competing with mass culture," Erb says. "The kids have a choice; they can watch our animation or they can watch Elmo. You have to compete with all of that so the children will want to know their traditional stories and their language."[3]

Besides collaborating with students to produce animation in their tribal languages, Erb also produce educational material, such as animated shorts of animals singing numbers and colors in Cherokee.[3] The animated format provides a solution for the challenge of relaying what is traditional oral history to the next generation.[4]

Erb trained and mentors his colleagues, Roy Boney, Jr. (Cherokee Nation), Matt Mason (Cherokee) and Nathan Young (Pawnee-Delaware-Kiowa), and together their work has established Tahlequah, Oklahoma as the "Indian Animation Capital".[5]

His work is shown at Native film festival throughout the United States and currently his work is supported in part by the Cherokee Nation. Mason, Boney, and Erb formed a production company called Cherokee Robot.

Erb's collaboration with students has led to some surprising new developments in the retelling of oral histories. Muscogee Creek middle school students and Erb created a video that combined animation, claymation and diorama sets to tell the story of Indian Removal. Their account has the Muscogee Creeks, freezing on the Trail of Tears, traveling through space to Paris, France, where beret-wearing Frenchmen teach the Creeks to stomp dance. Rabbit, the Muscogee Trickster, steals a coal of fire from the French and takes it back to the Creeks on their way to Indian Territory.[6]

Visual art[edit]

Erb is also a fine artist. He addresses contemporary realities facing Indian people through his sculpture, paintings, and jewelry.[7][3] The Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma frequently exhibits his work.[8] Several of his paintings are a part of the permanent collection at the Sequoyah National Research Center in Little Rock, Arkansas.


  • "Trail of Tears" (2009) producer
  • Hero (2007)[5]
  • Day and Night (2005) director
  • Messenger (2004) director
  • How the Rabbit Lost His Tail (2003) producer
  • How the Redbird Got His Color (2003) producer
  • Mapohiceto/Not Listening (2003) producer
  • The Beginning They Told (2003) producer, director[1]


  1. ^ a b c Native Networks: Joseph Erb. National Museum of the American Indian. March 2004 (retrieved 13 July 2009)
  2. ^ About Us. The Cherokee Arts and Humanities Council. (retrieved 13 July 2009)
  3. ^ a b c d Murg, Wilhelm. May I Suggest... 'The Beginning They Told' by Joseph Erb. Indian Country Today. 18 March 2004 (retrieved 13 July 2009)
  4. ^ Teuton, Christopher B. "Theorizing American Indian Literature: Applying Oral Concepts to Written Traditions." Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008: 194. ISBN 978-0-8061-3887-9. (Retrieved through Google Books, 13 July 2009)
  5. ^ a b Twist, Kade. Brave New Worlds: Indian Animation Movement. Archived 2008-08-08 at the Wayback Machine. Native Peoples Magazine. 1 Nov 2007 (retrieved 13 July 2009)
  6. ^ Foster, Tol. "Of One Blood: An Argument for Relations and Regionality in Native American Literary Studies." Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008: 271. ISBN 978-0-8061-3887-9. (Retrieved through Google Books, 13 July 2009)
  7. ^
  8. ^ Yantz, Mickel. 2009 Trail of Tears Art Show. Cherokee Heritage Center. 2009 (retrieved 13 July 2009)