The Labor Day weekend marks the official end of summer break for students, but for Cherokee citizens, it’s a time of celebration and homecoming.
The 60th annual Cherokee National Holiday will take place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, and is expected to draw tens of thousands of citizens and visitors.
This year’s theme is “From One Fire to a Proud Future,” and emphasizes the kinship and unity of all Cherokees. The festival celebrates the tribe’s signing of its 1839 constitution and an act of union that formally joined factions of the tribe into one nation.
During his state of the nation address at Monday evening’s Tribal Council meeting, Principal Chief Bill John Baker said he’s looking forward to this year’s celebration.
“This is the 60th year of the Holiday, and I like it when that number also coincides with my birthdate,” said Baker, who turned 60 in February. “The volunteers have been working really hard to make this Holiday the biggest and best ever, and I truly appreciate all of their efforts.”
The Holiday kicks off with the Holiday art show, in which artists compete for $12,000 in prize money in 12 categories: traditional, contemporary pottery, paintings, drawings and graphics, photography, sculpture, contemporary basketry, textiles and weaving, diverse arts, youth ages 1-8, youth ages 9-13, and youth ages 14-18.
“We have expanded the youth category this year, and broken the ages down a little more, offering more prize money for the youth, who are our future,” said Marie Smith.
The show will be displayed at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center, 100 N. Water Ave., and opens at 1 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31. Winners will be announced on opening night. The show continues Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The arts and crafts vendors will have two locations this year. Beginning at 10 a.m., Friday, Aug. 31, vendors will present their wares on the grounds at the Cherokee Heritage Center, at 21192 S. Keeler Drive in Park Hill. More than 80 Native American vendors featuring original paintings, prints, jewelry, basketry, beadwork, traditional clothing, flutes, pottery and quilts.
Vendors will also be available downtown at the historic Cherokee Courthouse Square beginning at 9 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 1, as visitors gather for the Holiday parade and state of the nation address.
Over 100 parade entries are expected for this year’s Holiday parade, which is set to begin at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 1, on Muskogee Avenue in downtown Tahlequah. Entry categories include floats; vehicles; marching bands; businesses, churches and non-profits; and Cherokee Nation employee groups. Trophies will be awarded in each category and in best overall presentation. Applications for entry are due by Friday, Aug. 24. For more parade information, contact Debra Lack at (918) 453-5310.
The Holiday powwow is a perennial favorite among citizens and visitors, and this year, coordinators expect more dancers from more tribes, including the well-known Northern and Southern host drum groups. This year, the powwow has increased its total prize money, with $35,000 being offered.
The event is slated for 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31, and Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Cherokee National Cultural Grounds, West 810 Road, just south of the Cherokee Nation W.W. Keeler Complex.
“We’re doing a lot of different things [this year],” said powwow Chairman Rob Daugherty.
“We are offering more of a celebration and more opportunities for different styles of dance from different tribes and different nations of powwow people. We want people to come, have a good experience and some fun.”
Those with a competitive spirit and a desire to learn more about Cherokee culture won’t want to miss out on traditional games like marbles, the cornstalk shoot, a blowgun competition and stickball games. The cornstalk shoot will be at 7:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 1, west of the CN complex, followed by the blowgun competition at 1 p.m., at the Cherokee Heritage Center. The marbles tournament finals will take place at 4 p.m. at the Cherokee Heritage Center. Stickball games will be held at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31, at the Markoma Center, off of Fourth Street near Go Ye Village, and at 9 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 1, at the Sequoyah High School football field.
In addition being the site for arts and crafts and traditional Cherokee Games, the Heritage Center will provide free admission to its attractions during the three-day Holiday.
“The Cherokee National Holiday provides us with a unique time to open our doors and provide free admission to the public, so that everyone can tour the attractions and enjoy the grounds,” said Karen Cooper, executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center.“This is a special weekend at [the center]. With thousands of guests visiting, we have the chance to share Cherokee culture through art, music and a variety of performances.”
Free admission includes entry to the Tsa La Gi Ancient Village, Adams Corner Rural Village and the Trail of Tears exhibit. Free guided tours of the Ancient Village will be offered every 30 minutes, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., each day.
Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is also offering visitors free admission to its three museums over the weekend, including the Cherokee National Prison Museum, the Supreme Court Museum, and the John Ross Museum. Each presents a unique perspective on Cherokee history and culture.
The Supreme Court Museum, at 122 E. Keetoowah St., is Oklahoma’s oldest government building, built in 1844. The museum features three historic aspects of the Cherokee Nation judicial system and language, including the Cherokee Advocate and the Cherokee Phoenix newspapers.
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