Tahlequah Daily Press

October 8, 2013

Passing on Cherokee tradition

Students recently took part in Cherokee Heritage Center activities

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH —  Like a gathering of tribes in days gone by, about a 1,000 people gathered at  Diligwa, the 1710 Cherokee Village Thursday, playing games, honing skills, talking and laughing.

This day, students and chaperones from 14 schools from as far a Heavener discovered life from an ancient time.

“We have the perfect outdoor classroom, and a beautiful day to enjoy it,” said Tonia Weavel, education director for the Cherokee Heritage Center.

The museum staff host Ancient Days in the spring and fall to give school children an opportunity to learn authentic Cherokee culture through hands-on activities, Weavel said.

Kiana Hamilton, 12, from Marietta School, was trying her hand at finger-weaving with the help of volunteer Beth Frederick, from Iowa.

“This weaving is hard,” Kiana said.

The blow dart competition was her favorite activity so far.

“I like walking around seeing what we used to do,” Kiana said.

It’s that sense of personal history the museum staff and volunteers hope Diligwa will inspire.

“I do this for the kids, “ Frederick said. “I really enjoy passing on the culture. I want our kids to know.”

A couple of times a year, Frederick comes from her home in Iowa to volunteer with the museum.

“It’s important to sustain our culture. It’s who we are. If we don’t, it will be lost,” she said.

Around the village, children also played stickball, did basket-weaving, made pinch pots, and learned words in Cherokee. And being children, they threw rocks into a pond and, “accidentally” fell into a creek that meanders through the village.

Mason Butler, 10, from Marquette Catholic School in Tulsa, looks forward to coming back with his family.

“I like the games, and I won at marbles. I’m having fun, I’m experiencing the Indians life and culture,” Mason said.   

His friend and schoolmate, Jake Gendron, 11, enjoyed the competition of the  marbles.

“I almost won. It was fun but I really like the blow darts,” Jake said. “And I wondered if the houses would be hot.”

Janie Garman, 8, of Central Elementary in Coweta, learned the Cherokees had different kinds of homes.

“I wonder how did they see at night?” Garman said. “It’s fun here. I’m going to come back with my daddy.”

Mom Stephanie Butler was enjoying the day with her son and his friends: “It’s a fun field trip.”

The kids initially didn’t think the games would be fun – not like video games and board games.

“But they’re getting out in nature and having fun. That’s what boys like to do,” Butler said. “Where do you see kids playing with, throwing rocks anymore?”