The sound of laughter filled the air at the Cherokee Heritage Center Ancient Village Thursday, as students from all over Northeast Oklahoma competed in stickball, chunkey and marbles.
The Heritage Center’s Ancient Cherokee Days, held Oct. 4-5, is one of two cultural education events the organization hosts each year.
Inside the Ancient Village, Bixby eighth-graders were learning to pinch pots, shoot blowguns and play stickball.
“This is our favorite trip of the year,” said Bixby eighth-grade social studies teacher Catherine Woods. “It’s just the best. This is the third year I’ve brought students, and I can say playing stickball is their favorite, by far.”
According to CHC Education Director Tonia Weavel, over 450 students visited Thursday, and an additional 800 were expected today.
“We have two educational events per year, one in the spring and one in the fall,” said Weavel. “In the fall, we host Ancient Cherokee Days, and in the spring it’s Indian Territory Days. We adjust activities to meet the historic timeframes.”
Weavel said both events require participation from all staff at the Cherokee Heritage Center, along with a number of volunteers.
“We have wonderful volunteers,” said Weavel. “We also receive great cooperation from Cherokee Nation Business, Cherokee Nation and for years, Job Corps students – members of their leadership classes – have volunteered. They are a big help, as many have been raised in the culture, so it’s good for them to share their experiences.”
Weavel said that last year, the fall program drew over 1,800 youth from all over the state, which required adding educational stations and volunteers.
“Ideally, we’re set up to accommodate 700 to 800,” said Weavel. “That way, everyone can enjoy themselves. We had to add a third day last year.”
This year, 15 Cherokee cultural learning stations were available throughout the Ancient Village ground, featuring chunkey, marbles, stickball, blowguns, language pottery, basketry, bows/weapons, netting, twining, flat-weaving and two storytelling posts.
“By far, the most popular among the kids are stickball and blowguns,” said Weavel. “This year, though, we have two very enthralling storytellers – Gayle Ross and Robert Lewis. We’re very lucky to have them. They are both well-known among the Cherokee and have very different styles.”
Weavel said all but one of the stations include hands-on activities.
“We don’t let the kids use the bows and weapons, so it’s demonstration only,” said Weavel.
“But they can pinch pots, play stickball, weave baskets and learn to play Cherokee marbles, which is probably the oldest game in the culture. They can also play chunkey, which was never revived after the 1800s, but archaeologists have found chunkey yards in almost every dig site.”
All Heritage Center attractions were open to students, including the Ancient Village which depicts Cherokee life in the 1700s, Adams Corner Rural Village and the museum, which features the Trail of Tears exhibit.
“We also have the Cherokee Homecoming Art Show on display, which will give students an idea about modern Cherokee art,” said Weavel.
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