Tahlequah Daily Press

September 3, 2013

Tribal blowgun competition can be fierce

By JOSH NEWTON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

For many years, Lucille Oosahwe has been a fierce competitor at the annual Cherokee National Holiday blowgun competition for women.

Oosahwe, of Tahlequah, began shooting for fun about two years after her husband, Larry – a “full-blood Cherokee,” as she describes him – took up the activity.

“I’ve probably done this about 15 years, maybe longer – maybe 20 years,” said Oosahwe. “I just enjoy it, and it’s fun.”

Oosahwe’s aim proved to be on target as she took her place time and time again Saturday afternoon near the Heritage Center in Park Hill.

“We’re having fun; it don’t matter to me about winning or losing,” said Oosahwe. “I’ve won first place several years, but I just enjoy it.”

Tara Hooper, another Tahlequah resident, competed in the blowgun competition Saturday for the first time at the request of her 9-year-old niece, Chloe Hooper, who vied in her first children’s competition.

“I just came out and tried it,” said Tara Hooper, whose darts frequently struck their target.

Her niece took third place in the competition for younger participants.

“It was not really hard,” Chloe Hooper said.

Tara Hooper said Eli Olvera introduced her to the activity, and she practiced with him before entering this year’s competition.

“It’s really competitive,” said Olvera, who competed in the men’s competition. “I’ve done it a few times before. I think it’s about the connection with nature and everything; the tradition. We don’t use it to hunt anymore, we just do it as a competition. Once you start shooting and competing against each other in a friendly game, it can get intense. We just come out and just shoot for the fun of it, basically just for competition, to see how well you can do against somebody else. It’s kind of a heritage-type thing, connecting back to nature and culture.”

Blowguns were historically used by the Cherokee for taking small game, but they were also used, at times, in warfare. Blowguns typically ranged from three to nine feet long with hard-wood darts, according to the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center.

Oosahwe said participants in the annual blowgun competition don’t have to be experts, and practice isn’t a requirement – though it does help.

“I didn’t practice this year at all, and I didn’t do too bad,” Oosahwe said Saturday. “Just come out and try it, see if you like it. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a competition. We’re just having fun.”