By JEAN HAVENS
Fellowship, fun and festivities brought people together at the Keetoowah Cherokee 62nd Annual Celebration this weekend, despite the cold, rainy weather.
Reunion of family members and friends was a common theme among those attending the celebration.
Amy Hooper, who was running the horseshoe tournament, likes the camaraderie.
“We’re Keetoowah, and it’s like a family reunion,” said Hooper. “I can meet with all the elders and [I] get to meet a lot of new people.”
Katie Bucktrot spent the day serving Indian tacos, meat pies and stews, as she’d done for the past four celebrations. She looks forward to the event to reconnect with old classmates.
Connecting with those not seen in years also happened at the UKB celebration.
“We love the festival, because a lot of our school mates who went to Sequoyah High School have an opportunity to get together and help support one another,” said Bucktrot. “It’s [all about] the enjoyment of getting together with friends.”
The Keetoowah Celebration has been a vital part of many tribal members’ lives.
“I’ve been part of the Keetoowah celebration all my life,” said Kathy White. “It’s a time for us to see people we haven’t seen in awhile. Now, we can connect.”
Shelby Flowers, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, participated in the cornstalk shoot. For him, attending the celebration is about fellowship and having fun. This year’s event was Flowers’ eighth.
“I like supporting different groups,” he said.
Brandi Sarren, a senior at Tahlequah High School, and her family have been attending the festival for many years. This year, Sarren is THS Native American Heritage Club sweetheart, so she rode in the Keetoowah parade Saturday morning. She looks forward to the stomp dance the most.
“It’s good to be out here with everyone else,” Sarren said. “The stomp dance is my family’s tradition. We attend every stomp dance we can.”
Family and tradition also play a large part in the participants’ lives.
“The Keetoowah people are family-oriented,” said Carrie Haney, who works for the UKB Health and Human Services. “And, as cold as it is, we still have many people here.”
Haney set up a booth to promote the UKB health program and share information.
Ken Foster and his group of friends made beans and potatoes the crowd for lunch.
“I enjoy the cooking, because it’s a lot of fun,” Foster said. “We’ve been doing the cooking since 2001. This year, we prepared 500 pounds of potatoes and 150 pounds of beans.”
Jennifer Condiff has attended the past five Celebrations, and said she was there to listen to the interesting speeches and “to just enjoy the whole cultural experience.”
Trevor Crouch was enjoying his first Keetoowah celebration.
“I’m here for the food and the inflatables,” said Crouch. “I’m also looking forward to the stomp dance. I’ve never seen one before, so it will be interesting.”
Pride in the tribe’s accomplishments is another reason members come to celebrate.
“We celebrate to let everyone know that UKB is surviving,” said Juanita McCarter.
Brenda Teehee believes the Keetoowahs have many reasons to celebrate.
“The Keetoowah always take care of their members and take pride in everything they do,” Teehee said.
The weather Saturday was dreary, wet and cold. But that didn’t deter people from coming and enjoying the food and the variety of events.
All attending were happy, and not surprised, to see so many people attending the Keetoowah celebration, including White
“Even though it’s cold and rainy, we’ll see a lot of people out here,” said White. When it’s all said and done, we’re one big family.”
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