In November 2018, the Cherokee Nation put out a call to its citizens to share stories and photos of where their Cherokee Nation flag has flown. These stories have been curated into “Where Your Flag Has Flown,” the current exhibit at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, 122 E. Keetoowah St.
“The idea came from the anniversary of the modern Cherokee Nation flag, which was adopted in 1979,” said Travis Owens, director of cultural tourism and community relations. “The exhibit highlights the flag’s history and how it connects with people all over the world.”
Owens said they received submissions from all over the globe, and most stories they didn’t know about.
“From France to England, to all across the country, we had submissions,” he said. “We weren’t able to display all of the stories we heard, but they were catalogued.”
Owens said that at this 40th anniversary, CN wanted to know how citizens display their flags.
“How do you use it to represent your citizenship? You think of the pride and reverence for the U.S. flag, and Cherokee citizens do that for their flag, as well,” he said.
Some places and events highlighted in the exhibit include Camp Taji, Iraq; the Sea of Galilee; VEX Robotics World Championships in Kentucky; and Standing Rock, North Dakota.
“Cherokee Nation citizens were proud to not only share their heritage, but to bring their flag with them,” said Owens.
The Cherokee Nation has adopted flags a few times throughout history, and reports suggest there were two flags – one for war and one for peace – at the time of the 1830 Removal from the East. A panel in the exhibit details those flags, as well as one from the 1860s.
The modern flag was created in 1978 by Stanley John, and was first flown in 1979 over the Cherokee Nation tribal offices. Owens said that since the Cherokee Nation had a new constitution, the 1979 flag is a representation of the modern government.
Centered on the orange background of the modern flag is the seal of the Cherokee Nation, which is surrounded by seven gold seven-pointed stars. The number seven can represent, according to the display, the seven clans, the seven rights of traditional Cherokee religion, and the seven holidays. John used the rope design on the border “to symbolize the veins of the Cherokee people stretching back to the original homelands.” The one black star, also seven-pointed, represents the lives lost on the Trail of Tears. This was added in 1989.
The Cherokee Nation flag flies prominently over the capitol and governmental buildings, and Owens said the Nation wants people to understand its symbolism.
“We encourage Cherokee Nation citizens to check out the exhibit, and the general public, especially folks in Tahlequah who see it and maybe don’t understand what it means,” said Owens. “It’s a way to understand your community and the people in it.”
The exhibit also offers a chance for children and those with creative minds to design their own flag to represent them. Coloring sheets and crayons are out for those who wish to use them.
Check it out
The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday. For information about the museum and admission, call 877-779-6977 or visit www.visitcherokeenation.com.