Cherokees celebrate National Holiday
“This event was a homecoming and a celebration” UNITY 25 Under 25 Awardee Faith Long reflected. “The 66th Annual Cherokee National Holiday, in Tahlequah Oklahoma, emphasized artists and the resilience of Cherokee people. It was an honor to be apart of such an amazing tradition and represent the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians as their current Miss Cherokee title holder.”
Long shared how she got to experience the differences and similarities between the Cherokee Nation and The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. According to their website, The holiday has been observed annually since 1953 to commemorate the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution and the Act of Union reuniting Cherokees both East and West after the Trail of Tears. Continuously overcoming colonialism through uniting Cherokee descendants affected by forced relocation. Accompanied by her Teen, Junior, and little Miss Cherokees, Long was able to serve her community through celebrating Cherokee heritage, cultural awareness and reuniting families.
This multi-day celebration included wellness teachings with sports activities, from traditional games such as Cherokee marbles, the cornstalk shoot and blowgun competition to the more contemporary golf and softball tournaments. Wellness expressed through traditional arts were displayed by hundreds of vendors and crafts people set up booths where visitors may view and purchase authentic arts and foods. Cherokee cultural music performances included gospel and bluegrass music, “a toe-tapping fiddler’s contest” and a concert from the award-winning Cherokee National Youth Choir (who also perform annually at UNITY’s National Conference Culture Night).
The 66th Cherokee National Holiday theme was Family: A bridge to the future, a link to the past. That theme is colorfully represented in this year’s commemorative artwork by Cherokee National Treasure Dan Mink. Our Cherokee family tree is shown supporting the seven clans, the ancestral ties to our family (Counterclockwise from the lower right—Wolf, Bear, Long Hair, Paint, Bird, Deer and Wild Potato). Within the branches is our sacred fire with three flame points representing the three Cherokee tribes. Four directions surround the fire—the original ancient universal symbol of faith given to all mankind. Fourteen rings of smoke around the fire honor the counties that encompass our traditional communities here in Oklahoma. The tree is encircled by 66 interlocking hands, symbolizing the link from our past to our future.
For more information about the Cherokee National Holiday, please write to [email protected]