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UNITY Spotlight on Cherokee teen Alitama Perkins

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Perkins proudly holds the Cherokee baskets she weaved.


Alitama Perkins, 17, Eastern Band Cherokee/Waccamaw/Mdewakanton/Equadorian, from Cherokee, North Carolina, shared her talents with UNITY‘s executive director Mary Kim Titla during a surprise visit to the area. Perkins, of the Deer Clan, is an accomplished Cherokee basket maker and seamstress specializing in ribbon skirts.

Perkins and Titla designed a ribbon skirt together!


Over the summer, she attended the National UNITY Conference in Washington, DC, joining more than 2200 Native youth and advisors from around the country for a chance to develop her leadership skills. While there, Perkins tried out to be a model for the fashion show and ran for the office of the Southeast Region Representative for the National UNITY Council.

Despite not winning the seat, Perkins says, “Although I didn’t get the representative position, it was really an amazing experience. No matter who I talked to, everyone was always smiling, laughing, and having a great time. It was an experience I hope my kids will one day be able to have. I also had the honor of getting chosen for the top 20 for the fashion show. The amount of support I got from my fellow peers made me smile from ear to ear. Whether it was clapping or cheering me on, or saying supportive words, they reminded me to walk with confidence and continue to show my smile even when I’m nervous or scared.”

Perkins and her mother share workspace behind their home in a nicely converted storage shed.

Perkins proudly took Titla on a brief tour of her home on the Cherokee reservation. Perkins, who goes by “Tama” (pronounced Tah-mah), also likes to paint. She shares a sewing and craft space, a nicely converted storage shed, with her mother Nakoa Chiltoskie. They both love to sew. Titla asked if she could commission Perkins to make her a ribbon skirt, and before leaving, the fabric, ribbons, and sheer overlay were selected and laid out for sewing! Titla promises to wear her beautiful new skirt at a future big event!

Perkins and Titla pose in front of the family’s collection of Cherokee baskets.


Perkins is now starting her senior in high school. UNITY wishes her all the best. Keep up your great work Tama!

Perkins is multi-talented and loves to honor her Cherokee culture on canvas!