Cherokees gather for annual hog fry
|Shirley Ross (right) places dough into hot grease to make fry bread Sept. 20 at the Rogers County Hog Fry at the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Okla. Assisting Ross is Theresa Foster. (Photo by Will Chavez)
By Will Chavez
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Cherokee citizens in Rogers County gathered Sept. 20 at the Will Rogers Memorial for the annual Rogers County Hog Fry hosted by Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts.
The fifth annual Rogers County Hog Fry began as the Cowan Hog Fry and is still organized and hosted by Cowan Watts and her family.
Cowan Watts said the gathering is just one of many community events the Tribal Council is providing funding for as part of a new initiative to encourage fellowship in Cherokee communities. She said the funding allowed her to expand the annual gathering.
“I chose the Will Rogers Memorial to honor our native son…and also to highlight this facility as part of cultural tourism initiatives. I thought it would be a good combination this year to bring everyone into the Will Rogers Memorial and use it for the community event hog fry this year,” she said.
Cowan Watts said the event gives Rogers County Cherokees the opportunity to socialize and ask questions of Cherokee Nation staff who attended. Staffs from the Tag Office, Registration, Cherokee Phoenix, Cherokee Casinos, Child Support Enforcement Services, Realty Services and Education Services were on hand to meet Cherokee citizens and provide information.
Events planned in November to honor Will Rogers
Events are planned to commemorate the opening of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum 70 years ago. There will also be a celebration of Rogers’ 129th birthday.
Will Rogers Days will take place Nov. 1-4. The “Wilson on Will” art exhibition will open Nov. 1 and a parade will begin at 4 p.m. on Will Rogers Boulevard in Claremore.
At 2 p.m., Nov. 2, the “70 Years on the Hill,” celebration will begin. There will be a re-enactment of the groundbreaking and opening of the Will Rogers Memorial with descendants of 1938 participants taking part. At 6 p.m. the dedication of the Will Rogers Medallion in Circle Cinema’s Oklahoma Walk of Fame will take place, and a Will Rogers film will be shown at the Circle Cinema Theatre, 10 S. Lewis, in Tulsa.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call (918) 343-8129.
“We have the Cherokee Phoenix here, which I’m excited about,” she said. “We’re an hour away from the Cherokee Nation headquarters, so it’s harder for my folks to get information sometimes, so the Cherokee Phoenix is critical to this population up here as a source for our tribal news.”
Also in attendance was the Rogers County Cherokee Association, which was looking to increase its membership.
Cindy Vaughn, RCCA secretary, said the organization meets monthly at its community building in Tiawah, east of Claremore. Following its meetings, she added, members take part in classes to learn more about Cherokee culture, language and history.
“We have had a lot of interest from Cherokees in Rogers County to do a lot of activities and learn different things,” Vaughn said. “So, what we are doing is we are going out and finding the craftsmen…and bringing them in. We are doing our own Cherokee marbles, our own Cherokee blowguns, and we are having a wonderful time learning our culture or practicing our culture.”
She said the group’s elders who speak Cherokee are helping other members learn the language. A result of the language classes is the RCCA Choir that formed this year. The group is learning Cherokee hymns and performed during the hog fry gathering.
Cowan Watts, who is also a RCCA member, said the group is small and hoped they could recruit more Cherokees from the hundreds who came to the hog fry.
“Typically we’ve had over 500 people, and I’m hoping for close to 1,000 this year at this event,” she said. “Also, because we used this facility instead some of the remote facilities we have used, it’s allowed me to bring more of the programs from the tribe…so that they have direct interaction with our constituents.”
Cherokee Casinos staff also attended the hog fry to recruit people to work at the expanded Cherokee Casino Resort down the road in Catoosa. Cowan Watts said nearly 1,000 jobs need to be filled at the Cherokee Casino Resort and the expansion project at the West Siloam Springs casino.
Steve Gragert, Will Rogers Memorial Museum director, said the museum was glad to host the RCCA and the Cherokee community for the hog fry.
“This is a natural place. Will was Cherokee, and we’re proud of that fact, and he was proud of the fact he was Cherokee,” he said.
He said the inside of the museum recently received renovations and is making preparations to celebrate the museum’s 70th anniversary in November. The art exhibit “Wilson on Will” is slated to open in November, a retrospective on the work of painter Charles Banks Wilson that will showcase sketches the artist made of Rogers.
Rogers, who was born in 1879 in the Cherokee Nation near Oologah, died in a plane crash in Alaska on Aug. 15, 1935. During his lifetime he was a star on Broadway, made 71 movies and was a popular broadcaster, writer and humorist. He was also noted for his charity work during the Great Depression.