New coordinator prepares for virtual Cherokee holiday
With a tourism and project management background, Cherokee Nation citizen Austin Patton has taken on the CN community tourism manager role, which includes coordinating the Cherokee National Holiday that will be virtual this year because of the global pandemic.
Born and raised in Tahlequah, Patton said he has been in project management since before college. “I’ve had several different positions mostly within the realm of project management. I founded a few companies in Oklahoma. I did quite a bit of work for the Cherokee Nation. We used to build roads and highways, that type of thing. I did project management in the heavy construction realm for about 10 years. I got into that before I even started studying at Northeastern State University.”
Patton studied international business at NSU, continuing his studies in Twickenham, England. “I studied international business at Northeastern (State University). When I graduated from Northeastern in 2011, I moved to England to continue studies of international business at St. Mary’s University.”
Upon moving back to Oklahoma, he worked for the CN as a Career Services special projects officer, continuing on the project management trek.
“Now I’m here at Commerce Services doing project management,” he said. “I’m technically the community tourism manager. That involves managing the Spider Gallery, the Cherokee Arts Center, the Cherokee National Holiday and then grants related to tourism where it’s basically promoting economic growth through tourism within the Cherokee Nation.”
When it comes to event management, Patton said the CN has ample opportunity to present the tribe’s culture and heritage in this year’s virtual holiday.
“I think what’s a little bit harder for people to visualize are the pros, and the pros are the ability to reach out beyond where we’ve ever been able to reach with the holiday,” he said. “So there’s a lot of opportunity to allow our at-large citizens rather they be in California or if they’re in the Carolinas or if they’re on the other side of the world in Asia, it doesn’t matter. They’ll be able to attend this year’s event, and I think that’s really important.”
Patton emphasized that while most events cannot be physically attended, opportunities are there for everyone to learn about what the holiday celebrates. “Of course, with the event we’re putting a heavy focus on getting back to the reason why we have the holiday in the first place and that is commemorating the signing of the Constitution, celebrating our culture and heritage.”
Along with the pros, there are cons he is contending with, including creating an online space for arts and crafts vendors to sell their creations. “There’s not a venue for that now in the new era that we’re living in. So one of the things I’ve taken priority in doing is trying to mitigate that by trying to create a virtual space for them, an arts and crafts market that will be online where buyers and sellers can come together and still be able to sell their work,” he said.
Patton said he’s also excited about the reach the holiday will have with non-Cherokees.
“Really this isn’t just an opportunity to just reach Cherokees, this is an opportunity for us to educate people of all ethnicities, all backgrounds. That’s one of the things I look forward to is the ability of this event,” he said.
He said some of his favorite events to attend are cultural demonstrations and the State of the Nation address. “The principal chief’s State of the Nation has always been a favorite of mine just because I like to go and see exactly who our leadership is and what they care about and see how they believe the Cherokee Nation is proceeding forth in our growth. I think that the principal chief’s State of the Nation is the most important event at the holiday.”
Two events Patton plans to bring to this year’s holiday are a drive-in theater at One Fire Field with a 50-foot-wide screen and a fireworks show. “We have a lot of good things that are going happen this year and a lot of great content that’s going to be produced by some of our most experienced and most qualified citizens out there to be able to do it. If you’re interested in everything from culture and gardening to genealogy there’s going to be something for you so that’s what is important in this holiday.”