OPINION: Celebrate history, culture during annual Cherokee National Holiday

BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
08/01/2016 02:00 PM
It is my favorite weekend of the year. Labor Day weekend always means it is time for Cherokee National Holiday. The 64th annual event, which runs Sept. 2-4 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, will again draw a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors to our capital city. I invite anyone who has never experienced Cherokee National Holiday to join us for fellowship and fun as we celebrate the history, heritage and hospitality of the Cherokee Nation. And, of course, we always look forward to seeing the thousands of friends that return every year, while meeting new friends this homecoming weekend.

As we come together this year, we celebrate the accomplishments of our tribal government and our bright future. We share our Cherokee traditions and values. The first Cherokee National Holiday was held in 1953 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution.

This year’s Cherokee National Holiday theme, “Stewards of our Land,” is a reminder that Cherokee people have, since time immemorial, protected our earth and safeguarded our precious natural resources. Cherokee people were among the first conservationists in this country’s history, and today that spirit lives on in our important work.

We proudly celebrate the natural world and strive to keep our land clean, our water safe and our air pristine. Every decision we make is deliberate and with our natural resources in mind. One of the things we achieved in the past year is establishing a secretary of Natural Resources, who’s responsible for shaping a policy to preserve our land, water and air. We also secured a historic hunting and fishing compact with the state and a portion of those earmarked funds go specifically to statewide conservation efforts. We have an inherent responsibility to the next seven generations of Cherokees to leave the world a better place.

The 2016 Cherokee National Holiday design, which was created by Cherokee National Treasure Dan Mink, is simply beautiful and ties so many of concepts together in one piece of art. It will be exceptional on a shirt or a poster. At the center is a deer sugar skull decorated with elements of predator and prey. Inside the skull are snakeskin, fish scales and patterns associated with Southeast Woodland design, native to the Cherokee people. The cape feathers directly under the deer embrace the tribe’s 14 counties. The blue background is the horizon over Lake Tenkiller, marked with the seven-pointed star. The circle is encompassed by three patterns, including deer tracks to embody a successful hunt, stylized turkey feathers and scales. The three patterns represent the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. Lastly, the seven Buffalo Carp fish under the circle honor the seven Cherokee clans.

Every year the Cherokee Nation offers its citizens and visitors an array of entertainment, cultural and athletic events to participate in. The Cherokee National Holiday has something of interest for all walks of life, from traditional foods and music to competitive marbles, a car show, softball and stickball tournaments and the annual children’s fishing derby, hosted by pro angler Jason Christie. Additionally, I encourage history enthusiasts to explore our local museums during the holiday weekend. They all highlight different aspects of Cherokee events and people.

Visitors will be able to experience the annual marquee events like the powwow, parade and state of the nation address. The always-popular Cherokee National Holiday parade travels down Muskogee Avenue in downtown Tahlequah and is the only parade in the state to be announced in both Cherokee and English. The Cherokee National Holiday Intertribal Powwow is also routinely one of the biggest draws of the annual celebration and has been profiled as one of the best powwows in America. The two-night event offers thousands of dollars in prize money for Southern Straight, Northern Traditional, Fancy, Jingle and other dance categories.

Friends, I hope you will allow the Cherokee Nation to showcase our vibrant culture and rich history this Labor Day weekend. You’ll find a wealth of kind hearts, determined minds and resilient spirits, while making memories you and your family will cherish for a lifetime. You may even leave town with a cornhusk doll or a woven Cherokee basket. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the Cherokee Nation.

Visit www.cherokee.org to find a complete list of the 64th Cherokee National Holiday events.

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