Cherokee National Holiday powwow reimagined

08/20/2020 03:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Powwow participants are seen at the 2019 Cherokee National Holiday in Tahlequah. This year’s powwow will be strictly an online event with competitors making videos that will be available on the Cherokee Nation’s website. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Marc Bluestone, of New Town, North Dakota, left, and his son, Marc Bluestone Jr., take part in the 2019 intertribal powwow during the Cherokee National Holiday. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s popular powwow and other Cherokee National Holiday events are going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers say there may be even more interest this year.

“The Quapaw Nation recently did a virtual powwow,” Cherokee National Holiday coordinator Austin Patton said. “What they found was that normally in these categories where they have 20 to 30 people enter in a year where they do it in person, they had hundreds of people enter. The reasoning for that was that all of a sudden it was as easy as doing a dance routine on video, so people from tribes across the country were able to enter this competition.”

The Cherokee National Holiday, held annually during Labor Day weekend, typically attracts more than 100,000 Oklahomans and out-of-state visitors to the Tahlequah area, according to the tribe. The CN’s decision this year to offer virtual events was made because “COVID-19 still remains a threat,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.

“This was a tough decision, but we always want to err on the side of caution and protect our employees who put on the events and the public,” he added. “So this year we felt it best to share our Cherokee National Holiday celebration and traditions safely online for viewers around the globe to tune in and see.”

The intertribal powwow, a holiday highlight, typically draws large crowds to the Cherokee Cultural Grounds. Patton said there was no way to handle the crowd safely during the pandemic.

While additional details were pending on the virtual powwow at, Patton described it as “a real social interactive environment.”

“On the new Cherokee National Holiday website, there will be a virtual powwow page,” he said. “It will have a social wall to monitor social posts on social platforms. So I said social a lot, but that’s really what it is. If you post a video of a dance routine with a certain hashtag on the social platform such as Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, it will automatically show up on that social wall for people to see. Using that social hashtag, you’re also going to be entered into that particular category’s competition.”

Prizes will be awarded for the top three dancers in each category. Specific categories were pending, but will be posted on the holiday website.

“The rules and the hashtags, all of that will be on the website,” Patton said, adding that response to the Quapaw Nation’s virtual powwow has prompted the CN to limit entries to 50 per category.

“What they advised to me and to the committee that runs the virtual powwow, was be careful what you ask for because you may end up getting a whole lot more entries than what you expected,” Patton said. “Typically, our more popular events at the intertribal powwow may have 50 to 60 entries. They told us it’s likely, if you don’t put a limit on it, you’ll have hundreds of entries.”

Entering is “just a matter of putting your video online and meeting the rules and criteria,” Patton said. Along with the categories, specific powwow rules were also forthcoming.

Virtual Viewing

Many of the holiday events will be offered online. Cherokee National Holiday coordinator Austin Patton said the “on demand” aspect of this year’s holiday is similar to a streaming service, but free, via

“After an event has been viewed, you’ll be able to view it again,” he said. “It will debut at a certain date and time, but if you can’t make that date and time you’ll be able to watch it again in the future at any time you choose. They’re going to be available the entire month of September.”

One of the rare 2020 events that can be attended in person is a new offering – movie drive-in nights at One Fire Field. The field is located west of the Tribal Complex.

“The drive-in is going to be hosted and presented by the Cherokee Nation Film Office,” Patton said. “They put together a really great lineup for all three days of the event, from Sept. 3-5. It will start at dusk every night, which is going to be around 8 p.m. You will have to register because there’s a maximum of 300 cars per night.”

Sound for the films will be made available via a specific radio station. Moviegoers will be asked to being their own snacks and drinks “because we are promoting social distancing,” Patton said.

“I think it’s going to be a really cool event,” he added. “We hope that it’s going to become a staple, and maybe something we can carry forth in a different style event more like a film festival, in the future.”
About the Author
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late  ... • 918-453-5269
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late ...


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