Cherokee ambassadors to serve second year
Miss Cherokee Meekah Roy, left, and Junior Miss Cherokee Desiree Matthews are seen March 3 during a groundbreaking ceremony for an expansion project at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell. The two ambassadors will get a second year to serve because of the COVID-19 pandemic. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – As a Cherokee Nation goodwill ambassador, teenager Desiree Matthews is accustomed to public interaction, but that once-common practice has been curtailed in recent months.
“The pandemic has definitely changed life as we knew it,” she said. “One of my jobs as an ambassador was to greet people, but with social distancing guidelines and mask mandates, it would be very hard to continue greeting people without the friendly smile and handshake they are used to.”
Matthews, 17, of Watts, the current Junior Miss Cherokee, and other ambassadors such as Miss Cherokee Meekah Roy and their younger counterparts, typically serve one year. However, because of the circumstances brought on by COVID-19, the ambassadors will serve another year.
“The past several months have been hard on everyone in different ways, but for me I was sad that I would miss all the spring events I was supposed to attend as Junior Miss Cherokee,” Matthews said. “When I received that call that I would be serving another year, I was very thankful for the opportunity to be given to me, Meekah, and our Little Cherokee Ambassadors again. I am very thankful, and I feel so fortunate to have been given another year to grow and learn.”
Kristen Thomas, volunteer coordinator for the Little Cherokee Ambassador program who also serves on the Junior Miss and Miss Cherokee committees, said the annual ambassador competitions will resume in 2021.
“Other Native ambassador competitions are also taking similar action in an effort to keep Native youth participants, competition volunteers and organizers safe,” she said.
As the reigning Miss Cherokee, Roy, 23, of Salina, has been making “virtual” appearances since March.
“One was my cultural presentation, another was a TikTok, and the most recent was the Trail of Tears Art Show awards presentation,” she said.
Ambassadors are considered role models promoting Cherokee government, history, language and culture.
“I always wanted to represent my tribe in some way,” Roy said. “In 2012, I was a member of the Tribal Youth Council and I was introduced to the Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition at the time. Ever since, I’d always had the idea of running for Junior Miss Cherokee and later Miss Cherokee. I finally got the courage in 2017 to run, and here I am.”
With her extended term, Roy wants to continue sharing her platform of Cherokee language revitalization. “My mom and I try to work on my language retention every time we see each other. Me and my best friend also talk about different things about our culture and just how to teach others about it.”
As an ambassador, Roy has already had memorable moments, including traveling with her mother to Cherokee, North Carolina, home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
“She’s a full-blood, native speaker, and I am so happy to have been able to have her go with me,” she said. “Another memorable one was going back to my old high school (Sequoyah High School) and getting to talk about my platform. I was their H.O.P.E. (Honoring Our People’s Existence) Club princess for the year 2012-13 and it really made me happy to get to come back as Miss Cherokee to see how much the club had grown overall.”
Like Roy, Matthews’ road to becoming an ambassador includes time on the Youth Council. “In October of 2018 I was inaugurated into the Council and my interest to learn about my culture spiked. As a member, I participated in many activities such as basket weaving, making corn bead necklaces and Cherokee language lessons.”
Matthews said the Cherokee language plays an important role in her life.
“My grandparents are first-language Cherokee speakers, and every time I am around them they speak the language in day-to-day conversations,” she said. “My favorite way to incorporate Cherokee language into my life is by naming our cats in Cherokee. We have named our cats Wesa, Gitli, Saloli, Yon, etc.”
ᏓᎵᏆ – ᎾᏍᎩ’Ꮓ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎨᎳ ᎤᏓᏅᏘ ᎠᏥᏅᏏᏓ, ᎠᏔᏄᏥ Desiree Matthews ᏞᎩᏳ ᎤᏪᎳᏛᎢ ᎤᏂᏣᏘ ᎠᏁᏙᎲᎢ, ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ ᏌᏉ ᎢᏳᏩᎬᏘ - ᎤᎶᏏᎶᏛ ᎢᎬᏛᏁᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᎦᏲᏝ ᎯᎠ ᏥᏗᎦᎶᎯ.
“ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎥᏳᎩ ᏣᎯᎵᏙᎭ ᎢᏙᎯᏳᎯᏯᎢ ᎤᏓᏁᏟᏴᏌ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᎢᏕᎲᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. “ᏑᏓᎴᎩ ᏗᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ ᎨᏒ ᎠᎩᎲᎢ ᎥᎩᏅᏏᏓᏃ ᏥᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏗᎦᏥᏲᎵᏍᏗ ᎠᏂᎥᎢ, ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ ᎨᏴᎢ ᏗᏓᎳᏗᏍᏗᎢ ᏗᏍᏓᏩᏛᏍᏗ ᏥᏕᎩᎭ ᎠᎴ ᏗᎵᏴᏑᎶᏗᎢ ᏥᎦᏅᏍᏙᏍᎦ, ᎠᏍᏓᏲᏰᏍᏗ ᏂᎬᏥᎯᎵᏒᎢ ᏗᎬᏥᏲᎵᎢᏍᏗᎢ ᎤᏂᏣᏘ ᏂᎬᎩᎪᏘᎲᎾ ᏱᎩ ᎠᏆᎧᏛᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏧᏃᏰᏂ ᎬᏗ ᏗᎦᏥᏲᎵᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏂᎩᏌᏗ ᏥᎩ.”
Matthews, Ꮓ 17, ᏩᏗᏏᎢ ᎡᎯ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᎩ ᎾᏊ ᎣᏂ ᎡᎯ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ, ᎠᎴ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏓ ᎾᏍᎩᎾ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ Meekah Roy ᎠᎴ ᎣᏂ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎤᏠᏱ ᎢᏯᎾᏛᏁᎯ, ᏌᏉ’Ꮓ ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᏱᎪᎯᏓ ᎤᏂᎭ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᏗᎢ. ᎠᏗᎾ, ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭᏃ ᏥᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᎩ ᏣᎯᎵᏙᎠ ᎥᏳᎩ ᎤᏍᎦᏎᏗ -19, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏛ ᎠᏏᏊ ᎢᏤ ᏩᏕᏘᏱᏍᎬ ᏂᎦᏅᎯᏒ ᎠᏏᏊ ᎤᏠᏱ ᎤᏂᎮᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᏗ.
“ᎯᎸᏍᎩ ᏱᏅᏓ ᏥᏙᏛᎦᎶᎯ ᎦᏁᏄᏟ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏓᏁᎲᎢ ᏂᏗᎥᏭ, ᎠᏎᏅ ᎠᏯᎨᏒᎢ ᎤᏲᎢ ᎠᎩᏰᎸᏒᎢ ᏂᎦᏓ ᏓᎩᏅᏛᎢ ᎩᎳ ᎪᎨᎢ ᎠᏪᎳᏗᏓᏍᏗ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎬᎩᎩᏓ ᎣᏂ ᎡᎯ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ,” Mattews’ Ꮓ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ.
“ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏗᎬᏩᏟᏃᎮᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᏂᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏏᏊ ᎢᏤ ᏩᏕᏘᏴᎲ ᏂᎦᏅᎯᏒᎢ ᎠᎩᎲᎢ ᎤᏠᏱ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏯᏆᏛᏁᏗ, ᎠᏆᎵᎮᎵᏨᏃ ᎠᏏᏊ ᎬᏆᎵᏍᎪᏟᏓᏁᎸᎢ, Meekah, ᎠᎴ ᏗᎦᏤᎵᎢ ᏧᎾᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏓ ᎾᏍᎩᏊ ᎠᏏᏊ ᎤᏠᏱ ᎤᏂᎭ. ᎢᎦᏃ ᎦᎵᎮᎵᎦ, ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏰᎸᎭ ᎠᏏ ᏌᏉ ᎢᏳᏕᏘᏴᏓ ᎬᎩᏁᎸᎢ ᎦᏛᏏᏒᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ.”
Kristen Thomas, ᎠᎵᏍᏕᎸᎯᏙᎯ ᏌᏉ ᏧᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎯ ᏓᏍᏕᎵᏍᎬᎢ ᏧᎾᏍᏗ ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏓ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ ᎠᎴᏍᏊ ᎨᎳ ᎠᎵᏍᏕᎸᎯᏙᎯ ᏓᏍᏕᎵᏍᎬᎢ ᎣᏂ ᎡᎯ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ ᏓᏄᎦᏔᏂᏙᎲᎢ, ᎤᏃᎮᎸᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏓ ᏓᎾᎵᎪᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᏫᏛᎠᎾᎴᏅᎯ ᎢᏤ ᏩᏕᏘᏴᎲᎢ 2021.
“ᎠᏂᏐᎢᏃ ᏅᏁᎯᏯᎢ ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏓ ᏓᎾᎵᎪᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏁᎳᏗᏙᎯ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᎯᏙᎯ ᎠᎴ ᏗᏄᎦᏔᏂᏙᎯ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᏠᏱ ᎾᎾᏛᏁᎭ ᏂᏗᎦᎵᏍᏙᏗᎭ ᏂᎬᎾᏰᎬᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᏱᎪᎯᏓᏃ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ ᏥᎩ, Roy, 23, ᎠᎼᎯ ᎡᎯ, ᎾᏍᎩᏃ “ᏗᎦᏙᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏗᏍᎩ’Ꭲ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᎾᏛᏁᎰᎢ ᎠᏅᏱ ᏥᎧᎸ ᏂᏗᎬᏓᎴᏂᏍᎩ.
“ᏑᏓᎴᎩ ᏯᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏱᎬᏁᏗ ᎨᏒ, ᏐᎢᏃ ᎨᏒ Tik Tok, ᎠᎴ ᎾᏞᎬᏭ ᏥᎨᏒ ᏗᎨᏥᎢᎸᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᏃᏢᏅᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᏓᏅᏁᎲᎢ ᎤᎾᏓᏑᏅᎢ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏓ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎨᎬᏓᏁᎳᏁᎳ ᎤᏌᏙᎢᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ, ᎪᎯᎩ ᏂᏧᎵᏍᏔᏅᏅᎢ, ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏱᎦᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗ ᏥᎩᏃᎭ.
“ᏱᎪᎯᏓᏃ ᎾᏆᏚᎵᏍᎪ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᏯᏆᏛᏁᏗ ᎦᏥᏍᏕᎸᎡᏗᎢ ᎣᏥᏅᏍᏓᏢᎢ,”
ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ Roy. “ᎾᎯᏳᏃ 2012 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ, ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏍᏓᏢᎢ ᎩᎳ ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᏗᏂᎳᏫᎩ ᎨᎳ ᎨᏒᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎬᏂᎨᏒᎢ ᏂᎬᏋᏁᎸᎢ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᎰᏒᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ ᎢᎬᏱ ᎦᏙᎩ ᏓᎾᎵᎪᏂᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ ᏥᎨᏒᎢ. ᎾᎯᏳᏃ ᏂᏗᎬᏓᎴᏂᏍᎩ, ᏂᎦᏓᏅᏖᏍᎪᎢ ᎠᏆᏙᎩᏯᏍᏗᎢ ᎣᏂ ᎡᎯ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ ᎠᎴ ᎤᏩᎬᏗᏗᏒᎢ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᎦ. 2017 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᏓᏆᎵᏨᏯᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᏆᏙᎩᏯᏍᏗᎢ, ᎠᎴ’Ꮓ ᎾᏊ ᎨᏙᎠ.”
ᎠᎴ’Ꮓ ᎾᏊ ᎤᏃᎯᏛ ᏥᎩ, Roy’Ꮓ ᎤᏚᎵᎭ ᏂᎬᎯᎵ ᎾᏛᏁᎲᎢ ᎠᎴᏂᏏᏍᎬᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.
“ᎠᎩᏥᏃ ᎣᎩᎾᎵᎪᎯ ᏙᎩᏂᎸᎳᏍᏓᏁᎰᎢ ᎠᎩᎩᏏᏐᏗ ᎠᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᏂᏙᎩᏂᏓᎪᎯᏒᎢ. ᎠᏯ ᏃᎴ ᎣᎩᎾᎵᎢ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏓ ᎪᎱᏍᏗ ᎣᏍᏗᏃᎮᏢᏍᎢ ᏱᎦᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏦᏍᏕᏲᏗᎢ ᎠᏂᏐᎢ.”
ᎥᎩᏅᏏᏓ ᏥᎩ, Roy’Z ᎦᏳᎳ ᎬᏅᏓᏗᏍᏗ ᎤᎭ, ᎤᏥ ᎤᎾᎵᎪᎯ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᏪᏘ ᏭᏁᏙᎸᎢ, ᎥᎿᎾ ᏧᏁᏅᏒᎢ ᎧᎸᎬᎢ ᎠᏁᎯ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏴᏫᏯᎢ.
ᎠᎧᎵᏃ ᎠᏴᏫᏯᎢ, ᏁᎯᏯᎢ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᎦᎵᎮᎵᎪᎢ ᏰᎵᎢ ᎬᎩᏍᏓᏩᏛᏍᏗ ᏥᎨᎲᎢ,” ᏗᏗᏍᎬᎢ.
“ᏐᎢᏃ ᎨᏒ ᎠᏅᏓᏗᏍᏙᏗ ᏫᎠᏇᏙᎸᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏓᏆᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ (ᏍᏏᏉᏲᎢ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ) ᎠᎴ ᎬᎩᏃᎮ ᏄᎵᏍᏔᏅᎢ ᎠᎩᎲᎢ ᏗᎩᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᏗ. ᎠᏯᏃ ᎨᏒ H.O.P.E (Honoring Our People’s Existence) ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ ᎾᎯᏳᎢ 2012-13 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎢᎦᏃ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᎩᏰᎵᏒᎢ ᎢᎠᎩᎷᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᏥᎩ ᎠᏥᎸᏉᏗ ᎠᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏔᏄᏥ ᎠᎩᎪᏩᏛᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏱᎦᎢ ᎤᏁᏉᎥᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ.”
Roy’Z ᏳᏍᏗ, Mattews’ ᎠᎾᎢᏒᎢ ᎨᏥᏅᏏᏓ ᎾᎾᏂᎵᏍᏗᎲ ᏣᏁᏢᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᏗᏂᎳᏫᎩ. “ᎾᎯᏳ ᏚᏂᏃᏗ 2018 ᏥᎨᏒᎢ ᎬᏇᎳᏛᎢ ᎥᎿ ᏓᏂᎳᏫᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎠᏆᏚᎵᎲᎢ ᎠᏆᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ ᏄᏍᏛᎢ ᏱᎦᏛᏁᎵᏓᏍᏗᎢ ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎤᏁᏉᎥᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩᏃ ᎨᎳ ᏥᎩ, ᎠᏇᎳᏗᏙᎳ ᎤᎪᏗ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏔᏅᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏔᎷᏣ ᏗᎬᏗᎢ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᏯᏟᏗ ᏗᎪᏢᏅᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ.”
Mattews ᎢᎧᏃᎮᏍᎬᎢ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴᎢ ᎢᎩ ᎾᏍᎩ ᎡᎲᎢ.
“ᏗᎩᎵᏏᏃ ᎾᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎨᏒᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᏂᎪᎯᎸᏃ ᎾᎥ ᏄᎾᏛᏅᎢ ᏱᎨᏙᎠ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎪᎢ,” ᎠᏗᏍᎬᎢ. ᎾᏍᎩ ᏩᎩᎸᏉᏛᎢ ᎠᏆᏠᏯᏍᏙᏗᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗᎢ ᎨᎥᎢ ᏗᎦᏥᏲᏍᏗ ᏪᏌ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎬᏗ. ᎢᏳᏍᏗᏃ ᏙᏦᎥᎢ ᏪᏌ ᏙᏥᎾᏝᎥᎢ ᏪᏌ, ᎩᏟ, ᏌᎶᎵ, ᏲᎾ, ᏭᏩᎬᏛᎢ.”
– TRANSLATED BY DAVID CRAWLER