Cherokee National Holiday means celebrating culture, heritage
Luke Swimmer (left)
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee National Holiday brings in nearly 100,000 visitors who immerse themselves in activities that give them the opportunity to learn more about Cherokee heritage and culture.
The Cherokee Phoenix asked some visitors what the holiday means to them and why they attend.
Cherokee Nation citizen Haley Noe, of Oaks, said it’s a time to meet friends coming back to Tahlequah.
“I went to school at NSU (Northeastern State University) and a lot of them come down for the holiday, so it’s a time to spend with family and friends,” she said.
Noe said she enjoys attending the powwow, visiting the arts and crafts vendors at the Cherokee Heritage Center, watching softball and playing stickball.
“There’s a lot of cultural stuff here if you’re trying to be more involved. It’s very alive here during the Cherokee Holiday,” Noe said.
CN citizen David Comingdeer, of Spade Mountain, said for him the holiday commemorates Cherokee history.
“To me the Cherokee holiday, it goes back to our history when we rebuilt our tribe, September of 1839. My family came on that removal. Instead of giving up, they reformed our tribe to give us a new life with laws under a constitutional law, so that we could have an organized life together and prosper. The holiday commemorates that for me. The rest of this is just fun,” he said.
CN citizen and artist Keli Gonzales, of Welling, was a first-time vendor at the CHC and was glad to get the opportunity to sell her art.
“This is my first year doing this, so it’s really cool. I have had a good turnout because at a lot of events I do people don’t understand the images and the culture part of it, and they get it here. They know what it is,” Gonzales said.
She said to her, the holiday means celebrating culture.
“What the holiday means to me is celebrating culture and celebrating everything that makes us Cherokee and how resilient we are. I love seeing all the vendors and all the different kinds of art out here and just seeing everybody. It’s like a family reunion at holiday time because people come in from all over the place, and you get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time. We have people from North Carolina that come out here, and that’s really cool. We’re bridging that gap between Eastern Band and here,” she said.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen and vendor Luke Swimmer, of North Carolina, echoed Gonzales’s sentiments about Oklahoma Cherokees being welcoming each year.
“The Cherokee holiday is always welcoming to us. We’ve been coming for five years. We go to the powwow. This is our first year doing this (vendor.) But every time it doesn’t matter what part of Tahlequah we’re in, everybody’s just really friendly and welcoming. It kind of feels like you’re going home. We’re from North Carolina, but we still feel that connection. That’s what I like, that connection to the people. It’s just like another Cherokee community,” Swimmer said.
CN citizen Pam Pratt, of Wagoner, said she’s been coming to the holiday since 2007 and was raised to be proud of her Cherokee heritage.
Pratt said during the years she’s attended every event except stickball and has met friends and acquaintances while attending.
“I love it that the Cherokee people get together and celebrate heritage and celebrate talent, their talent that they’re keeping alive. And I love it. I’m not much Cherokee. I’m just a one-sixteenth and was raised up to be very, very proud of my heritage,” she said.