Grand View School puts on its annual ‘Celebrate Cherokee Day’
Grand View School fifth grader Yuridia Mendez tries to get the ring flying in a game of graces with fellow students during “Celebrate Cherokee Day” on May 2 in Tahlequah. D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Heritage Center outreach coordinator Shanista Cloud explains the rules and history of “graces” to students during Grand View School’s “Celebrate Cherokee Day.” D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Fifth graders Amara Richardson and Isaac Wagnon test their skills at the blowgun demonstration table on May 2 during Grand View School’s “Celebrate Cherokee Day.” D. SEAN ROWLEY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH –Grand View School students didn’t spend the whole day in classes on May 2. Instead they went outside and around the campus to take part in Cherokee cultural activities.
Grand View held its fourth annual “Celebrate Cherokee Day” on school grounds with Cherokee Heritage Center staff members offering presentations and activities. Students assembled for a dance to open the festivities at 8 a.m., and by the afternoon the classes were taking turns playing the game of grace, Cherokee marbles, stickball and testing their blowgun marksmanship.
“We always love coming to Grand View,” CHC outreach coordinator Shanista Cloud said. “They are always well organized, and everyone loves the cultural day. The kids are great. This is my third year being here for the cultural day, but my first as the coordinator.”
Cloud said students had a positive response to the activities and participated with enthusiasm.
“Working with the people here is awesome,” Cloud said. “They know what needs to be done, what they want, where they need people to be. That helps me a lot to help get our people coordinated. We have to round up enough presenters who are experts in their fields to be able to do this.”
Grand View School has a large American Indian enrollment – roughly 70 percent of the students are Cherokee. Many were already knowledgeable of the cultural activities presented, but still enjoyed taking part.
“They have been playing traditional games outside,” Glenda Sellers, director for Grand View’s 21st Century Community Learning Center program, said. “Cherokee National Treasure Tonia Weavel did a really nice demonstration with traditional Cherokee clothing. The Cherokee Heritage Center personnel come out to give the presentations and play the games. We are also a big school, so it isn’t just the Cherokee students who receive this cultural awareness, but the entire student body is able to learn about it also.”
The morning assembly discussed Cherokee clothing and demonstrated musical shells, which were played as some of the students gathered on stage for a traditional dance, forming a circle of friendship to convey unity.
The game of grace, or “graces” is usually played with two people, though for purposes of demonstration and due to the limited time each class could play, the students divided to form two circles, and tossed the hoop around. In the two-player game, each person uses two wooden rods. One player takes a wooden hoop and, pushing apart the rods, makes the hoop fly in the air and the other player tries to catch it. Whoever first makes 10 catches wins.
Cloud said the game was popular in the 19th century with students at the Cherokee National Female Seminary, site of present day Northeastern State University.
With May being an oft-rainy month, “Celebrate Cherokee Day” has been moved indoors in the past, but despite overcast skies, the weather cooperated for the 2019 event.
“We didn’t do much of this before,” said fifth-grader and Cherokee Nation citizen Isaac Wagnon, who was in second grade when the first “Celebrate Cherokee Day” was held at Grand View. “It wasn’t offered. I like it now. I would like to see them keep doing this.”
Sellers offered credit to Margaret Carlile, director of Grand View’s federal programs, saying Carlile supported implementation of activities celebrating the culture of so many of the school’s students.
Grand View observed Native American Heritage Month in November, organizing a song and food festival and a visit by Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle.