The evolution of Miss Cherokee copper crowns. (Top Row L to R) The crown worn from 1969-1987 and the crown of 1988-2003. (Bottom Row L to R) The crown worn from 2004-2012 and the present crown since 2013.
Cherokee Heritage Center hosting special exhibit through Aug. 23
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — For the past 60 years, a young lady has been chosen to become Miss Cherokee. Once selected, she is a Cherokee Nation goodwill ambassador for one year, sharing the culture and history with the public.
The Cherokee Heritage Center will share their stories with a special exhibit that runs through Aug. 23.
There will be an opening reception Friday from 6 – 8 p.m. Many of the former Miss Cherokees will be present to celebrate the grand opening and share their thoughts on their reign.
“For six decades, Miss Cherokee has been an important figure for Cherokee Nation,” said Dr. Candessa Tehee, executive director of the Cherokee Heritage Center. “This exhibit shares that rich history with many unique items, and it allows the public to see how the position has evolved over the years.”
On display will be more than 40 dresses, including the original Miss Cherokee tear dress created in 1969 for Virginia Stroud. There will also be numerous personal items that were collected and gifted to Miss Cherokee throughout the years.
The first indication of “royalty” during the Cherokee Holiday was 1955 when Phyllis Osage, a student at Sequoyah Vocational School, was Queen of the Cornstalk Shoot. She awarded trophies to the winners of the cornstalk shoot.
In 1957, the title was changed to Miss Cherokee Holiday, which was coordinated through the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce. Linda Burrows was the first to hold that title. She was awarded a $100 scholarship to Northeastern State University and a two-piece set of luggage.
The first Miss Cherokee, Ramona Collier of Tahlequah, was crowned in 1962. She was awarded a $200 scholarship, an expense-paid weekend at Western Hills Lodge and several other gifts. This was the first mention of a title winner’s role extending beyond the holiday festivities. She was expected to appear at several tribal community and state functions.
Since then, the official title has remained Miss Cherokee. Sixty different young ladies have held the title with one lucky young lady, Mary Kay Harshaw, holding the title for two consecutive terms, from 1980-1982.
Sunday Plumb, of Tahlequah, is the current Miss Cherokee. She received a $3,000 scholarship for her senior year at the University of Arkansas.
Today, the role of Miss Cherokee is to represent the Cherokee Nation as a goodwill ambassador and serve as a messenger to promote the government, history, language and culture of the Cherokee people. As an ambassador and messenger of the Cherokee people, the representative is a role model and is expected to exemplify the best qualities of Cherokee youth.
The Cherokee Heritage Center is the premier cultural center for Cherokee history, culture and the arts. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill, Okla. Admission is free to the event, with donations accepted.
For information on 2015 season events, operating hours and programs, please contact the Cherokee Heritage Center at (888) 999-6007 or visitwww.CherokeeHeritage.org. It can also be found on Facebook by searching “Cherokee Heritage Center.”