Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and First Lady Sherry Baker wave to spectators during last year’s parade in downtown Tahlequah.
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA —The vibrant culture of the Cherokee Nation will be on full display Labor Day weekend for visitors around the world attending Cherokee National Holiday.
More than 120 Native American vendors, traditional games like stickball, and the only parade in the state announced in both Cherokee and English can all be found at the 62nd annual celebration, which runs Aug. 29-31 in the Cherokee Nation capital of Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
“The annual Cherokee National Holiday is a weekend celebration of our tribe’s history, heritage and hospitality, and it’s a true homecoming for Cherokee citizens. We expect another record crowd of friends, family and visitors again this year,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This 62nd annual holiday is especially significant because we will commemorate the 175th anniversary of the end of the Trail of Tears. Our ancestors never gave up, and today the Cherokee Nation is stronger than at any time in our history. That’s something for all to be proud of and to celebrate.”
This year’s holiday theme is the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Cherokee Nation Constitution on Sept. 6, 1839, creating the tribe’s existing government. The theme also emphasizes the strong kinship and unity of Cherokees, thriving nearly two centuries after removal from their original homelands in the Southeast.
More than 100,000 visitors are expected for the free events.
The Cherokee National Holiday Powwow begins at 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 29, and continues Saturday, Aug. 30, at 2 p.m. Named by Indian Country Today as the second largest powwow in the country, it offers more than $35,000 in prize money for Southern Strait, Northern Traditional, Fancy Dance, jingle and other dance categories. The powwow takes place at the Cherokee Cultural Grounds, West 810 Road in Tahlequah.
A highlight for festival-goers is the annual State of the Nation address presented by Principal Chief Baker at 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 30, at the Cherokee National Capitol Square. The speech has been a tradition at the site since the mid-1800s for citizens who want to hear highlights from the tribe’s year of progress.
Just prior to the State of the Nation address at 9:30 a.m., visitors can enjoy the Cherokee National Holiday Parade that winds down Muskogee Avenue. A unique feature of the parade is that it is announced in both Cherokee and English over a radio station.
Visitors can also stop at the Cherokee Arts Center from 9- 11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. on Aug. 30 to weave baskets, build clay medallions or make mini stickball sticks and cornhusk dolls for free.
Cherokee citizen and professional angler Jason Christie, who has 13 career tournament wins, returns this year for the children’s fishing derby. It will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Aug. 30, at the pond east of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. Children receive a free rod and reel, and can take photos with Christie and get an autograph.
Also shown at this year’s Cherokee National Holiday is a screening for the independent film “Playground of the Native Son” about the all-Indian football team Hominy Indians, who played against the world champion New York Giants in 1927. The film features Cherokees such as Tribal Councilor and former Chief Joe Byrd and flutist Tommy Wildcat. It’s shown at the Dream Theatre, 312 N. Muskogee Ave.
Prior to the holiday, the musical “Nanyehi: The Story of Nancy Ward” returns to the area. The show, written by Nashville song writer and Cherokee citizen Becky Hobbs, starts at 7:30 p.m., Aug. 21-23, at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. For tickets, call the box office at 918-384-7625.
The Cherokee Nighthawks also go head to head against teams from the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations in a stickball tournament starting at 10 a.m. on Aug. 23 at Sequoyah Schools’ campus.
The Cherokee National Holiday offers many more events, such as an antique car show, fireworks, art shows, softball, basketball and even a traditional foods cook-off, giving visitors a chance to learn more about the Cherokee Nation, its culture and way of life.
To find the complete Cherokee National Holiday schedule visit www.cherokee.org and click on the Cherokee National Holiday quick link.