TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Four Cherokee Nation citizens were honored as “Cherokee National Treasures” this weekend during the 68th Cherokee National Holiday celebration. 

Because of COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Cherokee National Holiday Awards Banquet where honorees are awarded was held virtually.

The Cherokee National Treasure distinction is an honor given by the tribe to individuals who are keeping the art, language and culture alive through their crafts and work.

This year’s recipients are David Crawler, of Tahlequah, Okla.; Crosslin Smith, of Vian, Okla.; Traci Rabbit, of Pryor, Okla.; and Dorothy Sullivan, of Norman, Okla.

“Cherokee National Treasures preserve and advance the Cherokee culture. They are keepers of the values and heritage we hold sacred as tribal citizens. Dorothy, Traci, Crosslin and David all richly deserve this special honor. It is fitting they be recognized in 2020 for passing on their art, sharing their skills and broadening the cultural knowledge base for generations of Cherokees,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Each one of them has my deepest respect and gratitude for their lifelong endeavors and for sharing the Cherokee spirit within their respective discipline.”

Crawler was selected for his influential work in preserving and teaching the Cherokee language. As a first-language Cherokee speaker, Crawler has served the Cherokee Nation for more than a decade in the tribe’s language department working on a number of language projects. He was instrumental in translating the Cherokee Nation Constitution into the Cherokee language and is the primary translator and storyteller for Cherokee First Children’s Activity Books.

Smith received the distinction for his lifetime contribution of teaching the Cherokee language and culture. Born in 1929 to a traditional Cherokee family in Sequoyah County, Smith has been a practitioner of Cherokee spirituality for more than 50 years. He has provided leadership and spiritual guidance for several Cherokee Nation administrations. He also recently published his first book, “Stand as One: Spiritual Teachings of Keetoowah.”

Rabbit was nominated for being a Cherokee painter. Rabbit grew up appreciating art as the daughter of Cherokee National Treasure Bill Rabbit. While establishing herself as an artist, she apprenticed with her father as well as took the opportunity to learn from many artists who visited their family’s art studio, Glass Studios. Rabbit has been a full-time painter for more than 32 years, and for 25 years has taught and mentored many young students. In 2013, she partnered with the Cherokee Nation Foundation to establish the Bill Rabbit Art Legacy Scholarship which provides college-bound students tuition assistance.

Sullivan received the honor for her life’s work in painting and art education. Sullivan grew up in Seminole, Oklahoma, learning from her father about Cherokee history and culture. She began drawing and sketching at an early age but never had any art classes or lessons until her senior year of high school. After high school, she earned a degree in art education and history from East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma. She taught for 20 years, and in that time developed one of the first Native art programs for schools in Oklahoma. In 1980, she visited the Trail of Tears Art Show at the Cherokee Heritage Center, and ever since then she has painted images that depict Cherokee culture and history. Sullivan has also published a book, illustrated several children’s books and is currently illustrating books for a number of Native American tribes.

Additional Awards

Each year, the Cherokee Nation also honors tribal citizens and organizations that made significant contributions for statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the Cherokee Nation during the Holiday events. Visit holiday.cherokee.org to view videos about each of the following award recipients for 2020:

Medal of Patriotism Award

The Medal of Patriotism Award is given in recognition of those who answered the call of duty, made great sacrifices and risked their lives in service to the Cherokee Nation and the United States of America, tirelessly defending and promoting freedom and liberty for Cherokees and all mankind. The 2020 Medal of Patriotism Award honorees are:

  • Marshal D. Roberts, posthumously, of Claremore, Oklahoma
  • Simeon Gipson, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Statesmanship Award

The Statesman Award is given in recognition of those who, as public servants, epitomize the servant leader ideal, exemplifying Cherokee values and acting with respect, dignity and graciousness while working for the betterment of the Cherokee Nation and its citizens. The 2020 Statesmanship Award honorees are:

  • Suzanne Gilstrap, of Claremore, Oklahoma
  • Rodslen Brown, posthumously, of Muskogee, Oklahoma
  • Stilwell Mayor Jean Ann Wright, of Stilwell, Oklahoma  
  • Stilwell City Council member Lane Kindle, of Stilwell, Oklahoma

Community Leadership Individual Award

The Community Leadership Individual Award is given in recognition of Cherokee Nation citizens who tirelessly have given, without hesitation, their time to make their communities more vibrant, livable places. Their example of servant leadership embodies Cherokee values, and is held high esteem by their peers for strengthening the bonds of Cherokee Nation citizens. The 2020 Community Leadership Individual Award honorees are:

  • Todd Enlow, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma
  • Richard Tyler, of Vian, Oklahoma
  • Phil Busey, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma  
  • Dr. Victoria O’Keefe, of Washington, D.C.

Community Leadership Organization Award

The Community Leadership Organization Award is given in recognition of Cherokee Nation communities that have demonstrated the spirit of working together through servant leadership, as well as applying Cherokee values to make their communities a better place for Cherokee Nation citizens. The 2020 Community Leadership Organization Award honorees are:

  • Vian Peace Center, Vian, Oklahoma
  • Tahlequah Outlaws, Tahlequah, Oklahoma
  • Greater Tulsa Cherokees, Tulsa, Oklahoma

 Samuel Worcester Award

The Samuel Worcester Award is given to a non-Cherokee who has made substantial contributions to the preservation of Cherokee heritage, culture, community and sovereignty. The 2020 Samuel Worcester Award honorees are:

  • Archivists and translators of the Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Support Independent Indigenous Journalism

Native News Online is an independent, Indigenous-led newsroom with a crucial mission:  We want to change the narrative about Indian Country. We do this by producing intelligent, fact-based journalism that tells the full story from all corners of Indian Country.  We pride ourselves on covering the tribes you may have never heard of before and by respecting and listening to the communities we serve through our reporting. As newsrooms across the country continue to shrink, coverage of Indian Country is more important than ever, and we are committed to filling this ever-present hole in journalism.

Because we believe everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities, the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. But we hope it inspires you to make a gift to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount, big or small, gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. 
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online Staff