The Cherokee Nation will host the 66th Cherokee National Holiday this Labor Day weekend when more than 100,000 visitors travel to Tahlequah to experience the annual celebration of history, culture and art.
This year’s event is Aug. 31-Sept. 2 and features more than 50 activities, including an intertribal powwow, a parade, arts and crafts vendors, music and a variety of competitions.
The theme for this year’s Holiday is “Family: A Bridge to the Future, a Link to the Past.” The theme is colorfully represented in commemorative artwork by Cherokee National Treasure Dan Mink, featuring the seven Cherokee clans and 66 interlocking hands symbolizing the link from the past to the future.
“This year’s theme of family is one that resonates with all of us. Within our Cherokee communities, one of the deepest-held traditions is respect for the importance of family and the honoring of our elders,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Those values have been passed down from generation to generation of Cherokee people and are just as important today as they have ever been. It is the reason we work so hard to develop the kinds of programs and services that make healthier and stronger Cherokee families. Today, we are proud to share this annual holiday celebration with our family and with our friends.”
The Cherokee National Holiday commemorates the signing of the Cherokee Nation Constitution in 1839, which re-established the tribe’s government in Indian Territory after forced removal from the Cherokees’ original homelands in the Southeast.
This year’s celebration features activities for all ages, including traditional games such as Cherokee marbles, a cornstalk shoot and a blowgun competition. Other sporting events include a chunkey demonstration, a stickball social game and exhibition games, horseshoe pitching, softball slow-pitch, a golf tournament, a 5K Veterans Run and a three-on-three basketball tournament.
Other events this year include the Jason Christie Children’s Fishing Derby, traditional food demonstrations, art shows, a quilt show, an open-house event at the Cherokee Nation W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, and the Cherokee culture, plants and symbology garden tour. The tribe will also host a book signing for its newly published history book "Cherokee Nation: A History of Survival, Self Determination and Identity" on Saturday, Sept. 1 from 1-3 p.m. at the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop and 3:30-5:30 p.m. at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
A few popular events are also changing location this year. The fiddlers contest will be held at the Tsa-La-Gi Community Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees. The gospel sing will be at New Life Worship Center south of Tahlequah on U.S. Highway 62, across from the Sequoyah Schools softball fields.
“Cherokee Nation citizens from across the world travel to our capital each and every year to participate in this event, which serves as a homecoming for many,” said Cherokee Nation Community Tourism Manager Bayly Wright. “During this celebration of our history and our culture, there’s something for everyone to see and experience. We hope it will be an event that our visitors can experience each and every year.”
Several marquee events are set for the 66th Cheroke National Holiday. The annual parade travels down Muskogee Avenue in historic downtown Tahlequah and is the only parade to be announced in both Cherokee and English. It begins at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Crafton Street and Muskogee Avenue. For those unable to attend, the parade will be broadcast in the Cherokee language on KTLQ AM 1350 radio.
Following the parade, Chief Baker will give the state of the nation address, highlighting the tribe’s past year. This year, the speech will be at the new Cherokee National Peace Pavilion located just east of the Cherokee National Capitol building in downtown Tahlequah. The Cherokee National Peace Pavilion is 4,600 square feet. Its design pays tribute to an 1843 intertribal peace gathering by interpreting the look of the large log structure that hosted the event 175 years ago.
The Cherokee National Holiday Intertribal Powwow is one of the most popular events of the weekend. This two-night event provides more than $35,000 in prize money for southern strait, northern traditional, fancy, jingle and other dance categories. The powwow begins with gourd dancing at 5 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, and grand entry at 7 p.m. both nights.
For a complete list of events for the 66th Cherokee National Holiday, visit www.cherokee.org, click on the Cherokee National Holiday link and scroll to the bottom for the Cherokee National Holiday events.
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