Labor Day weekend was the annual Cherokee National Holiday in Tahlequah, Oklahoma (the capital of the Cherokee Nation). When I used to work in Native recruitment at a university out west, my travels brought me through Oklahoma fairly often, but since I’ve moved to Boston I hadn’t been back to visit my family in a while–so the National Holiday offered a great excuse for a trip.
The weekend proved to be incredibly powerful and really transformational in a number of ways–it became much, much more than just a surface-level visit. I went to stomp dances, learned a lot more about my Cherokee history and family, and left feeling so proud and so connected to my community. I’ve been trying to put my feelings and experience into words, so I’ll put that up as soon as I feel comfortable with it. Then, on Sunday, I had the chance to meet up with filmmaker Sterlin Harjo for coffee and a chat. Post forthcoming on that as well (got the scoop on the New Moon Wolfpack Auditions video)!
So because the weekend became much more about family and community, I actually only managed to snap a few pictures throughout the weekend. Here they are:
This is from the “State of the Nation” address in Tahlequah on Saturday, that’s Deputy Chief Grayson and Principal Chief Chad Smith up on the stage. It was really interesting to hear about all the cool things going on in CN, and they gave out some community awards and had performances as well. They also had a huge, yummy (and free!) feed in honor of Wilma Mankiller afterward. I also stood next to Wes Studi, who was trying to be all covert in a hat and sunglasses, but I spotted him right out! No picture of him, unfortunately. I chickened out.
One of the cool things about Tahlequah is that all the signs are bilingual–even the big storefronts like Bank of America. You can see me in the reflection (hi!).
Here’s one of the street signs–Choctaw Street, in Cherokee.
Behind the main courthouse square, they had stations where you could learn some traditional Cherokee crafts, practice some Cherokee language, use a blow gun, and even play stickball. I made a basket (which I am exceedingly proud of, I even ordered supplies when I got home to make more!), and these cute mini-stickball sticks, which I would totally hang from my rear view mirror…if I had a car:
That’s my Auntie’s house in the background (like the Indian art?). Finally, I’ll leave you with this awesome bumper sticker that I saw at the Cherokee Heritage Center:
In addition to these random pictures, there was also a powwow, an art show, and a million other cool events throughout the weekend. It was so neat to see so many Cherokees in one place, and it just really had the feel of one, big, family reunion. I’ll definitely be back!
So stay tuned for a post about the more personal side of the weekend, as well as my interview (slash conversation with a tape recorder) with Sterlin Harjo!