61st Annual Cherokee National Holiday boasts new events

August 15, 2013

Dancers enjoy the Cherokee National Holiday Powwow, which offers more than $35,000 in prize money.

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —The 61st Annual Cherokee National Holiday hits Labor Day weekend with dozens of free, fun things to do, including a musical based on the life of famous Cherokee peace leader Nancy Ward, a traditional competitive stickball tournament and an appearance by professional angler Jason Christie, a Cherokee citizen.

“On behalf of the Cherokee Nation, I invite everyone to our annual Cherokee National Holiday Celebration to enjoy our heritage, history and hospitality,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This summer marks the 61st anniversary of the celebration that commemorates the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution, and we are eager to share with the world the strides we have made for our citizens in health care, home ownership and a renewed sense of hope.”

The first Cherokee National Holiday was held in 1953 and has since grown into one of the largest festivals in Oklahoma. More than 100,000 visitors from around the world are expected to make the trip to Tahlequah for the festivities to celebrate this year’s theme, “Homes, Health, Hope.”

On Aug. 31, Chief Baker’s second State of the Nation Address will immediately follow the Cherokee National Holiday Parade, starting at 9:30 a.m. at the historic Cherokee Courthouse Square, where renovations such as the reconstructed cupola will be on display. As part of the traditional address to the Cherokee people, Baker will highlight some of the Cherokee Nation’s accomplishments over the past year and goals for the year to come. The State of the Nation will immediately be followed by the crowning of the new Miss Cherokee and recognition of the 2013 Cherokee National Treasures.

A new musical, titled “Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee,” co-written by Ward descendant and Nashville songwriter Becky Hobbs, is showing free at Northeastern State University Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 27, 30 and 31. Tickets must be reserved at the NSU Box Office by calling 918-458-2075.

This is the first year that a competitive men’s traditional Choctaw-style stickball tournament will be played, with Native American teams from Oklahoma and Mississippi. The tournament will begin at 8 a.m., Aug. 24, at Sequoyah High School’s football field. Other exhibition tournaments will be played Holiday weekend at the Male Seminary Recreation Center’s stickball field.

Kids who love fishing get a bonus this year if they sign up for the children’s fishing derby. Angler Jason Christie will be on site to take photos and sign autographs, and 300 fishing poles will be given out. The derby is from 7:30 a.m. to noon, Aug. 31, at the pond east of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.

The Cherokee National Holiday Powwow is another mainstay, featuring Fancy, Grass, Jingle and Northern Traditional and Southern Strait style dancing, with an opportunity for dancers to win up to $35,000 in prize money. The two-day powwow begins at 5 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, at the Cherokee Nation Cultural Grounds, West 810 Road.

Holiday T-shirts are now available for sale at the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop. Sizes small to x-large are $12, plus sizes are $14, and youth sizes are $10. For more information, call 918-456-2793.

A full list of events, times and map of events can be found at http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/NationalHoliday.aspx.