August 24, 2018
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee immersion school’s inaugural class will lead the 66th Annual Cherokee National Holiday parade as parade marshals for preserving the Cherokee language.
Cambria Bird, Emilee Chavez, Lauren Grayson, Alayna Harkreader, Lauren Hummingbird and Maggie Sourjohn were in the school’s first pre-kindergarten class when it opened to students in 2003. They graduated high school in May 2018 as the first successful class of Cherokee speakers.
For their achievements, the six students were chosen by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker to lead the parade.
“I think we’re all pretty honored to be parade marshals, and we’re thankful for all these opportunities that we never would’ve had,” Hummingbird, of Tahlequah, said. “When we walked across the stage in May, it was a moment of realization that we had just made history, and being the first immersion school class to graduate is a really special experience we wouldn’t trade for the world.”
The 66th Annual Cherokee National Holiday parade starts at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 1, along Muskogee Avenue in downtown Tahlequah. The parade, which is the only parade emceed in both English and Cherokee, starts near the Northeastern State University campus and ends just past the Cherokee National Courthouse.
Past parade marshals include a Cherokee World War II veteran, a spiritual leader, an author and a world archery champion.
“These young people have paved the way for current and future Cherokee immersion school success, giving promise that our Cherokee language will carry on. This group of six women are role models for incoming students and parents, and they double as tribal ambassadors the entire Cherokee Nation can appreciate,” Baker said. “Because of their historic achievement, it is fitting they pave the way as parade marshals in 2018, leading us all forward during this year’s holiday celebration.”
For more information on Cherokee National Holiday events, visit www.cherokee.org and click on the Cherokee National Holiday link.