TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The 50th Annual Trail of Tears Art Show and Sale is underway, with this year’s top award going to Cherokee National Treasure Vivian Cottrell for her black-ash basket “We Are Still Here.”

“I’ve been weaving now for about 49 years, almost as long as this show’s been around. The show was incredibly well represented this year, and it means so much to receive this honor among such talent,” Cottrell said. “There’s a lot of prayer that goes into my work, and this piece is no different. It was the first one of the year for me, coming out of the pandemic, and I wanted to push myself to create something that represents the strength and resilience of Native people across the country who were being affected by the virus at disproportionate rates. There’s several meaningful patterns incorporated into the basket, but at the end of the day, it’s all about us being connected to one another for our survival.”

The longest-running Native American art show and competition in Oklahoma announced its winners online July 1, with in-person, public viewing offered Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Cherokee National Research Center in Cherokee Springs Plaza.

“Cherokee Nation constantly draws the best Native American artists from across the country, and we are so proud this prestigious show is one of Oklahoma’s longest-running events,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We are fortunate that talented Native American artisans and culture keepers continue to return and participate year after year, over the past five decades. Like so many art admirers, this show is something I enjoy experiencing with my family.”

This year’s show features a variety of authentic Native art, including 127 items from 73 artists, representing 10 tribal nations. All work featured in the show is available to purchase.

“There’s something truly powerful and connective about celebrating the 50th anniversary of this revered show, especially given the difficult year we’ve all been through with the global pandemic,” said Callie Chunestudy, cultural tourism coordinator. “Through this show, we pay tribute to the rich history of Native American art and its progression through the last half-century, all culminating in the innovative and invigorating works on display. We’re all thankful for the opportunity to emerge from a year of isolation in a way that honors our culture, history and heritage.”

Through the juried show, artists compete for more than $15,000 in various categories. The following summary highlights the grand prize, first-place and special award winners:

Trail of Tears Art Show
Category / Place

Artist Name / Affiliation / Art Piece


Vivian Cottrell, Cherokee National Treasure, “We Are Still Here”

Painting, First Place

Jack B. Test, Cherokee Nation, “Progress”

Sculpture, First Place

Tama Roberts, Cherokee Nation, “Jagged Little Pill”

Basketry, First Place

Lisa Forrest, Cherokee Nation, “Mother’s Creation”

Pottery, First Place

Verna Bates, Cherokee Nation, “Amazing Grace”

Jewelry, First Place

Toneh Chuleewah, Cherokee Nation, “Morning Star Versus Evening Star”

Graphics, First Place

Robin Stockton, Cherokee Nation, “Defeating a Modern Uktena”

Miniature, First Place

Merlin Little Thunder, Cheyenne and Arapahoe, “Back to the Sacred Mountain”

Diverse Art Forms, First Place

Valerie Kagan, Cherokee Nation, “Gatiyo/Stompground”

Photography/Digital Art, First Place

Devin Dry, Cherokee Nation, “Going to Water”

Trail of Tears Award

Ernie Lee Poindexter, Cherokee Nation, “Removal Gathering”

Emerging Artists, First Place

Lee Anne Ghilain, Cherokee Nation, “Deer Chief”

Jennie Ross Cobb Photography Award

Melinda Schwakhofer, Muscogee Creek, “Este Mvskokvlke Owis (I am Mvskoke )”

Betty Scraper Garner Elder Award

Kenny Henson, Cherokee Nation, “Medicine Bear Robe”

Bill Rabbit Legacy Award

Makayla Sloan, Cherokee Nation, “Beaded Pandemic Face Mask”


For a complete list of awardees or to experience the 50th Annual Trail of Tears Art Show and Sale virtually, please visit visitcherokeenation.com/trail-of-tears-art-show.