TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Two Cherokee Nation citizens have been named this year’s Cherokee National Treasures for their work in preserving and promoting Cherokee art and culture.
The Cherokee Nation Treasure status is an honor presented by the tribe to individuals who are keeping the art, language and culture alive through their crafts and work.
Diana Smith Cox, of Tahlequah, and Steven Daugherty, of Adair, Okla., were selected as the 2023 recipients and were honored during an awards ceremony Thursday evening as part of the 71st annual Cherokee National Holiday celebration.
“The core of our identity as Cherokee people is Cherokee language, culture and heritage,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “That’s why we are proud to honor the lifelong efforts of these two Cherokees. Both of them have excelled at promoting, as well as educating, the public about our Cherokee traditions, language and culture. Their work has furthered our culture to so many not just in our area, but across the globe as well. We are fortunate to have such outstanding ambassadors committed to keeping our Cherokee identity alive.”
Smith was raised in a traditional Cherokee home and is an expert in the traditional art of making turtle shell shackles. She is one of only a handful of citizens who practice this art, and her work is a vital component of Cherokee ceremonial life and culture. Making the shackles is a lengthy and arduous process that requires intensive ecological and cultural knowledge. Diana has worked diligently in this role for more than 20 years, supporting ceremonial communities throughout the Cherokee and Mvskoke Nations, sharing her knowledge with the next generation of artists.
A fluent Cherokee speaker who grew up around the Oak Ridge/Bell Communities in Adair, Okla., Daugherty was fascinated by bows and arrows as a kid. In 2010, he began to learn the techniques of making traditional weapons after meeting Cherokee National Treasures Noel Grayson and Danny McCarter while working at the Cherokee Heritage Center. He made his first bow using only stone tools. Over time, he learned to make moccasins, twined bags, knives, and war clubs. He occasionally hosts traditional weapon workshops near Sallisaw, Okla., at Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum.