Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The Cherokee National Holiday
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
On Thursday, September 2, 2010, we packed our car and began our five hour trek to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, capital of The Cherokee Nation. So many people come from all over the country, indeed, the world, that we are forced to stay in Muskogee, Oklahoma, only about 20 miles from Tahlequah. We settle in at the La Quinta Inn & Suites, a lovely, comfortable hostelry where we enjoy substantial free breakfasts each morning with choices of waffles, biscuits and gravy, omelets, sausages, eggs and various muffins, cereals and sweet rolls, juice and coffee.
Friday morning we drive to Tahlequah to check out the areas where we need to be and in the afternoon, we visit some vendor booths making some purchases. Finally, it is time to register to dance in the sacred circle during the powwow. When I begin completing the form, the woman in charge says, "You are over 55, right?" I said, "Yes." She tells me to register with the Golden Age group. This is my first time ever to do this and my original idea is to wear the shawl I especially decorated for this event doing the Women's Shawl Dance (Butterfly). I assume I can still do this, just as a "Golden Ager". She also tells me that to qualify for any prize money, I must come back the next night and take part in the Grand Entry at the beginning of the powwow wearing the identical clothing that I dance in.
The first photo above is with a lady from Pryor, Oklahoma who is in town for a meeting with the Cherokee Council. As you will see by more photos, it is an exciting event with extremely elaborate dancing costumes. A coordinator sends us into the circle in our respective groups in the Grand Entry and I note that the women I enter with are mostly wearing beautiful buckskin ensembles and are daintily carrying their shawls folded neatly over one arm. After the opening ceremonies, we all leave the circle and the dancing competition begins. The Golden Agers are second on the agenda. We all enter the circle walking to the beat of the drums. I am the only one wearing my shawl. The ladies are very sedately walking to the drum beat while the emcee talks about how revered and respected the Cherokee women are and he asks everyone to stand to show respect while we dance around the circle. By this time, I'm well into doing my shawl dance to the drum beat, dancing like nobody's watching. When it is over, we all stand in a line while the judges make their decisions on a clip board. When I look down the line, I notice that most of the women are looking quite serious with their lips pursed. That is except for the one black woman in the group who is looking right at me and laughing. Obviously, I totally misunderstood the meaning of "Golden Age" and perhaps shook up the establishment a bit. I'm glad I did it and I had fun being the orange in the bucket of apples.
Saturday, we return to Tahlequah and watch the parade of 105 entries of which next to last is the equestrian group followed by the largest spiffy new street sweeper we've ever seen. We also listen to Chief Chadwick Corntassel Smith's State of the Nation address in the capital square. Afterwards we enter an interesting little book store, "Jacob Gallery" and I buy a couple of books by Cherokee Historian, Robert J. Conley, to help with my research for my current book. The owner of the book store is Murv Jacob and not only is he a writer, but a serious painter in acrylics.
We then drive to the Cherokee Heritage Center where all of the vendor artists are set up for the event. We find a beautiful acrylic of a wolf by Bill Rabbit, a winner of many painting awards. I was definitely in the market for a good wolf painting since I am a member of the Cherokee Wolf Clan and I was thrilled when Doug bought it for me.
Saturday evening I again take part in the Grand Entry as required by the contest rules and the crowd is phenomenal. I haven't heard a number, but there were several thousand people in attendance. Saturday night is given over to the men dancing and they are just incredible.
It was a marvelous experience and I'm looking forward to doing it again. This has inspired me to make a serious effort to learn the Cherokee language. They teach it to their young people in school and people all around us during the parade were speaking Cherokee. In fact, the running commentary during the parade was all in Cherokee.
This is all I have to say for now.