Cherokee National Treasures
gather for a group photo at a luncheon on Dec. 4, 2017, in
the O-Si-Yo Room at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. A new
class of Cherokee National Treasures will be announced during
the Cherokee National Holiday. (photo by Lindsey Bark - Cherokee
TAHLEQUAH This years Cherokee National Treasures will
be honored during a virtual ceremony at the 69th annual Cherokee
Cherokee National Treasures preserve and promote Cherokee art and
culture, according to the tribe.
The distinguished Cherokee National Treasures actively work
to preserve and revive traditional cultural practices that are in
danger of being lost from generation to generation, a news
release from the tribe states.
The award, established in 1988 by the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee
National Historical Society, now includes nearly 30 categories ranging
from traditional foods and bow making to beadwork, basketry, pottery,
painting, quilt-making and graphic arts.
The Cherokee language, culture and heritage is an invaluable
part of our identity as Cherokee people, Principal Chief Chuck
Hoskin Jr. said in 2019. Those who dedicate themselves to
the preservation and promotion of those portions of our identity
deserve to be honored and revered as Cherokee National Treasures.
There are currently more than 100 Treasures. At least one Cherokee
is honored as a new Treasure each year. As of publication, this
years Treasures had not yet been announced, but an online
awards ceremony was set for Sept. 2 at thecherokeeholiday.com. Check
the site for a time, updates or changes.
The first recognition of Cherokee National Treasures emerged as
part of the 36th annual Cherokee National Holiday in 1988.
Under Principal Chief Wilma Mankillers administration, an
initiative began to preserve and perpetuate what many considered
the lost arts of the Cherokee people. Mankiller worked
in partnership with the CNHS to establish the Living National
Treasures in an effort to distinguish individual Cherokee
artists who demonstrated traditional skills and knowledge, especially
those who kept these traditions alive.
When discussing the origins of Cherokee National Treasures with
the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007, Mankiller discussed the rationale
of such an initiative.
What we were interested in at the time was not just the art
itself, but people who had the old values, she said. If
you look at a recipient of this award, they are people who not only
produced a product, but they also had the traditional knowledge
that informs the art
When you become a Cherokee National Treasure,
you are a treasure of the Nation, of all the people.
During the holiday, the CN also honors tribal citizens, organizations
and others who made significant contributions for statesmanship,
patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the CN. Those honors
include the Medal of Patriotism Award, Statesmanship Award, Community
Leadership Individual Award, Community Leadership Organization Award
and Samuel Worcester Award.
The annual Cherokee National Holiday, described by the CN as a
celebration of Native American cultures, has been observed
annually since 1953 and typically attracts more than 100,000 visitors
to the Tahlequah area.
This years event was initially a hybrid in-person and virtual
mix, but shifted to an all-virtual event in August as the number
of COVID-19 cases climbed. Last years 68th annual holiday
was also held virtually due to the pandemic.
We had over 35 events, holiday coordinator Austin Patton
said. Thousands of virtual attendees tuned in from nearly
every state and over 30 countries. The feedback we received was
overwhelmingly positive and showed us there is a demand for more
virtual ways to connect going forward.
For information, visit thecherokeeholiday.com.