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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is celebrating its 71st Annual Cherokee National Holiday this weekend with dozens of scheduled cultural, entertainment, and athletic events at more than 30 locations throughout Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation’s capitol city. 

The Cherokee National Holiday attracts more than 100,000 people from all over the world and is the biggest event of the year, according to the tribe.

Held every Labor Day Weekend, the Cherokee National Holiday commemorates the original signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution, which was signed on Sept. 6, 1839. 

The Cherokee Nation began celebrating the Cherokee National Holiday in 1953 with a theme each year. This year’s theme was “Building our Nation, Strengthening our Sovereignty.” The theme aims to honor the Cherokee Nation as a sovereign nation and proclaim that Cherokee are a traditional people driving progress in a modern world through strength.. 

“We will continue to set the course for the brightest future for our tribe and its citizens,” Cherokee Nation’s Deputy Secretary of State Taralee Montgomery said at Saturday’s 2023 State of the Nation Address. “The work of our ancestors means that today we have more to celebrate than ever before.”

The Cherokee Nation is a largest populated federally recognized tribe in Indian Country, with more than 460,000 enrolled tribal citizens. Tribal leaders addressed the Nation by sharing some of its most recent investments in the tribe, including health care, education, law enforcement, and housing. 

“We stand today as a nation meeting its responsibilities as a government, asserting our rights, but always looking to do more and go further,” Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Chuck Hoskin, Jr. said during Saturday’s State of the Nation Address. “From an expanding criminal justice system, to protecting our most vulnerable citizens, to exercising our rights to hunt, fish and gather, to leveraging our strength to build up our economy, today we are realizing so many of the dreams of our ancestors.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. (Photo/Darren Thompson)

Last spring, the Cherokee Nation broke ground on a six-story $400 million hospital in Tahlequah. Once finished the hospital will span 400,000 square feet and include 127 beds, a Helipad on the roof and allow expanded services for Cherokee and Native citizens from other federally recognized tribes. 

Last year, the Nation opened its first meat company, the 1839 Meat Company that delivers locally grown food to elders and Cherokee families in need. Through a partnership with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), the Cherokee Nation said it would commit $10 million over three years to feed more people in the region.

“That includes meat from our own meat processing plant,” Hoskin said. “That, my fellow Cherokees, is food sovereignty in action,” 

Cherokee National Holiday Parade on Saturday afternoon included a two-hour procession, highlighting local Cherokee Nation leaders and royalty, visiting Tribal leadership and royalty including the Eastern Band of Cherokee, various businesses, organizations, and departments in the community, high school bands, and other dignitaries. 

The parade included many other dignitaries from the Cherokee Nation, as well including the “Remember the Removal Bike Ride” cyclists. Ten Cherokee cyclists were part of a 950-mile journey who retraced the northern route of the Trail of Tears, in honor of their ancestors who were forcibly removed from their homelands in the southeast U.S. more than 180 years ago, in May 1838.

Cherokee cyclists (Photo/Darren Thompson)

Other activities planned for the Cherokee National Holiday include an intertribal powwow, softball tournament, stickball tournament and other traditional games like blowgun and hatchet throwing, horseshoe tournament, gourd dancing, car show, marketplaces, firework show, and much more.

The Cherokee Holiday continues on Sunday. For more information on the Cherokee National Holiday, CLICK.

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About The Author
Author: Darren ThompsonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a staff reporter for Native News Online who is based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.