In 1838, the Cherokee marched more than 1,200 miles in severe winter weather. Disease and starvation led to the deaths of more than 5,000 people. Between 1831 and 1838, the United States government forced Native American groups to move from their tribal lands to the new Indian Territory. Many became sick and died along the way. The Indian Territory was part of what is now Oklahoma. These forced removals are known as the Trail of Tears. After arriving in the Indian Territory, the Cherokee worked hard to reestablish a government and rebuild their community. The divided people reunited in 1839 under the Act of Union. On September 6, 1839, the Cherokee Constitution was signed.
To commemorate these historic events, the Cherokee Nation celebrates the Cherokee National Holiday each Labor Day Weekend in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It is a time for the Cherokee people to remember the past and look toward the future. The weekend is a celebration of heritage, culture, and family. People from all over travel to the celebration. Each year the holiday has a theme. The theme for 2019 is “Rising Together.” This signifies the importance of all members of the Cherokee nation working together to build a bright future.
The Cherokee National Holiday is packed with activities and events for all ages and interests. People participate in traditional Cherokee games, such as Cherokee marbles and the cornstalk shoot. They also play sports including golf and softball. The Cherokee National Youth Choir performs. Other musical events include bluegrass and gospel groups and a fiddler’s competition. Storytelling, games, and the downtown parade are fun for children. Food vendors and artists sell traditional Native American foods and crafts. There are museums that explore Cherokee history and family heritage. Two highlights of the weekend are the State of the Nation Address by the Principal Chief of the Cherokee and the Powwow.
This year’s Cherokee National Holiday will be held from August 30–September 1. All are welcome to come to learn about the Cherokee Nation and enjoy the fun!
What Do You Think? Why is it important for people to remember what happened in the past as they look toward the future?
Photo Credit: J. Pat Carter/ASSOCIATED PRESS