By Pax Riddle
After a two-year hiatus due to COVID, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin said he was delighted to return to the “old Cherokee Nation” to see so many friends and tribal members. He was accompanied by two tribal council members and several Nation employees, who provided food, fun, presentations, and much good will to the more than 230 local tribal members. Registered tribal members of the Oklahoma-based tribe now number above 300,00, making it the largest Indian nation in the country.
Along with free box lunches, Chief Hoskin and staff updated the crowd on tribal business and reminded them to visit the various tribal services tables set up nearby. With a friendly Osiyo! (hello), opening music was provided by renowned Cherokee flutist Tommy Wildcat. Interesting presentations were made by staff on Cherokee history and cultural values. The crowd especially enjoyed a Cherokee language word game/contest where participants competed to test their language skills and all who participated received a free Cherokee Nation T-shirt. Cherokee is taught to all students attending tribal elementary, middle and high schools. Adults and children alike enjoyed playing chunkey, a traditional the Cherokee hunting-skills game where contestants throw a spear at a rolling target.
A traditional Cherokee stick ball game had to be cancelled as there wasn’t a large enough open field to play in. Still, staff gave an interesting presentation about the history of the game (sometimes called little war) and how it was initially used to settle disputes between tribes in lieu of war. “In those days it was a brutal game and sometimes people lost their lives, but it was far better than all-out war”, staff reported. Today, the Lacrosse-like game is a traditional opening of key Cherokee holidays or special ceremonies, where, players are advised to watch out for women observers from the opposing team will try to rip off a player’s shirt or interrupt his movements during play.
Chief Hoskin said that he and his staff make 25 annual visits like this around the country to reach out to Cherokees who live far from the reservation in Tahlequah, OK. These visits, he said, along with the tribal newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, and various topical newsletters and You Tube presentations, keep members informed and up to date on all issues Cherokee.
“Wado! (thank you) to the Chief and his staff. This is equivalent to a visit by a head-of-state!”, remarked one proud attendee.
The annual event was held at Laurel Park in Marietta.