Notes From The Cherokee Days Festival | Cherokee, NC

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Notes From The Cherokee Days Festival

Tsalagi Touring Group leading a dance at Cherokee Days. Photo via National Museum of the American Indian.

The annual Cherokee Days Festival in Washington D.C. brings together members of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians for a celebration of Cherokee heritage, culture, language, and traditions. The National Museum of the American Indian, which is part of the Smithsonian, has hosted Cherokee Days since the first event in 2014.

The 2016 Cherokee Days festival took place June 10th through 12th. Many members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) traveled to Washington, D.C., from Western North Carolina to participate in the celebration. Attendees of Cherokee Days enjoyed a variety of demonstrations, presentations, and performances including traditional Cherokee storytelling, basket weaving, music, dance, and games. There were also presentations on Cherokee, history, language, and genealog,y as well as children’s crafting activities.  

EBCI Artists and Dancers at Cherokee Days

Several artists who are members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians showcased their works and participated in live art demonstrations at Cherokee Days, including Butch and Louise Goings whose work can be seen locally in Cherokee, North Carolina, at Qualla Arts and Craft Mutual.

The Cherokee Days Festival’s opening reception closed with a friendship dance led by the Tsalagi Tour Group. (See the video above, which was broadcast live from the Visit Cherokee Facebook page, as it happened.) Tsalagi Tour Group is a collection of dancers, singers, and artist members of the EBCI organized by The Cherokee Historical Association, a nonprofit organization that also operates Oconaluftee Indian Village living history site and the renowned outdoor drama Unto These Hills. A list of Tsalagi Tour Group members who came to D.C. from North Carolina to perform at Cherokee Days included:

  • Jarrett Wildcatt (Pottery Singer/MC)
  • JR Wolfe (Woodcarving/Weaponry/Copper work)
  • Will George (Woodcarving/Weaponry/Copper work)
  • Gabe Crow (Basketry)
  • Karen George (Fingerweaving)
  • Donna George (Beadwork)
  • Dayani Lossie (Beadwork/Baskets/Fingerweaving)

The Tsalagi Tour Group gave demonstrations of Cherokee social dances throughout the event. Watch the Tsalagi Tour Group demonstrate traditional dances at the 2016 Cherokee Days Festival here. You can also look up #cherokeedays on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to see posts, photos, and videos about the festival, including lots of videos of Tsalagi Touring Group teaching traditional dances.

Photo of Kristina Hyatt at Cherokee Days Via The Museum of the American Indian @SmithsonianNMAI​

Miss Native American USA 

Kristina Hyatt, an EBCI tribal member and former Miss Cherokee who is currently crowned as Miss Native American USA, attended and participated in the Cherokee Days festival. Hyatt is a dental hygienist. During her time as Miss Native American USA she has been traveling all over the country visiting Native American communities to share information about the importance of dental hygiene. Hyatt also gave a presentation to Cherokee Days attendees called Oral Health and Dental Care Throughout Indian Country.

When she was first crowned Miss Native American USA, Hyatt told the local Cherokee One Feather newspaper, “I hope to share my knowledge and help create beautiful, healthy smiles throughout Indian Country.” During her presentation at Cherokee Days she shared experiences she had while bringing her knowledge of dental care to Native American communities and fighting to help children get access to good dental care.

Other royalty who traveled to D.C. from North Carolina to meet and greet with Cherokee Days attendees including Miss Cherokee Taran Swimmer, Teen Miss Cherokee Blake Wachacha, Junior Miss Cherokee Abigail Taylor, and Little Miss Cherokee Madison Ledford.

Photo of Cherokee pageant royalty via NMAI on Tumblr

Learn More

If you missed the Cherokee Days Festival, you haven’t missed out on the opportunity to see some of the art and culture that was celebrated there. Year round, you can visit Cherokee, North Carolina to learn more about Cherokee culture, heritage, and traditions, and to enjoy authentic art and dance performances by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

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