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You know what that means if you’ve read the Cherokee Tourism billboards around the state, and in case you haven’t it means “Hello” in Cherokee. My family has always been proud of our Native American blood. We are card-carrying Indians, from my paternal grandfather’s Dawes Roll Number. When the American government did an Indian population census, my grandfather was alive and was entered onto the roll books as a Cherokee. Since our family can trace that lineage, we have the benefits that the tribe offers its members. My sister and I grew up in a family where some had dark skin, some didn’t. Some were talkers, some were very quiet. We were a clan, and I really never thought about “being” an Indian. There were kids in our classes that were much darker and quieter, and they seemed to me to be more “Indian-like”, whatever that means.

I do recall reading the brief explanation of the Trail of Tears in our history books and being confused and thinking that a big part of the story was left out. I certainly didn’t question the teacher.

I travel and have conversations with people whose only concept of Oklahoma is what Hollywood or Broadway has portrayed. I really do appreciate the OKC Thunder basketball team as I think that has helped get us out of tepees for some people. But I surprise people when they ask about the Indians and I’m able to say, “I’m one.” This will launch into PB’s mini speech of what “Indian blood” means, especially for the Cherokees who follow a matrilineal society. The savage Indians swinging tomahawks depicted in the movies certainly looked like they needed to hit the trail (of tears), but when I describe the removal being more like kicking the affluent people in the nicer neighborhoods out of their homes….well, people are surprised.

The 65th Cherokee National Holiday was this past Labor Day Weekend in Tahlequah. Thousands of tribal members and tourists make the trip to enjoy traditional games, competitions, music, plus arts and crafts. There were plenty of food vendors and even the chance to eat some fry bread. The evening Powwow was alive with beating drums and songs in age-old tongues. Dozens and dozens of dancers in their tribe’s costumes entertained us with their unique dance styles. The moon was bright in the sky, the elderly and the babies sat and shared the evening together. I was with my people.

The Cherokee Cultural Center is worth a visit, especially if you haven’t been in the last few years. The tribe certainly has benefitted from casino income, but they reinvest their monies into education, health, and homes for their own. Cherokee buildings like the prison and the women’s seminary are able to be toured. There are plans for restoring many other historical buildings, but in Chief Baker’s state of the Nation address, he said they won’t go into debt; they will build when they have the money. Now there’s an idea for a way to run a government.

I encourage you to learn more about the Native American’s in your state. Wado. (thank you)