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(Many Paths)
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New Cherokee National Treasures To Be Honored During Holiday
by Chad Hunter - Cherokee Phoenix Reporter
Cherokee National Treasures gather for a group photo at a luncheon on Dec. 4, 2017, in the O-Si-Yo Room at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. A new class of Cherokee National Treasures will be announced during the Cherokee National Holiday. (photo by Lindsey Bark - Cherokee Phoenix)

TAHLEQUAH – This year’s Cherokee National Treasures will be honored during a virtual ceremony at the 69th annual Cherokee National Holiday.

Cherokee National Treasures preserve and promote Cherokee art and culture, according to the tribe.

“The distinguished Cherokee National Treasures actively work to preserve and revive traditional cultural practices that are in danger of being lost from generation to generation,” a news release from the tribe states.

The award, established in 1988 by the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee National Historical Society, now includes nearly 30 categories ranging from traditional foods and bow making to beadwork, basketry, pottery, painting, quilt-making and graphic arts.

“The Cherokee language, culture and heritage is an invaluable part of our identity as Cherokee people,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in 2019. “Those who dedicate themselves to the preservation and promotion of those portions of our identity deserve to be honored and revered as Cherokee National Treasures.”

There are currently more than 100 Treasures. At least one Cherokee is honored as a new Treasure each year. As of publication, this year’s Treasures had not yet been announced, but an online awards ceremony was set for Sept. 2 at Check the site for a time, updates or changes.

The first recognition of Cherokee National Treasures emerged as part of the 36th annual Cherokee National Holiday in 1988.

Under Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller’s administration, an initiative began to preserve and perpetuate what many considered the “lost arts” of the Cherokee people. Mankiller worked in partnership with the CNHS to establish the “Living National Treasures” in an effort to distinguish individual Cherokee artists who demonstrated traditional skills and knowledge, especially those who kept these traditions alive.

When discussing the origins of Cherokee National Treasures with the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007, Mankiller discussed the rationale of such an initiative.

“What we were interested in at the time was not just the art itself, but people who had the old values,” she said. “If you look at a recipient of this award, they are people who not only produced a product, but they also had the traditional knowledge that informs the art… When you become a Cherokee National Treasure, you are a treasure of the Nation, of all the people.”

During the holiday, the CN also honors tribal citizens, organizations and others who made significant contributions for statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the CN. Those honors include the Medal of Patriotism Award, Statesmanship Award, Community Leadership Individual Award, Community Leadership Organization Award and Samuel Worcester Award.

The annual Cherokee National Holiday, described by the CN as a “celebration of Native American cultures,” has been observed annually since 1953 and typically attracts more than 100,000 visitors to the Tahlequah area.

This year’s event was initially a hybrid in-person and virtual mix, but shifted to an all-virtual event in August as the number of COVID-19 cases climbed. Last year’s 68th annual holiday was also held virtually due to the pandemic.

“We had over 35 events,” holiday coordinator Austin Patton said. “Thousands of virtual attendees tuned in from nearly every state and over 30 countries. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive and showed us there is a demand for more virtual ways to connect going forward.”

For information, visit

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