TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – As a result of the ongoing surge of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant across the Cherokee Nation Reservation and in order to protect Cherokee families and communities, the Cherokee Nation is shifting to virtual activities for the 69th annual Cherokee National Holiday.
The decision to cancel large, in-person events during the annual Cherokee National Holiday celebration over the upcoming Labor Day weekend is in line with guidance from the Cherokee Nation Public Health team and aligns with other regional tribal and non-tribal events being canceled because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Cherokee Nation cancelations include the Holiday weekend’s annual inter-tribal powwow, softball tournament, golf tournament, stickball exhibition, traditional games, car show, and downtown artisan markets.
“The health and safety of our Cherokee people must be at the core of every decision we make,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Today, unfortunately, the W.W. Hastings Hospital Intensive Care Unit remains full due to the COVID-19 Delta variant, hospitalizations are on the rise, and we grieve over the loss of Cherokee speakers and elders who fell ill at the hands of this virus. Positive cases have rapidly increased across the reservation, causing our health system, and others, to feel overwhelming stresses including a lack of available in-patient beds. Though we all looked forward to a return to in-person fellowship and celebratory activities for this year’s 69th annual Cherokee National Holiday, it is critical that we continue to rely on medical science, facts and compassion as we make these decisions. Relying on the guidance of our Cherokee Nation Public Health team and the crucial data they continue to monitor related to local COVID-19 cases, we believe that large, in-person gatherings during the Cherokee National Holiday weekend – when tens of thousands of visitors would typically visit the reservation to celebrate – present too great a risk to the health and safety of our Cherokee families and communities. While this is disappointing, we must all remember that protecting one another is the Cherokee way. Shifting our focus to virtual activities will provide an extra level of protection and will once again allow Cherokees all around the world to take part in the celebration of our Cherokee heritage, traditions and culture during the Holiday weekend.”
The Cherokee Nation health system recorded 786 new COVID-19 cases the week of Aug. 1, a week-to-week increase of more than 370 percent compared to the first week of July, and the highest recorded number of weekly positive cases since January. This upward trend in cases has continued since June. Approximately 95 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the tribe’s health system are among unvaccinated patients. About 90 percent of new cases are from the highly contagious Delta variant.
“Though we will once again miss the in-person fellowship the Cherokee National Holiday provides to the Cherokee people, it remains important that we offer a variety of content virtually so that we can celebrate the great achievements of the Cherokee people and our government and showcase the art, culture, history and language of our great tribe,” said Austin Patton, Cherokee National Holiday coordinator. “We look forward to providing a collection of online content and activities to help citizens and non-citizens experience the Cherokee Nation in new and exciting ways. We also look forward to returning to our traditional in-person gatherings next year.”
The annual State of the Nation address by Chief Hoskin will be online Saturday, Sept. 4, at 11:30 a.m. The tribe will also host the Drive-In Movie Nights on September 2-4 at 8 p.m. at One Fire Field west of the Cherokee Nation W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The annual Holiday quilt show and art show will also be broadcast virtually, as will the Miss Cherokee competition, and video demonstrations of traditional Cherokee culture and language. The Drive-In Fireworks Show will take place at Cherokee Springs Plaza on September 5 at 8 p.m.
Visit the official website of the Cherokee National Holiday at www.thecherokeeholiday.com for more information on virtual events. Family-friendly activities and souvenirs are free to download & share on the Downloads page. Connect on the Community page with family and friends, share memories and discuss traditional Cherokee culture and language.
A full list of virtual events will be posted at www.thecherokeeholiday.com.
The Cherokee National Holiday commemorates the signing of the Cherokee Nation Constitution in 1839, which re-established the tribe’s government in Indian Territory after forced removal from the Cherokees’ original homelands in the Southeast.
For questions about the Holiday, contact Patton at 918-822-2427.