Sept. 8th – Sept. 9th, the 26th annual Cherokee Fall Festival was underway to celebrate the rich history of the Cherokee tribes. Located at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, Cherokees from the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation in North Carolina came out to share their culture. I went on the first day of festivities where I experienced a dive into the natives’ past.
One activity that was fascinating was a demonstration of the blowgun or ‘tugawesti’. The blowgun is a tool Cherokees used for hunting. It is a hollow pole made to shoot darts composed of thistle. Perfect for hunting tiny targets like birds and small mammals. Young boys would often start out with this weapon in order to work themselves up to an arrow and bow for bigger prey.
At the festival, the Cherokees showed off their skills with the blowguns in a contest. Two contestants from a tribe would aim at stationary targets. Similar to the game of throwing darts, the key to winning is shooting the darts at the bullseye. Many people crowded around for this event as the awe of the blowguns in action were irresistible.
If watching the blow gun competition wasn’t enough, there was also a station set up to learn how to blow your own blow gun. Seeing the rookies test their luck with the darts was as fun as watching the Cherokees. Cherokee arts and crafts, shopping tents, and music sessions were all around the grounds too.
With the fun and games came the history of the Cherokee people too. Set up in a chronological order, the Cherokees built stands lined up from the 1400s to 2000s. People could learn more about the day-to-day lives of the tribes.
One of the Cherokee tribe members, John Standing Deer, spoke about the narratives of his people. He explained to listeners that the way his people survived as colonizers began to encroach on their lands. With the items displayed before him, he described how the Cherokee used each object. One of the objects he talked about was guns. At first, the natives did not know how to operate guns so after a battle or capture they would trade their enemies’ guns for supplies.
The introduction of these western tools did not mix well in Cherokee society. Standing Deer noted that even today there are aspects of modern society that do not bode well in their native culture. The ever-increasing rise of fast-paced technology is not a perfect fit with the natives’ deep-rooted ties of nature-based beliefs. Standing Deer noted, “That’s one of our problems in living in this modern day world, and we are paying for it.” Nonetheless, he assured that Cherokees today have been able to function in present-day society while keeping the practices of their culture intact.
The Cherokee Fall Festival was an enlightening experience. It is an event everyone should consider adding to a list of places to go.
Do you want to help maintain Cherokee culture?
Visit the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum or visit their website and ask about their membership packages!
Give directly to the Cherokee Nation through their website!