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Cherokee Nation Honors National Treasure Recipients

05/06/2011
May 06, 2011

John Ketcher (left) receives a medallion made especially for those who have been designated as Cherokee National Treasures from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith (right) at a recent ceremony held in Sequoyah Schools’ The Place Where They Play.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation recently honored its National Treasure Award recipients before an audience of well wishers at a ceremony in The Place Where They Play, located on the campus of Sequoyah Schools in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. 

National Treasure Awards are bestowed by the Cherokee Nation each year during the Principal Chief’s State of the Nation ceremony at Cherokee National Holiday. The title National Treasure is conferred upon those citizens who have made a lifelong commitment to the Cherokee cultural legacy through the preservation and revival of traditions that are at risk of being lost from generation to generation. 

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith presented special commemorative medallions to each of the National Treasures present and addressed the crowd gathered for the proceedings, praising the cultural contributions of the honorees. 

“We thank them because they are a great treasure for our nation,” said Smith. “They’re an inspiration for our future.” 

Those recognized were bedecked with a handmade medallion crafted by a group of Cherokee artisans led by Toneh Chuleewah, the instructor of the Cherokee Nation metalsmithing class. The medals are fashioned out of copper, the traditional material of choice for Cherokee metalsmiths, with a fire depicted at its center in homage to Cherokee tradition. 

“We wanted to show the elders we appreciate them and give them something that will last a long time,” said Chuleewah in a video message to the crowd. “This is special because a group of Cherokees produced something for Cherokee elders.” 

Ed Fields was named a National Treasure in 2010 for his contributions in the field of language. Fields teaches a popular online Cherokee language course to students from around the world in an effort to preserve the language for future generations. 

“I think it is a great honor to be a National Treasure to remember what we have done and what we are doing,” said Fields. “This is a good way to bring the older and younger generations together.” 

Former Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief and Tribal Council member John Ketcher was also honored at the ceremony. He was named a National Treasure in 1992 for his role in reviving the Cherokee tradition of mechanical loom weaving. He was involved in Sequoyah Schools’ loom weaving program from its earliest days. 

“This is a great honor personally. I am glad people in the administration have not overlooked what we had and have revived,” said Ketcher. “This is a good thing. We should do it quite often. It means a lot to us.” 

The Cherokee Nation will soon be accepting nominations for National Treasures to be named in 2011. If you would like to nominate a Cherokee Nation citizen as a National Treasure, please call Bill Andoe at 918-453-5153.


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