Cherokee National Holiday

918-453-5536
holiday@cherokee.org

About the Artwork

The 69th Annual Cherokee National Holiday theme is “Cultivating Our Culture: Language. Literacy. Lifeways.” The theme and art pays homage to the Cherokee language and 200-year anniversary of the written Cherokee language, the Cherokee syllabary, invented by Sequoyah in 1821.

At the center of the design is renowned Cherokee inventor Sequoyah inspired in the Southeastern Woodlands design. He holds a tablet of his signature, shown as he signed it in historical records. Surrounding him is the wording “Presented to George Gist by the General Council of the Cherokees for his ingenuity in the invention of the Cherokee Alphabet.” George Gist was Sequoyah’s English name and was inscribed on the medallion he was awarded in 1824 by tribal leaders and worn by Sequoyah throughout his life. The image of two pipes was engraved on the back of Sequoyah’s medal and are displayed in the design. Seven stars represent the seven clans with one black star representing all Cherokee speakers lost to COVID-19 and who passed in the last year.

Those images are encompassed by a turtle representing the voice of the people. At ceremonial dances, women wear turtle shell rattles on their legs. The rhythmic sounds of shells as the women dance is said to symbolize the turtles lifting up their voice in song. The 86 leaves around the turtle shell represent the 86 characters in the Cherokee syllabary. The turtle moves counter clockwise in the tradition of the Cherokee people and its head is representative of the Cherokee language being an integral part of our culture in the East and West still today. The Holiday art was designed by Cherokee speakers and artists Dan Mink and Roy Boney Jr.