Festivals Officially Return to the National Museum of the American Indian Starting with the Cherokee Festival

After a hiatus due to the Covid crisis, in-person events are now scheduled for the museums in New York and Washington D.C.

Official marquee prominently displayed on the Potomac Atrium entrance welcoming visitors to the Cherokee Days Festival NMAI photo

“Attending Cherokee days was a great opportunity for me to share our Tsalagi culture, artwork, song and dance. I feel the audience learned a great deal about who we are and that we are alive and thriving. I am very honored and thankful to the museum for asking us to come there and giving us this opportunity. It is important that people learn who we are all across Indian Country.” - Tooter Rose, Eastern Band Cherokee

The three federally recognized Cherokee tribes—Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians—came together at the museum on the National Mall to showcase the shared history and cultural lifeways of the Cherokee people through storytelling, traditional flute music, weaponry, woodcarving, beadwork, traditional games, basket weaving, pottery demonstrations, and music and dance performances.

Atsila Anotasgi Dancers (Fire Builders) from the Eastern Band of Cherokee of North Carolina enchant visitors with traditional dances, NMAI photo

Perhaps best known for their forced removal from their homelands, an event known as the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee Nation is now the largest tribe in the United States in both membership and census rolls. According to Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaking on Fox 5 Morning Saturday, “The Cherokee Nation is the largest tribe in the United States, 450,000 people all over  presence and a lot of them come in for the weekend.”

The Cherokee Nation Youth Choir from Oklahoma entertained visitors with traditional and contemporary music sung in the Cherokee language NMAI Photo

“The Cherokee Days at NMAI are the premiere showcase for all three of our Cherokee Tribal Nations artists! I am thankful that the Smithsonian provides such a beautiful forum in our Nation's capital to celebrate the living culture, arts and language of our Cherokee People.” – Cara Cowan Watts, Cherokee Nation former councilwoman

Cherokee Nation elder Vyrl Keeter demonstrates the ancient techniques of flint knapping to interest audiences who gathered to view his presentation. NMAI Photo

In the museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center, children were able to try their hands at making corn husk dolls, clay turtle medallions, miniature gourd masks and woven paper mats.

Cherokee artisans demonstrated basket weaving, loom weaving, bead work, twining, stone carving, woodcarving, flint knapping, painting and pottery, and how to make moccasins and the balls used in stickball throughout the museum. Artisans included: Cathy Abercrombie (Loom Weaving), Janelle Adair (Storyteller), Vivian Cottrell (Basketry), Betty Frogg (Twining), Matt Girty (Stone Carving), Louise Goings (Baskets), Butch Goings (Woodcarving), Vyrl Keeter (Flint Knapping), Dylan Morgan (Rivercane Basket Weaving), Elle and Lou Montelongo (Beadwork/Painting), Eddie Morrison (Sculpture), Jane Osti (Pottery), Nola Pina (Finger Weaving), Traci Rabbit (Painting), Lisa Rutherford (Pottery/Textiles), Carrie Vance (Twining), Charlotte Wolfe (Stickball Balls, Moccasins).

Cherokee Nation National Treasure Tommy Wildcat mesmerizes audiences with his traditional flute music NMAI Photo

Visitors also watched filmmaker favorites and selections from the Cherokee Almanac Series from OsyioTV each day in the museum’s Rasmuson Theater.

All activities that took place in the Potomac Atrium were live streamed. NMAI Photo