Every once in a while, you stumble upon something while on vacation that completely blows you away.
We visit North Carolina every year - sometimes even a few times a year - and I have never before heard of the Annual Cherokee Nation Pow Wow. When we arrived in Cherokee on Saturday, I asked the kids at the Welcome Center if there was anything going on for the holiday (4th of July being only a few days away) and when he told me that the annual Cherokee Pow Wow competition was happening that weekend, I knew that we had to go!
From the Visit Cherokee website:
When strong personal, familial and spiritual traditions are paired with a healthy dose of competition, the 37th annual Cherokee Pow Wow ignites a three-day festival of drum, song and dance. Hundreds of world-champion dancers will compete with an explosion of color and motion in Traditional, Fancy Shawl, Grass, Two Step and Jingle dance competitions.
We were too tired from driving in on Saturday to attend that day's sessions, but we made plans to attend on Sunday. We packed up our cooler with ice and water, filled all of our reusable water bottles to the brim, and headed out after lunch.
I knew that we wouldn't last the entire day, as the event was being held outside and it was already 97 degrees at noon...and when we arrived, we found that it was sweltering hot on the grounds - and there was no shade.
We settled in with our bottles of water and found seats on the bleachers, ready for the show and to learn a little more about the Cherokee Indians.
Being that my grandfather is part Cherokee, I've always been fascinated with the Cherokee people, and welcome any opportunity I can to learn more about that part of my heritage.
As the celebration began, each group was introduced and began dancing in the center of the field. The commentator described each group, where they came from and a little about their history.
The costumes were incredibly ornate, colorful and I imagine very, very hot. I was really surprised at the dancing - they did not stop.
Even as other groups were introduced, the groups who had already danced kept going.
It was a beautiful sight, seeing these amazing dancers giving respect, paying homage to their ancestors, and coming together to celebrate their culture.
I may have cried a little.
Or a lot.
Thank goodness for sunglasses, right?
I think my favorite part of the opening ceremony was when the Cherokee veterans came in with the Honor Guard. Each member was introduced, along with their reservation and the branch of the military they belonged to and which wars they fought.
The commentator switched back and forth between the Cherokee language and English and this melted my heart. As many times as I have been on the Cherokee Reservation in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, I have never heard the Cherokee language spoken aloud.
We ended up not staying for the entire pow wow, due to the heat - can you believe that they sold out of icees and slushies due to the heat?! - but we did get to see each dancer enter the competition and all of the introductory dances.
As we were getting ready to make our way out of the field, the children and teen dancers were coming in. While their dances weren't as elaborate as the adults, their costumes were beautiful and it was a wonderful experience to see the parents fawning over their sweet babies as they got ready to enter the competition!
While we had no idea that the Cherokee Pow Wow was taking place the weekend we planned on visiting Cherokee, North Carolina...I am so happy that we were able to be here for the excitement!