Honored Cherokee Warrior

I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.
I am standing with Chief Baker as he presents the Cherokee Warrior Award.

Who is this great warrior? Me!

Cherokee Warrior Award
Cherokee Warrior Award

I admit it is awkward and unusual to think of myself as an Indian warrior. But if the Cherokee Principal Chief is comfortable with it, then there is no reason for me to hesitate.

I was given the tremendous honor of being nominated by the board members of the Mt. Hood Cherokees. I am particularly grateful to our leader, David, who talked me into putting my name forward, when the idea of representing the group seemed like more of an honor than I deserved.

My Tara willingly gave up a dress rehearsal for her evening performance so that she could be there with me.

My Uncle Dwight and Aunt Joyce came up from Lebanon, Oregon and were able to see the ceremony.

Chief Bill John Baker presented me with a gorgeous framed certificate showing the Cherokee Warrior’s Memorial in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as well as a medal he pinned to my blouse. Before I knew what was happening, he popped a microphone into my hand and said, “Do you want to speak?” Answering his question honestly, I answered, “No,” with a smile. “But since I have a microphone in my hand, I will.” And I thanked my Mt. Hood Cherokees for nominating me, and I said how much of an honor it was.

"No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd."
“No, in answer to your question, I do not want to speak to the crowd.”

Chief Baker said to me as I approached him, “Finally, a woman!” And I thanked him for saying that. It may be obvious by my own comment above that even *I* have fallen into accepting the incorrect social stereotype that a warrior is not a woman. And that an honored veteran is not a woman. My own At Large satellite group is sending a message that we aren’t trapped by stereotypes, and I am happy to be the face of that message.

It was a great day for a Cherokee picnic. Many of our Oklahoma Cherokees came out to share information about Indian education and student scholarships, basket-weaving, and voter registration. They were assigning photo ID cards for Cherokee citizens (which I never signed up for: too much going on that day!). We had music from two traditional flutists.

And storytelling.

Me, Robert, Tara
Me, Robert, Tara
Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)
Robert tells us a story about clever Jistu (Rabbit)

I can’t say which was the best part of the picnic: receiving the warrior award, or seeing our storytelling friend, Robert, again. Both could have made my whole day on their own, together they just buoyed me beyond belief.

I’ve blogged about Robert Lewis in the past. His personal style of telling the tales of Cherokee history is to bring up audience members to tell the story with him. It’s engaging and funny and educational. Robert’s got a huge love of people and joyfulness, and his energy is irresistible. He’s an art teacher at Northeastern State University and has to miss the first day of school on Monday because of this trip to Portland and Seattle. I’m sure he’ll ease right into the school year with grace later on this week.

Then, we ran around and said goodbye to old friends and new friends and my Aunt & Uncle and off we went for the next big even of the day: Tara’s ballet performance at Washington Park! That post will come next.DSC_0884

4 thoughts on “Honored Cherokee Warrior

  1. I was wondering. I wrote a post about two genders in one person called, “Two Spirits,” does your tribe have thoughts on this? Hope you are not offended by this question.
    Congratulations on your being chosen to receive The Cherokee Warrior,” Crystal!!

    1. I read your blog post and I appreciate it very much. Of course I am not offended by your question. My child, Tara, is transgender. Tara does not identify as male or female, but changes daily to different places in between, and sometimes no gender at all. I plan to write more on this when I find some time to be able to put careful thought into my posts. It’s a bit of a new idea for me (1-2 years since Tara explained their identity to me), so that’s why I haven’t written about it yet, except one mention in January. I think it was the Good Things Jar post.

      Anyway, I am aware of the Two-Spirit concept and learned about it in school in 2006. I have not found any reference to this idea among my local group or on the official Cherokee Nation website, or any official publications. I find that many Cherokees (and likely other tribes) are deeply religious and usually Christian, and some Christians are slow to embrace transgendered people. I suspect that the absence of information on this topic is related to the sensitivity toward people of faith.

      I did find a great collection of writings on sexual identity written all by Native people, and passed the link on to Tara. I’ll find it for you and pass it on. (If I take too long, or forget to do this, please remind me! 😉 )

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