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Cultural Tidbits of the Cherokee
Cherokee Festivals

Source CNO Cultural Resource Center
Courtesy Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma Webmaster
P. O. Box 948 Tahlequah, Oklahoma 74465
Phone: (918) 456-0671 ~ Toll free OK only: 1-800-256-0671

[**Note: Cultural information may vary from clan
to clan, location to location, family to family,
and from differing opinions and experiences.
Information provided is not 'etched in stone'.]


Cherokee Festivals: In Series of 6
Cherokee Wedding (Marriage Festival) ~*~ Miss Cherokee
Cultural Tidbits of the Cherokee


Cherokee Festivals: 1 of 6 in series

First New Moon of Spring Festival

There were six main festivals or religious observances before the forced removal. These festivals were to be observed at the capital. The UKU, seven (7) Principal Counselors and people from all seven Cherokee clans participated.

The first festival was the First New Moon of Spring Festival. This festival was held in March. The seven Principal Counselors determined when the moos would appear and a messenger would announce the upcoming festival to all the Cherokee people.

There were designated hunters to get the game for the feast, the dressing of a deer and the preparation of white deer skins, seven men were put in charge of the festival and seven men for food preparation.

The first evening was when the selected women performed the friendship dance. The second day, all went to the water for ritual purification.

The third day, the people fasted.

The forth day, all did friendship dances and ended the ceremony.

Afterwards the Seven Counselors scheduled the sacred night dance. They would have a religious dance, a new sacred fire was built and all old fires in the Cherokee homes were put out. They also had a scratching ceremony and medicine taking prepared by the Medicine Men. At the end, white deer skins were presented to the Festival Priests.

Cherokee Festivals: 2 of 6 in series
The Green Corn Ceremony

The Green Corn Ceremony was traditionally celebrated during late June or early July for about four days. The dates scheduled for the celebration depended upon the time the first corn ripened. The ceremony was held in the middle of the ceremonial grounds. Included in the rituals were the stomp dance, feather dance and buffalo dances. At certain points of the ceremonies the people fasted, played stick-ball, had corn sacrificing, took medicine and had a scratching ceremony. Then after the fasting they would feast. Another ritual observed was rinsing themselves in water and having prayer.

It was believed when you get a cleansing it washed away impurities or bad deeds and started a new life. The cleansing ceremony was performed by a priest which was followed with fasting and praying and other sacred practices.

Cherokee Festivals: 3 of 6 in series
The Mature Green Corn Ceremony

The third Cherokee festival was called the Mature Green Corn Ceremony which was held about 45 days after the New Green Corn Ceremony, which was held in June or July.

Before the festival, Honorable women performed a religious dance and decided when the festival would be held. The hunters were sent out to bring back game and there was a committee appointed for the festival.

An arch was built with green branches, making an arbor in the ceremonial grounds. The evening before the Green Corn Ceremony, all the clans took a branch that they used the next day during a noon ritual.

They drank a special tea called a "Black Drink" which was used for cleansing and purifying.

The people would have a dance for days plus feast on game and corn.

The Ceremony lasted for four (4) days.

Cherokee Festivals: 4 of 6 in series
The Great New Moon Festival

The Great New Moon Festival was held around October. This marked the beginning of the Cherokee New Year. It was believed that the world was created in the season of Autumn.

The main counselors determined when the new moon would appear. Again as previous festivals, hunters were sent out to catch game seven nights before the festival. Seven men were selected to take charge of all the planning and seven honorable women were chosen to prepare the food. When the Cherokee people gathered for the feast, each family gave food to the priest. Types of food were corn, pumpkin, beans and other.

The evening before the main gathering, the women performed a religious dance. Again during the ceremonial part they went to the river for purifying, giving offerings to the sacred fire and praying.

Cherokee Festivals: 5 of 6 in series
The Fifth (5th) Cherokee Festival

The fifth (5th) festival was held about ten days after the fourth festival, the Great New Moon Festival. The purpose of this festival was to make friends and for cleansing. Participants were assigned tasks, such as: helping with the preparation; dance leaders, musicians, cleansing the council house area, hunting game, etc.

A new sacred fire was built by the fire keeper and his assistants. The fire keeper and his assistants fasted for seven days before the festival.

There was a dance the night before the festival.

Others fasted during special designated days. This festival killed the old fire and brought a new fire. It also brought friendship by forgiving conflicts. A brand new start. There was also a cleansing ritual that was performed at the creek in running water.

This festival would last four (4) days.

Cherokee Festivals: 6 of 6 in series
Cherokee Winter Festival

The sixth festival was held during the winter. Tobacco was gathered from the people who participated in the feast. The people used pine or spruce and danced. The first movement was a march by alternating pairs of males and females. During the dance, women wore their turtle shells, formed a circle with the men in a single file and moved counter-clockwise in a circle. Each dancer took two hemlock twigs of the spruce and waved them up and down like pigeon wings. The fourth night, offerings were made to the sacred fire.


Cherokee Wedding (Marriage Festival)

Marriages were brief and simple. The ritual entailed the exchange of gifts in lieu of vows between a bride and her groom and lasted half an hour. Meeting at the center of the townhouse, the groom gave the bride a ham of venison and from her an ear of corn to him, then the wedding party danced and feasted for hours on end. Venison symbolized his intention to keep meat in the household and her corn symbolized her willing to be a good Cherokee wife.


Miss Cherokee

Miss Cherokee serves as the goodwill ambassador for the tribe. During her reign, she appears at community meetings, participates in parades, visits schools and takes part in various special events throughout Cherokee Nation. In addition, she travels to festivities inside, as well as outside our state. One of the highlights of her year is her annual visit to the Western Cherokees in Cherokee, North Carolina during their Annual Fall Festival.

Requirements for Miss Cherokee include an outgoing personality, knowledge of Cherokee history, talent and be at least one-quarter degree of Cherokee blood.

During her appearances, Miss Cherokee is dressed in a traditional tear dress, moccasins and her copper crown. Weather permitting, she would wear here traditional white turkey feather cape.


Related paths and contacts:

For more information contact the source:
Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center
E-mail: cultural@cherokee.org

* Cherokee Heritage Center
Mail: P.O. Box 515; Tahlequah, OK 74465
Location: 21672 S. Keeler, Park Hill, Oklahoma
Phone: 918-456-6007 ~ FAX: 918-456-6165
E-Mail: info@cherokeeheritage.org

* Official Site of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
P. O. Box 948 Tahlequah, Oklahoma 74465
Phone: (918) 456-0671 ~ Toll free OK only: 1-800-256-0671


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