The Warriors of AniKituhwa: Bringing Cherokee Dance and History to Life | Cherokee, NC

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The Warriors of AniKituhwa: Bringing Cherokee Dance and History to Life

If you’ve been to Cherokee, NC, in the last 13 years, you may have been lucky enough to catch a dance performance by the Warriors of AniKituhwa. The Warriors are all enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and are designated official cultural ambassadors.

Presently there are eight warriors: Bo Taylor, Sonny Ledford, Daniel Tramper, John Grant, Jr., Bullet Standingdeer, Will Tushka, Michael Crowe, and Micah Swimmer. On occasion, Ernest Grant, Antonio Grant, and Jarrett Wildcatt also perform with the Warriors.

The Warriors of AniKituhwa are sponsored by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and have performed at Colonial Williamsburg, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and throughout the Southeast, and beyond.

The men are all multi-talented and and in addition to dancing, they provide living history demonstrations at events, as well as programs in flute, storytelling, Cherokee language, beadwork, quillwork, and more.

The Dances

The Warriors bring to life the Cherokee War Dance as described by Lt. Henry Timberlake in 1762 in his memoirs. The War Dance was when men went to war, and also when meeting with other nations for diplomacy and peace. Within the Cherokee nation, the Cherokee War Dance was used to raise money for those in need. The dance conveys the strength of the Cherokee nation. The Warriors also perform Cherokee social dances, including the Bear Dance, Beaver Hunting Dance, and the Friendship Dance—where spectators are invited to join in.

(Photo by Robert Hunter)​

Origins of the Warriors

Marie Junaluska, Chrissy Arch of the Wolftown Community, and Dr. Carmaleta Monteith chose the original members in 2004. The original Warriors included Elder Walker Calhoun, who passed away in 2012, Bo Taylor, Sonny Ledford, Daniel Tramper, John Grant, Jr., Bullet Standingdeer, and Will Tushka. These men were designated official cultural ambassadors by resolution of the Tribal Council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in February of 2005, which is a rare honor.  

At the same time, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian became their official sponsor. Barbara Duncan, Education Director at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, has been raising money for the Warriors in addition to promoting, booking, and providing travel support for the group. Duncan also lead the research into the period-appropriate clothing that you see the Warriors wear today.

Cherokee Honor 

Sonny Ledford (pictured below), one of the original members, says it’s an honor to be a Warrior of AniKituhwa.

“Our elders chose us to travel and educate the public on who we are. We're like family. There are eight that carry the staff now, and for over ten years we've been together.”

“A lot of people, you hear them say ‘Cherokee pride,’ or ‘I'm proud to be Cherokee,’ but the Cherokee never had pride. They had honor,” says Sonny.

“When you've got honor about being created the way you have, and having language and culture, and ceremonies—all those things that haven't changed—it’s an honor to be gifted with those things and pass them on.”

See the Warriors of AniKituhwa

You can follow the Warriors of AniKituhwa on Facebook to see live and recent videos of their dance performances. To see where they’ll be performing next, visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. For more information, or to book them for an event, please contact Barbara Duncan at 828-497-3481 ext 1012 or email barbara.duncan@cherokeemuseum.org.

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