Celebrate 11,000 Years of Tradition at The Cherokee Voices Festival, June 8 | Cherokee, NC

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Celebrate 11,000 Years of Tradition at The Cherokee Voices Festival, June 8

(Walaluh Brown, Cherokee lifeways encampment. Photo by Kristy Herron)

You’re invited to celebrate Cherokee culture at the 22nd annual Cherokee Voices Festival on Saturday, June 8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Now in its 22nd year, the Cherokee Voices Festival is a free daylong event bringing to life 11,000 years of Cherokee tradition in the southern Appalachians, and highlighting the Cherokee people carrying on these traditions. This event is made possible by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the North Carolina Arts Council.

The Cherokee Voices Festival is packed with amazing Cherokee performers, showcasing traditional songs, dances, music, and stories, and features over 20 Cherokee artists displaying their work and demonstrating crafts such as beadworking, basketry, knife making, shell carving, wood carving, pottery, photography, and gourd work.

(Beloved Woman Amanda Swimmer)

The People Behind the Traditions

The Cherokee Voices Festival started over two decades ago as a way to recognize the experts of the most traditional Cherokee art forms and and celebrate their work.

This year’s festival is dedicated to the late Beloved Woman Amanda Swimmer, who was part of the festival from the very beginning, teaching her pottery skills to anyone who wanted to learn. Amanda was a celebrated potter and the recipient of a North Carolina Heritage Award, the state’s highest honor. In 2005, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Asheville.​​

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians have the longest continuing pottery tradition in an original homeland of any tribe in the United States. In 2003, Amanda Swimmer was one of the founders of the Cherokee Potters Guild, under the auspices of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The Guild’s mission is to revive the stamped pottery tradition, teach it to others, and promote the pottery.

(Pottery owls by Dean Reed)

Dean Reed, another founding member of the Cherokee Potters Guild, will be demonstrating the traditional paddle-stamped pottery method at the Cherokee Voices Festival. Dean has been creating pottery for 45 years. “I just picked up clay and never put it down,” she told the Cherokee One Feather. She creates pieces imprinted with Cherokee legends such as the water spider and the seven clans. With the guild, Dean worked to bring back traditional Cherokee cooking vessels with paddle stamp designs—a style that predated the 1600s. To finish her work, she pit fires the pottery, like it was done long ago.

Mary Thompson will also be demonstrating and displaying her traditional stamped pottery. In addition to being a potter, Mary is a second-generation basket weaver. She is also the mother of a basketmaker (daughter Sarah), making her the link to three generations of basket weavers. Mary considers crafting her quiet time. The baskets she makes are woven from river cane, which she prefers to use over white oak for single and double woven baskets and wall mats.

(Lucille Lossiah, basketmaker. Photo by Ronnie Farley via First Peoples Fund)

Lucille Lossiah will be displaying her baskets at the festival. She learned the family style of weaving from her mother, Mary Jane Lossiah, and her grandmother, Betty Lossiah. She makes double and single weave baskets from white oak, maple, and rivercane. She strips her own cane to make splits and dyes them with black walnut, yellowroot, and bloodroot. Lucille’s knowledge of the basket weaving tradition became crucial several years ago when she and her sister Ramona became the only living practitioners of that art among the Eastern Band. They taught classes sponsored by the Qualla Arts and Crafts Co-op and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian until the tradition became firmly rooted in the community once again.

(Louise Goings from the 2017 Cherokee Voices Festival. Photo by Kristy Herron)

If you’ve been to the Cherokee Voices Festival before, you’ve likely met Louise and Butch Goings. Louise is a basketmaker from a distinguished family of basketmakers, and Butch is a celebrated woodcarver. “In our culture, we believe that all things are connected,” Louise said in an interview with the First People’s Fund. “Therefore, we try to use all the skills and knowledge we have to strengthen our community. Even though we are known for basket making and carving, we also use other skills and knowledge we have to help our community.”

(Photo of Walker Calhoun by Kristy Herron)

Kristy Herron will be showcasing her photography at this year’s Cherokee Voices Festival. You may recognize Kristy as a frequent photo contributor to the Visit Cherokee blog. For the second year in a row Kristy will be on the other side of the camera lens, displaying her photos from her landscape and “hands” series—showing close-up portraits of makers in the act of making.

Other participating artists include Bernice Bottchenbaugh (beadworking), Bill Radford (knife making and carving), Tseshani Amadedoti (shell carving), Nancy Maney (Cherokee clothing), John Henry Maney (pottery), Robert Craig (wood carving), Sharon McCoy (beadworking), Melvin Swimmer (pottery), Antonio Grant (trade silver), Rebecca Watty (gourd work), Lucy Teesateskie (honeysuckle basketry), Waylon Long (ball stick demonstration), and Laura Walkingstick (corn shuck dolls).

Visitors can also experience living history encampments showcasing Cherokee traditions by Richard Saunooke, John “Bullet” Standingdeer, Walaluh Brown, and Mike Crowe. The Cherokee Friends will also be at the festival, with Jarrett Wildcatt demonstrating twining, Tyra Maney demonstrating white oak basketry, Sarah Thompson demonstrating rivercane basketry, and Mike Crowe will be doing a blow gun demonstration and living history.

Schedule of Events

10 a.m. - Welcome and presentation of colors, Matt Tooni and Steve Youngdeer post #143

10:30 a.m. - Gospel music in English and Cherokee, performed by Maybell and Alfred Welch

11 a.m. - Storytelling by Cherokee Friend Jarrett Wildcatt

11:30 a.m. - Music from the “Unto These Hills” preshow performers

12 p.m. - Storytelling by Kathi Littlejohn

12:30 p.m. - Presentation by Little Miss Cherokee, Morgan Hernandez

1 p.m. - Traditional dances by Raven Rock Dancers

1:30 p.m. - Storytelling by Freeman Owle

2 p.m. - Singing by Spencer Bolejack

2:30 p.m. - Traditional dances by the Cherokee Friends

3 p.m. Flute music by Jarrett Wildcatt

3:30 p.m. Traditional dances by Warriors of AniKituhwa


On site, Nikki’s Fry Bread will be selling Indian tacos, fresh squeezed lemonade, Indian pizza, sweet treat frybread, and much more!

What: 2019 Cherokee Voices Festival

Where: Museum of the Cherokee Indian at 589 Tsali Blvd. in Cherokee, NC

When: Saturday, June 8, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission: Free!

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