A Legacy of Preservation

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Indian Women's Pocahontas Club Members, (left to right) active member Ollie Starr, current President Vicki Baker, secretary Lynette True and past president Debra West.

By, Macy Goodnight; Many events are hosted by the Indian Women's Pocahontas Club each year to inspire and educate as part of their mission. They have had picnics since the inception of the club, which were held at various ranches and locations throughout the years. Starting 13 years ago they began having the picnics at the Dog Iron Ranch, Will Rogers birthplace in Oologah, Oklahoma. On May 18, 2019, the 13th annual Old-Fashioned Picnic will be held again at the Ranch.

The event’s roots dig deep in the history of the Cherokee people, as an annual gathering that embraces the sense of community between friends and neighbors. The event is open to the public and is free to enter; however, a $10 or more donation is suggested. Guests to the event will find music and entertainment, traditional Cherokee games, hog fry, trout pond, vendors and much more. Principal Chief Bill John Baker will be an honored guest at the event. The event will begin at 10 a.m., gates open at 9 a.m.

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Dancing at the Old-Fashioned Picnic.

On June 29, 2019, The Club will host their 120th birthday at the JM Davis Gun Museum and will unveil a new Cherokee history exhibit at the museum at that time. To celebrate this tremendous occasion, guests will enjoy a birthday party, complete with a birthday cake.

Intensely vibrant and intricate is the fabric of Cherokee Nation heritage. A complex weaving of threads of events throughout their history reveals a culture of strength and resilience. For 120 years, The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club have preserved and guarded this history, as well as the traditions and values of the Cherokee people.

Established June 29, 1899, The Pocahontas Club began in Oowala, in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. Its inception came with strong ideals of a small group of intelligent and cultured girls from the Female Seminary. They started out as a social club and soon blossomed as caretakers of their culture, heritage and communities. Today, the organization calls Claremore home and is the oldest chartered club in Oklahoma. Council Member, Keith Austin, strongly supports the mission of the club, having grown up as the son of an extraordinarily active member. “The Pocahontas Club has always been the keepers of culture and history of the Cherokee people when the tribe was unable to,” he said.

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Music and entertainment at the Old-Fashioned Picnic.

The Pocahontas Club arose to defend against cultural oblivion. “One of their missions was, and remains to be, to keep the Cherokee culture and history alive,” said current club President, Vicki Baker.

The club proudly counts Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers, among its past members. In the early years, some men were allowed in the club. Rogers was a member before he became a celebrity. Club membership today is exclusively for Cherokee women who can trace their ancestry back to the Dawes Roll. Active member, Ollie Starr, is quick to halt any ideas that The Pocahontas Club is merely a social club. “We strive to make strong impacts in our communities,” she said. “It’s about our history and what we do to preserve it.” Previous Club President Debra West adds, “We have to be visible all of the time, and we try to be out there supporting the rest of our communities. We are movers and shakers passing down the wisdom we have committed to protect.”

In addition to active relationships within the community, the club provides annual scholarships, endowments, and support to Cherokee citizens to support higher education. “We are the caretakers of our culture, heritage, our history and our communities, with an emphasis on education,” said West. “The Cherokee have always valued education,” added Baker. “It began with one student in the beginning, and now we provide assistance to around 15 students a year,” she said.

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