By: Debra West | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: October 2022
Celeste Tillary and Linda Coleman, The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club. Photo by Jill Solomon Wise.
For more than 120 years, the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club has upheld the values, the culture and the customs of the Cherokee people.
Will Rogers Days, City of Claremore Indigenous Heritage Day and National Native American Heritage Month begins the first Saturday of November, commemorating Will Rogers birthday (November 4, 1879). The Pocahontas Club has been celebrating Will’s birthday since the Will Rogers Memorial Museum was opened in 1938. The Wreath Laying Ceremony will begin at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum Rotunda with a procession down to the tomb of Will Rogers. The club members will begin their ceremony dressed in their Cherokee tear dresses and shawls around the bronze statue of Will Rogers to recite their Club Collect and place a basket of fall foliage at the foot of the statue.
There will be a program in the Will Rogers Theater following the Wreath Laying Ceremony. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. will be the guest speaker and the entertainment will be Jana Jae “Queen of Fiddle”, member of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and the National Fiddler Hall of Fame. Following the entertainment, you can board a tour bus for the Park & Ride History Tour, stopping first at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum for lunch and more entertainment.
The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club expressed special thanks and gratitude to Cherokee Nation Businesses, Visit Claremore, Oklahoma Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts for making this event possible.
1953 Will Rogers Day - Wreath Laying Ceremony
Attendees are requested to respect CDC recommended guidelines of wearing masks, washing hands thoroughly and social distancing.
Meet at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, 10 a.m.
Pocahontas Club Executive Director Ollie Starr explains, “The day will be starting at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, at which we’ll have our regular wreath laying ceremony at 10 a.m. – just like we’ve done since 1944,” Starr said. “After that, we’ll move inside to the Will Rogers Theatre auditorium, where esteemed Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. will be the honored guest speaker.
Wear a Fancy Hat!
Following Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., there will be a musical tribute by the first lady of the country fiddle, Jana Jae, as well as the Haute Hat Contest in remembrance of Will’s wife, Betty Blake Rogers. Attendees are encouraged to join in the fun or cast their ballot. Betty was well-known for always wearing her Haute Hat.
Park & Ride “HISTORY TOUR”, 11:30 a.m.
“At 11:30 a.m., there will be a tour bus here to take people from the W.R. Memorial for a drive through Rogers State University, then stop for lunch, music and tour at the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum (at 11:45 a.m.),” she said. “Many people may not know that Mr. Davis’s (second) wife, Genevieve was a member of the Pocahontas club.”
The collection is immense, over 50,000! Davis had many interests and collected relics from around the world. Firearms enthusiasts will see hand cannons that were used in the 1300’s to a collection of saddles, bits, bridles and spurs that played significant roles in Oklahoma’s history. Expect to see the unexpected with so many unusual and surprising items. For example, one about Roy Clark’s music career, native American history, along with Claremore and Rogers County history. Bandits and lawmen who roamed Oklahoma Territory are also represented at the museum, including Bill Tilgman and Wild Bill Hickock.
Radium Town, the Surrey, an Apollo 14 Lego model made of 12,151 Legos, the Lynn Riggs Art Gallery, and an extraordinary native American art show.
Downtown Claremore Main Street History Tour
Claremore’s history will further be highlighted, with the bus trip down Will Rogers Blvd. — often referred to as Claremore Main Street — and discussion about Claremore’s esteemed past while driving-by local sites of historical significance, and their ties to the Cherokee Nation, culminating with a return to the Will Rogers Memorial for the final evening of the Will Rogers Film Festival.
While the expanded activities of the day were largely due to the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club members, they emphasized appreciation to the efforts of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum Director Tad Jones for helping coordinate the day and allowing the group use of the Will Rogers Memorial. One member expressed, “Tad (Jones) is always so awesome, always so welcoming to us — he works with us to help make our events extra special,” she said. “He’s always been so cordial to us, allowing us to have the wreath-laying at the Memorial. Claremore is very rich in history, and our museums draw the public and acknowledge the significance of native American history and the Cherokee people.”
But as the club has done in the past, the emphasis of the day will be about the Will Rogers family and the history and legacy of the Cherokee Nation.
About The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club
“In the beginning, the Pocahontas Club was very much social, but over time, it became something different, something to allow members to share knowledge, provide educational scholarships to native American students, and support many local non-profit organizations with donations of products and services,” said Pocahontas Club President Celeste Tillery. “That’s what we’re doing — we want people to know what’s available to them — that’s our emphasis now. Some people — even people who live here — may not be aware of everything that’s in Claremore and its rich history.”
The Indian Woman’s Pocahontas Club was founded in 1899 and are the caretakers of Cherokee history and nation from the time of statehood until they were re-established as a nation. Today, there are 215 club members across 17 states.
The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club’s annual “Hats off to Will” Will Rogers Birthday Tribute and Wreath Laying Ceremony will be held Saturday, Nov. 5, at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, 1720 W. Will Rogers Blvd., Claremore. All activities and events are free and open to the public.
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