By: Lorrie Ward Jackson | Category: Special Interest | Issue: November 2009
The Pocahontas Club, shown here in Oklahoma City, works to preserve the Cherokee heritage and help further the goals of Cherokee women.
November is National Native American Month, and this particular November promises to be a particularly busy one for the Pocahontas Club. Not only will they be participating in their usual observance of Will Rogers’s birthday, but on November 11-16, a large delegation of members will be traveling to Washington D.C. to receive the Congressional Award.
“It has taken a great joint effort between so many people to make this happen,” says Ollie Starr, Pocahontas Club president, who reports that members from as far away as the east coast and Texas will be meeting the Oklahoma members there. “The threads that weave our Cherokee history together are like fine silk.”
The ladies are excited not only to receive the award, but to get to visit many historic sites in Washington D.C., such as Arlington Cemetery (on Veterans Day), the Smithsonian, and The Native American Museum. Former Pocahontas Club President Doris “Coke” Lane Meyer will turn 90 years old on the trip and was present for the original opening of The Native American Museum a few years ago. “It was the most awesome thing I ever got to go to,” she recalls with a smile.
Before they leave, however, the ladies will be participating in the annual festivities honoring Will Rogers on November 4. This is a tradition they have carried on since his death. “We have participated in the Will Rogers Parade every year, sponsored a memorial tea in his memory, and have been the only organization to place a wreath at his grave every year since he died,” says Ollie. The club will create their usual float for the parade, and it will be called “Bacon, Beans, and Limousines” in honor of Will Rogers’s famous radio broadcast in 1931, which was made by request of the President.
“The Pocahontas Club is diligent and faithful to keeping the legacy of Will Rogers alive since 1938,” says long-time member Linda Bradshaw. “Sometimes traditions get broken, but this one has not.”
The club has a special affinity with Will Rogers beyond his importance in the Rogers County community. Will Rogers had the distinction of being an honorary member. The Pocahontas Club was founded in June of 1899 by Cherokee girls who went to seminaries in different parts of the country during the year, but returned for the summer to their home in Indian Territory and wanted to socialize during their stay. Since the club was made up of girls from prominent Cherokee families, and Will Rogers himself was from such a family and knew all the girls, he frequently made appearances at their socials. He was so well-liked that they made him an honorary member. And the feeling was mutual, because even after he attained fame, he visited the club when he came home to Rogers County.
Although the club began only with social goals, it has grown to serve the community in greater ways. Also on November 7 at 7 p.m. at the Robson Performing Arts Center in Claremore, they will be sponsoring “The Musical Journey of Jana Jae and the Oklahoma Fiddling Stars.” This event will benefit their scholarship fund and holds significance for the club not only because the original club members were educated young Cherokee women, but also because their first social was a barn dance at Talala, where a fiddler took center stage.
The Pocahontas Club is currently welcoming new members. Members range from 20 to 93. If you are a Cherokee woman 18 or older who is interested in preserving the Cherokee heritage and helping to further the goals of Cherokee women, contact Ollie at (918) 283-1588.