Oklahoma’s Biggest Pow Wow Is Coming Up Soon
Summer in Oklahoma is many things. It's brutally hot. It's a great excuse to float the river. There's a rodeo nearly every weekend and peak pow wow season across the state.
If you don't know what a pow wow is, it is definitely something you should experience at least once in your lifetime, but spoilers... you'll go back time and time again.
I grew up in a small northern Oklahoma refinery town. There were Native American tribal communities, but the big event each year was the annual Ponca Tribal Celebration. With good food, singing that can move your soul and incredible dancing that will move your body, the whole area shows up to live in the moment.
While my local pow wow was awesome and billed as the "Grandaddy of All Pow Wows," none of us knew there was one bigger only a few hours away. The Cherokee Nations Inter-Tribal Powwow is on a massive scale, making it the second largest in the nation.
This incredible pow wow happens on Labor Day weekend each year to wrap up the Cherokee National Holiday, which celebrates the signing of the Cherokee Nation Constitution back in 1839, but the fun starts in August.
Depending on the school district you live in, you and the kids might have the time to partake in some of the "everybody is welcome" fun. There are sporting events for all ages such as softball and basketball, a high-stakes cornhole tournament, golf, fishing, a marathon, and competitive horseshoes.
There are also a bunch of unique, traditional native games and competitions like stickball, hatchet throwing, a blowgun tournament, the ferociously fun game of chunkey, the boche ball/bowling/golf hybrid sport of marbles, and a cornstalk archery shoot.
On top of it, there is an art show and market where you can see and purchase tons of native things. Hand-beaded bags and accessories, incredibly delicate baskets and bowls, traditional quilts, jewelry, and more. They even host a massive car show on site too.
I cannot even begin to explain how big the Cherokee National Celebration is.
As it goes on for days and weeks, it would be a challenge to take in all it has to offer in one or two days there, but the pow wow is where you should start or end your visit.
As the drums and singing starts, dancers give it everything they have. It's high-stakes dancing for their piece of the $35,000 in prize money. The competition is so fierce that you'll bear witness to the best of the best from many native tribal nations across this country.
If you're down for something truly spectacular, the Cherokee National Holiday Inter-Tribal Powwow is on September 2nd and 3rd in Tahlequah. If you plan your weekend right, you can also squeeze in a float trip down the amazing Illinois River while you're up that way.