Cherokee Heritage Center

The Center consists of a living history Cherokee village, a museum, and small township of historical buildings. Dedicated to the perservation of Cherokee culture and history, it is one of the most widely visited Native American sites in Oklahoma.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Cherokee Heritage Center Opens with Cherokee Athletes Exhibit

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The Cherokee Heritage Center begins its 2005 season on Feb. 1 with the highly anticipated Cherokee Athletes exhibit. From the brutal origins of stickball to modern athletics events, sports have played a prominent role in Cherokee culture. The Cherokee Athletes exhibit showcases the past and present, and pays tribute to the many Cherokee athletes who helped shape the world of sports.

Traditionally, games like stick-and-hoop, chunkey and stickball were played to refine skills needed for daily survival. Stickball was often played to settle disputes between villages, while other games were used to gamble.

“Today’s games are more structured,” said Archivist Tom Mooney. “On a modern team you learn to discipline yourself by preparing for a game. This may involve intense practice, making a game plan, executing the plan and preparing for opponents at all levels. These skills are directly translatable into preparing one’s self for the business world and facing the challenges of today’s life.”

In addition to teaching the public about Cherokee games, the Cherokee Athletes exhibit offers guests an opportunity to view memorabilia such as game-worn jerseys, awards and historic photos from every time period.

“I think one of the most popular things will be comparing a modern football helmet with an older leather type worn in the mid-20th century,” said Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Richard Fields. “It’s amazing what used to pass for protective equipment.”

Museum Curator, Mickel Yantz, worked diligently with the community to create an exhibit that is both entertaining and educational.

“This exhibit is a wonderful example of the community coming together to honor the athletes in the Cherokee culture,” said Yantz. “Sports have always been a part of Cherokee culture displaying athleticism and a competitive spirit that has not faded. This exhibit shows athletes as more than historic figures, but as people of the community and the future.”

The Cherokee Athletes exhibit is one more way the Cherokee Heritage Center fulfills its mission of preserving and promoting Cherokee history and culture and educating the public about that history and culture.

“Far too many people only know about the Trail of Tears removal, or the Cherokee involvement in the Civil War,” said Fields. “This exhibit gives us the chance to share the story of everyday Cherokees who excel in sports, games and life.”

The Cherokee Athletes exhibit can be viewed at the Cherokee National Museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call the Cherokee Heritage Center at 918-456-6007, toll free at (888) 999-6007, or visit the Web site at http://www.cherokeeheritage.org/. Posted by Ami Maddocks, PR and Special Events Coordinator

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