TAHLEQUAH, OK – Cherokee Nation announced three tribal citizens who are receiving the distinction of being named Cherokee National Treasures for their work in preserving and promoting Cherokee art and culture. They were honored as part of the annual Cherokee National Holiday Awards Banquet. Barbara Adair, Weynema Smith, and Lena Stick were selected as this year’s recipients of the honor.
“The Cherokee National Treasure distinction is an honor given by the tribe to individuals who are keeping the art, language and culture alive, helping to preserve and advance our lifeways,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “I see Cherokee National Treasures as being the keepers of those special values and traditions we hold so sacred as Cherokees. Barbara, Weynema and Lena are passing on their wisdom and knowledge to so many others, helping to leave a legacy that will impact generations to come. They all have my deepest respect and gratitude.”
This year’s three honorees are joining more than 100 Cherokees who have been recognized as Cherokee National Treasures since the 1980’s.
“Our Cherokee National Treasures are such a knowledgeable group of Cherokees who hold the keys to growing our culture, our language and our traditions,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “We are blessed to have their wisdom and their guidance as a Cherokee family.”
Adair was selected for basketry. An artist of many talents, Adair has taught basketry classes for well over 20 years. She has traveled often to instruct students at family homes, rural schools and Cherokee Nation health centers throughout the reservation. She gathers and processes honeysuckle, buckbrush and river cane to weave, along with other natural materials to dye baskets. In addition to traditional and contemporary baskets, Adair’s other specialties including making cornhusk dolls, clay bead necklaces and twine bags.
Smith was honored for her efforts in Cherokee lifeways and language preservation. Smith’s calling is teaching the Cherokee language to anyone with the desire to learn. She has pursued her calling relentlessly since 1954. Overcoming many challenges along the way to helping others learn to speak and write in Cherokee, Smith often finds inspiration in Sequoyah, remembering the opposition he faced when he first taught his syllabary. She consistently encourages others, especially youth, to learn everything they can about what it is to be Cherokee.
Stick was also chosen for her basketry. Generations of Cherokee basket weaving have inspired and guided Stick, renowned for her traditional buckbrush baskets. Stick’s mother, Cherokee National Treasure Maxine Stick, and siblings, each of them fluent Cherokee speakers, share a passion for basket weaving. Stick uses natural dyes like walnut and blood root when fashioning her baskets. She is generous with her knowledge, preserving this tradition by teaching groups who visit her home in Kenwood.
The honor of Cherokee National Treasure was first bestowed in 1988 by Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee National Historical Society.