Distinguished Awards Presented at SevenStar Gala
The annual event recognizes contributions to Cherokee culture
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Heritage Center recently hosted its annual SevenStar Gala on Nov. 2 inside the Chota Conference Center at Cherokee Casino Tahlequah.
The event recognizes those who promote the Cherokee National Historical Society’s mission to preserve, promote and teach Cherokee history and culture. It also serves as the primary fundraiser for the Cherokee Heritage Center.
“We are the premier cultural center for Cherokee history, culture, and the arts. We’re also a nonprofit, and the truth is we couldn’t exist with the generosity of our loyal supporters and passionate advocates,” said Dr. Charles Gourd, executive director for CHC. “The award recipients recognized this evening each plays a vital role in not only the success of our organization but also serve as exemplary representatives for the Cherokee people.”
Four prestigious awards were given throughout the night, including the Contemporary Achievement Award, Tradition Bearer Award, Warrior Award, and Stalwart Award.
Victoria Vazquez received this year’s Contemporary Achievement Award. The award recognizes a Cherokee who is accomplished in a chosen field, has brought honor to the Cherokee people and serves as an inspiration for others.
Vazquez is currently the Deputy Speaker for the Council of the Cherokee Nation and has served as the tribal councilor for District 11 since 2013. As an apprentice under her late mother, Anna Sixkiller Mitchell, Vazquez learned the art of traditional handmade Southeastern pottery. The two would go on to become the first mother-daughter duo to be named Cherokee National Treasures for pottery making.
Another Cherokee National Treasure, Dorothy Dreadfulwater Ice, was honored with the Tradition Bearer Award for achievements in preserving Cherokee traditions through crafts, history and/or storytelling.
Ice was named a National Treasure in 1991 for her talents in loom weaving, though she also is known for her efforts teaching the Cherokee language. Her work can be found locally at the Cherokee Heritage Center and on the national scene at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
The Warrior Award recognizes a Cherokee citizen who has served in one of the United States’ uniformed services. This year’s honor went to former Deputy Principal Chief and U.S. Navy veteran S. Joe Crittenden.
During his eight years as Deputy Principal Chief, he played a crucial role in the opening of the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center, oversaw numerous Cherokee Warrior Flights and worked closely with federal agencies to ensure Cherokee veterans were getting quality health care, housing, and services. Crittenden’s advocacy for Cherokee veterans continues in his new role as Cherokee Nation’s first Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Cherokee Nation Businesses was recognized with the Stalwart Award for significant contributions to the heritage center’s success. Cherokee Nation Businesses Executive Chairman and former Principal Chief Bill John Baker accepted the award on behalf of the company.
As the tribally owned holding company of Cherokee Nation, the largest Indian Nation in the United States, CNB blends its heritage of ingenuity with modern business experience to solve complex challenges, to serve clients nationwide and to remain one of the drivers of Cherokee Nation’s prosperity and stability. As such, it provides a direct dividend of 37 percent of its profits to the tribe for services such as housing, health care, education, and social services. The remaining 63 percent is reinvested into growing jobs, wages, business development and special projects, such as the construction of new health care facilities.
The company serves an important role in preserving, promoting and supporting Cherokee culture and art, and has been a longtime supporter of the Cherokee Heritage Center.
Throughout the evening, guests participated in a vibrant silent auction featuring authentic Native art. In addition, Cherokee artists Keli Gonzales, Kenny Glass, and Cherokee National Treasure Mike Dart each demonstrated live art during the event. Upon completion, each item was auctioned to the audience by Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Keith Austin to raise additional funds for the organization.
The SevenStar Gala had a number of prominent sponsors, including Cherokee Nation Businesses and Chickasaw Nation.
The Cherokee Heritage Center is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture, and the arts. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill, Oklahoma.