Friday, May 04, 2007

Oklahoma Native Heritage Kept Alive by Pocahontas Club

The winds of Oklahoma travel over the prairies sweeping through the valleys and vast landscapes whispering with the echoes of a history that cries out to be remembered. This is Oklahoma a native land, the land of the red man, where landscapes of rolling hills and wide-open prairies meet. Nature begins as civilization pauses to breathe in the sights, which surround every essence of life. If we listen closely to the whispers we might hear, the stories passed down from one generation to another keeping Oklahoma’s Native history alive.

As Oklahomans gather to celebrate 100 years of statehood, it is important to remember the heritage that is the foundation of Oklahoma’s history. One such group has been keeping that history alive for over 100 years. Several women, who were all of Cherokee origin, began a Club in 1899. They were students at the Cherokee Seminary School for girls in Tahlequah. When school was not in session, they longed for the social camaraderie they had at school. One weekend they gathered in the Coowee Scoowee district and decided they would begin a club ~ a purely social club.

These were ladies and their education would rival that of any higher education institution back east. Their studies of history lead them in the choice for the name of their club. The name they chose derived from this country’s first Indian heroine, the maiden Pocahontas, whose story they found exciting. Thus began the Pocahontas Club, with the ultimate goal of “preserving the past for the future.” They would meet monthly on the second Saturday and have book reviews and special speakers to enlighten, educate and entertain.
To be a member of the Pocahontas Club you must be female and you must be a card carrying Cherokee. The Pocahontas Club is a virtual who’s who of the Cherokee Nation and at one point in the very early years; they allowed men to be members. During that time, Oklahoma’s Native Son Will Rogers joined their ranks. All to soon the Pocahontas members began seeing opportunities to help their tribe and the club began a tradition of service. Today the Pocahontas Club continues to thrive through their descendants.

In the Pocahontas Club collect, it states, “…The pride of our race we will forever cherish that its history and legends will not perish…this torch we pass to those who come our place to take…” In keeping with those words spoken for the first time so long ago, the members of the Pocahontas Club continue to treasure tribal traditions and keep the past alive for new generations.

The Women of the Pocahontas Club have always been true champions for education ~ teaching, tutoring, mentoring, and financing those students needing an extra hand. The Club has for generations sent clothing and care packages to the mission orphanages, which housed Indian children. Toys, magazines, layettes and other items have been given to the Indian hospital, and scholarships have been made available to many students through the years. Since the beginning, the Club has acquired projects and other purposes all with the goal of preserving their heritage for younger generations.

One of the most active Pocahontas members is Will Rogers’s great niece Doris “Coke” Meyers. At the young age of 87 “Coke” is far from slowing down. She is enjoying life and all it has to offer. One of her most cherished activities is being a member of the Pocahontas Club. “There are a lot of things that are important...” she said. “Keeping our native heritage alive so the children of tomorrow can remember their roots is very important”. “Coke” has lived an exciting life and her stories have much of the same character of her Uncle Will. When asked where the nickname “Coke” came from she’ll lean over a whisper with a sly smile “because I’m the real thing” and the real thing she is, because Doris “Coke” Meyers is the very model of a Pocahontas member.

“Coke” and her friend Ollie Starr are a force to be reckoned with when they get together. Ollie is very busy constantly talking and considered one of the movers and shakers of the Pocahontas Club. “They see me coming sometimes” she grinned. Ollie will tell you she went to Hollywood and became a star. She then will laugh and explain she went to Hollywood, Florida and Married Mr. Star.

Coke and Ollie are an enjoyable pair they have the heart to serve and preserve the traditions of their Cherokee culture. Currently their time is spent with the Pocahontas Club planning an Old Fashioned Family Picnic at the Dog Iron Ranch, the birthplace of Will Rogers. The club has a history of celebrating Oklahoma’s statehood, and with this being a centennial year, they thought this was the best time to revive a Pocahontas tradition of a Picnic for the families and friends of the club.

“This picnic is a time where we will be celebrating and honoring the members of the Pocahontas Club who are 80 years old and older and raising funds for the Pocahontas scholarship that we reward to a deserving student every year”, explained Ollie.

On Saturday May 19, 2007 at 11 a. m. the Club will honor 33 members who have attained Honorary Status (80 + years of age). They will be recognized for their contributions to education. “And we want families to attend and experience a little history first hand” said Ollie. At 11 a. m., the new officers will be installed and the Verdigris High School Jazz Band will escort a parade with the honorees and special guests up to the front porch of the old homestead.

The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. The meal will include cornbread and beans served chuck wagon style, BBQ, and Indian fry bread. Paul Bogart a native from Oologah who currently lives in Nashville will headline the entertainment. “He’s a real cowboy who sings and does rope tricks” said Ollie.

An assortment of activities with native artists demonstrating Indian games, a stomp dance, basket weaving and bead working are scheduled. “The day is not only a celebration of our elders but a celebration of the heritage they all hold dear,” said”, “Coke”.

While it is appropriate to respect all elders, those who are actively involved in giving back to the community are the real role models. The women of the Pocahontas Club have a virtuous history of service to the native and local communities and they make it seem easy! They live by the Pocahontas motto: “Speak kind words and you will hear kind echoes…” Come, show your honor and respect to these ladies who unselfishly continue to give back and carry on a heritage where Oklahoma’s deepest roots reside.

The two are still trying to find sponsors for the event. The cost of this type of celebration has greatly escalated in the last 108 years since the club’s formation. If you are interested in attending or becoming a signature sponsor contact:
Doris “Coke” Meyer 283-8092 or Ollie Starr 283-1588.
Principal Matrilineal Sponsor - $500 (includes 10 tickets)
Deputy Matrilineal Sponsor - $250 (includes 5 tickets)
Matrilineal Host - $100 – (includes 2 tickets)
Individual Ticket: Adult $10-Children $5(Age 12&under)

Please mail to “Pocahontas Picnic”
C/o M.J. DeLozier
P.O. Box 8,
Chelsea, Ok. 74016.