Cross-Cultural Trip to United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees Inspires Sterling College Students

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 59th Annual Keetoowah Cherokee Celebration included a pow-wow, stomp dance, and competitions such as the Cornstalk Shoot. But for the Sterling College students and faculty who attended the celebration, these things were not the most memorable parts of their trip. "One of the highlights for me was to see how the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees strives to help all people: children, elders-just anyone who needs help. I was impressed with their determination to help all aspects of society," said Doug Boardman, an assistant professor in the history department.
The Sterling College cross-cultural trip was led by Director of Campus Ministries Jerrod Adair, a Keetoowah Cherokee himself who grew up in Tahlequah, where the Celebration was held. "It was so good to be able to share my own culture with the students and faculty who went on the trip," he said, "but it was also a highlight for me to share Sterling with my people. It was good for me to be able to blend those two together."
The group went to experience a different culture, to learn some of the history of the Keetoowah Cherokees, and to serve during the Celebration, which commemorates the signing of the Keetoowah Constitution in 1950. "We were just extra hands-serving," said Adair. "We planted flowers, decorated floats, set out trash cans, washed cars, picked up trash-whatever needed doing. It was good for our students to serve a people who traditionally have not been served by others."
The group was given a tour by Charles Locust, assistant chief of the tribe, and Leroy Adair, Jerrod Adair's father and a leader of the tribe. They also visited two museums. "It was enlightening," said Craig Smith, chair of the theology and ministry department. "I had a much better understanding of what went into the Trail of Tears and how poorly the Native Americans were treated."
"I wanted to see how the Keetoowah Cherokee adapted their core beliefs into modern society," said Jacob Macek, a student from Sterling. "What I saw was a lot of love and generosity, both from the people with me on the trip and among the Keetoowah Cherokee. It was truly a wonderful experience."
For student Matt Bartlett, a first-year student from a Sioux tribe in South Dakota, it felt a little like he was going home. "I saw that different Native American cultures are a lot alike, and the best thing for me was getting to go to the pow-wow because I missed mine back home."
Besides getting to go to the Celebration, with the pow-wow and the stomp dance-which several of the SC students participated in-the group was also able to attend a service at Salina First Indian Baptist Church. "One of our goals for cross-cultural trips is for students to see God as a cross-cultural God-that He is the same God in Asia, in Indian culture, everywhere-and He loves all people. Another goal was to practice serving people outside our own culture group," said Adair.
And was that goal accomplished?
"Absolutely," Adair said.