When Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. took the microphone at the annual Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club Picnic on Saturday, May 20, attendees were already taking advantage of pans full of fried hog, brown beans, coleslaw, frybread and cups of strawberry shortcake.
The more than 250 picnic goers were among the first to hear from an official source that the Cherokee Nation will soon become permanent steward of the iconic ranch where the Pocahontas picnic takes place.
On this day, visitors had toured the onsite historic home of beloved Cherokee icon Will Rogers. They had had opportunities to try blowguns, throw a couple of hatchets, shoot a few arrows, and ride a pony or the train. Now gathered beneath the big white tent spread across the green pastures of the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch, they not only had a prime view of Oologah Lake, dotted with sailboats, while listening to live country music, but they also took in what many believe is good news.
Hoskin said the deal to be inked with the State of Oklahoma on June 7 will transfer ownership and management of the Rogers family’s ranch from the Oklahoma Historical Society to the Cherokee Nation. It is another Cherokee heritage landmark to be acquired by the Cherokee Nation from the State. One of the first was legendary Cherokee Sequoyah’s Cabin near Sallisaw.
Hoskin told the crowd the acquisition of the Rogers Birthplace Ranch fits into the Nation’s efforts to preserve and protect Cherokee history and culture within the 14-county tribal reservation.
Making the preliminary public announcement during the Pocahontas Club gathering was a fitting nod to the continuing iconic and international status of Will Rogers. It was also an acknowledgement of Rogers' unique standing as a Cherokee male member of the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club.
Kay McSpadden, Edmond, a Rogers family descendant, was in attendance Saturday. She is a member of the IWPC’s board of directors.
Another IWPC board member in attendance was Stephen McClellan, a Cherokee descendant of a Pocahontas Club founding member and one of the earliest Cherokee families to settle in the Cooweescoowee District, known in Oklahoma now as the Rogers County area.
Other tribal dignitaries in attendance were Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and Cherokee Council members Keith Austin, the local District 14 representative; Melvina Shotpouch, District 10, and a famous fry bread cook and hog fry organizer; Danny Callison, District 15, who also assisted with the hatchet throwing activities; and Joe Deere, District 13.
IWPC is now nearly 200 members strong. Established in 1899, it is the oldest continuously active women’s organization in the nation. The club will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2024.
The Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch is located northwest of Claremore on north of Highway 88, past the lake dam bridge.
Among others attending from out-of-town were travelers from as far away as South Dakota and Guthrie, Oklahoma.
The IWPC picnic is a tradition older than the State of Oklahoma and rooted within the club’s founding Indigenous heritage from Indian Territory days, when young women returning from the Cherokee Female Seminary at Tahlequah would gather for fun and games. The women developed a lifelong bond they perpetuated through service to others and a commitment to promoting education.
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