Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 13, 2001 - Issue 27



Keeping Cherokee Culture Alive


by Paul Tackett Tulsa World Staff Writer

A challenge for many modern Indians is keeping hold of their culture along with their traditions and language. Long ago, an attempt was made to eradicate their way of life and replace it with more of a Caucasian philosophy.

Today, persecution of the Indian people for their way of life is not as deliberate, but the struggle can still be difficult.

A Broken Arrowan is a pillar of strength for her community and her tribe, even at the age of 19, as she starts on her life's journey.

Rachel Clarkson is a sophomore at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and is Cherokee. On many occasions she will visit local schools and share Cherokee stories, culture and give performances by playing the Native American flute.

During the month of November, which was designated as American Indian Heritage Month, Clarkson visited Vandever Elementary School, 2200 S. Lions Ave. She told stories and played songs on her flute.

"I feel that education is the seed that provides spiritual and individual growth. I believe that education is so important for all people and especially for my tribe. The Cherokees since the beginning have always felt education was important. The Cherokees allowed the missionaries to work with their children because they believed that reading and writing were so important," she said.

"I believe for our tribe to remain strong for our future generations, we must keep our traditions, culture and language alive and pass them along to our young people.

"Education must be a priority among our peoples."

Clarkson's array of awards, scholarships and memberships to community organizations makes it easy to understand why she is a devoted member of her tribe and heavily involved within her community.

To start off, Clarkson was the first runner-up in the Miss Cherokee pageant in August. She won awards for best Cherokee essay, highest scholastic achievement and the Heritage award for knowing the most about Cherokee heritage and culture.

Also, Clarkson is the 1999-2000 Miss Indian U.C.O.

This role has given her the opportunity to visit schools and talk with students about the importance of an education, setting goals and striving to reach those goals.

"Children today need to feel important and know that they are needed and can make a difference. I encourage students to become active in school organizations and contribute to family, school and community. Students who are involved in activities and organizations are better prepared for peer pressures and have a feeling of self-confidence. This would also discourage dropout rates," Clarkson said.

Clarkson has been on the Dean's Honor Roll and Greek Honor Roll every semester while in college.

In November, she was the recipient of the Catch a Dream scholarship, which was given in Albuquerque, N.M.

This scholarship is given to an outstanding Native American who has contributed to their tribe and community with emphasis on academic achievements.

In addition, this particular scholarship will aid in Clarkson's education all the way through graduate school.

She was awarded the Presidential Leadership scholarship at UCO, also in November. Her academic performance and leadership roles in organizations on campus and in the community helped her in the selection process.

Lastly, she received a four-year minority scholarship to UCO, was a recipient of the Trail of Tears scholarship and also an academic scholarship through the Cherokee Nation.

Clarkson is a pre-med major and said she would like to work at an Indian hospital or facility to help serve Native Americans.

"I am very honored to be a recipient of these scholarships and feel fortunate to have these scholarships to fund my education.

"I have always worked hard as a student to maintain good grades and have been involved in organizations and clubs within my school and have been active in volunteer work in my community," said Clarkson.

Membership of community organizations for Clarkson include: a member of the Presidents Leadership Council, a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority where she holds the public relations office, a member of the University Center Activities Board, a member of First American Student Association and a member of Auxiliary Enterprises and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Furthermore, Clarkson is a member of the Cherokee National Historical Society, Indian Territory Arts and Humanities Council and has served as a tribal youth member for the Cherokee Nation.

If that is not enough, look for Clarkson as she has been chosen as one of the 12 Cherokee women for the 2000-01 Cherokee calendar to be in print this month.

She is the daughter of Randy and Mary Clarkson, granddaughter of Pete and Hazel Clarkson of Broken Arrow and Bernice Drywater of Tahlequah.

Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma




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