If Gainesville resident Rosia Atherton has some advice for children it would probably be “Know your heritage.”

Part of learning one’s roots is discovering other cultures, the retired nurse and longtime Headstart Academy volunteer, said.

Residents will get the chance to see another side of American life during the Cherokee Heritage Day Pow Wow April 12 at the Gainesville Civic Center.

Like many American Indians, Atherton said people often tell her they are part Indian.

She urges them to attend events such as the benefit pow wow and to find out everything they can about their ancestors — even if they later find out they aren’t Indian after all.

“There’ll be people there who can help you trace your roots,” she said. “The first place I tell people to look is the library.”

Last year’s pow wow featured artists, jewelry makers, beadwork artisans, vendors and American Indian dancers in elborate regalia.

Charitable acts are an important part of the pow wow.

This year’s beneficiaries include the Murrow Indian Children’s Home in Muskogee, Okla. and Four Winds Food Distribution.

Last year volunteers presented a corporate donation check and gifts of shoes, clothing and school supplies to the Murrow Children’s Home in Muskogee, Okla.

Guests also donated a large carton full of shampoo and other toiletry items, two pickup loads of food, and three big boxes of story books for younger Murrow residents.

One woman donated an envelope containing five retail gift cards.

The Murrow Indian Children’s Home has been operating for over a hundred years, Murrow director Joan Brown said in an interview last April.

The home was in some finanicial trouble last year and officials even contemplated closing it, she admitted.

Donations such as the one in Gainesville last year, help keep the organization going.

“Seventy-five percent of our income is from churches and individuals. The support we got was just amazing,” she said of last year’s benefit.

Murrow provides shelter and education for Indian children, most of whom have either an incarcerated parent or a family life disrupted by alcoholism or substance abuse. Many come to the home as groups of siblings.

The organization tries to keep siblings together whenever possible.

“We take in children from all tribes, in all of Oklahoma,” Brown said.

Last year, a group of children arrived in two vans to attend the event and took home a truckload of donated supplies.

This year’s pow wow is set to begin at 1 p.m. and includes gourd dances and exhibitions, an intertribal dance and a grand entry.

The gourd dance is set to take place from 1 to 4 p.m. followed by the exhibition and intertribal dance from 4 to 5 p.m.

After a dinner break between 5 and 6 p.m., activities are set to resume with the gourd dance.

The grand entry and intertribal activities are planned for 7 to 10 p.m.

Atherton — who is part of a group called the Texas Cherokees — said many local people have an Indian heritage.

“A lot of people have been told they have Indian blood and they don’t know how much. It’s very common. There are anywhere from 1,500 to 2,500 Indians in Cooke County and probably 5,000 more in Denton county,” she said.

Atherton said although the event is officially Cherokee Heritage Day, the Cherokee Nation is not the only group that will be represented there.

“We’ll have Apaches, Comanches, Choctaws and others,” she said.

Atherton said she urges anyone who believes he or she may be an Indian to do some research and embrace his or her heritage.

She said she would love to see Gainesville’s junior high and high schools establish clubs for Indian students, adding that a Greenville High School group has set up scholarships for its Indian students.

Although the event is open to anyone, Atherton said guests should be respectful of all the participants and ask permission before taking any photos or taking part in some of the dances.

Guests may also bring chairs.

Monetary donations, gift cards, personal hygiene items, school supplies and staple foods will be accepted for both organizations.

Organizers say they also appreciate donated cakes for the cake walk.

A volunteer at the Murrow Home said a group of school children from the home are scheduled to come to Gainesville for the pow wow again this year.

The children apparently don’t mind the approximately five hour drive to Gainesville from Muskogee.

“The kids have already been here asking about it,” she said. “They have something here that conflicts with it, but they don’t care. They want to come to the pow wow.”

For information on the Cherokee Heritage Day Benefit Pow Wow call Doug Walp at (940) 482-3381 or Rosia Atherton at 668-8293. For vendor information contact Anne Buse at (817) 344-8912.

The Gainesville Civic Center is located at 311 S. Weaver St.

On the Web: http://cherokeeheritagetx.tripod.com.

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