The original American Indian tribes of the Southeast will be sharing their ancient, traditional cultures September 16-17 at the Southeast Tribes Festival Cherokee at the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds. Admission is $7 for adults and $3 for children ages 6-13 for a one-day pass. Special rates are available for groups; if they visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, festival admission is free.
“This is fun time and a great opportunity to experience dancing, food, arts and crafts, living history, games. You can to talk with American Indian people from all over the Southeast who are really involved in carrying on their traditions,” said Ken Blankenship, Executive Director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, which coordinates the festival. New artists this year include the Chickasaw Nation Dance Troupe, from Ada, Oklahoma.
Now in its sixth year, the festival includes the original tribes of the Southeast: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole. Only enrolled members of federally recognized tribes are included, and all artists are juried. Dance and storytelling, living history, and arts and crafts demonstrations take place daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Dance performances will also be offered at 7 pm Friday and Saturday evenings. Audience participation is often part of these dances as well.
“What’s unique about this festival is that only enrolled tribal members are included,” said Barbara Duncan, Education Director at the Museum. “This means that all the traditions are authentic.” Duncan added that the festival has become a focus for cultural revitalization for the tribes as well. Seeing other tribes’ old dances has encouraged dance groups to seek out their own lost traditions and revive them. Some of the dance groups bring their whole community–familes from grandparents to infants.
Dance groups will include the Warriors of AniKituwha, official cultural ambassadors of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; Raven Rock Dancers (Cherokee); Chickasaw Nation Dance Troupe; Mystic Wind Social Dancers (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians); Tallahassee Wvwoke Dancers (Muscoge Creek Nation); Seminole Dancers; and Squirrel Ridge Ceremonial Grounds (Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band of Oklahoma). The Cherokee Head Start Traditional Dancers (ages 18 months to five years) will perform Friday and Saturday at 12:30.
Saturday’s events will include American Indian sports competitions. The day will begin with a 5K run at Kituhwa Mound on Rt. 19 between Cherokee and Bryson City; the public can participate for a $10 entry fee which includes a festival t-shirt. Beginning at 9 am a Cherokee marbles tournament and demonstration will be held at the Fairgrounds. A blowgun competition at 11 am will demonstrate this ancient weapon. At 1 pm, Choctaw Boys Stickball will be demonstrated at Unity Field on Highway 441. At 5 pm the Wolftown Indian Ball team will demonstrate the Cherokee stickball game, known as the “little brother of war” for its fierceness and intensity.
Arts and crafts demonstrators from each tribe will include master artists by special invitation. The ancient and intricate river cane basket making will be demonstrated by Emma King and Ramsay King (Choctaw), Ramona Lossie (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) and Shawna Cain (Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma.) Master artists will also demonstrate mask making, stone carving, wood carving, bow making, stamped pottery, fingerweaving with beads, and more.
Living history demonstrators will share aspects of 18th century Creek and Cherokee life. Melissa Harjo and her brother Roy D. Harjo from the Muscogee Creek Nation build their own brush arbor on the grounds and cook over an open fire to share the lifeways of Creek people. Cherokee living history demonstrators will include Richard Saunooke, Bullet Standingdeer, and Paula Nelson. Saunooke and Standingdeer portrayed 18th century Cherokee history at Colonial Williamsburg in June 2011.
Master of Ceremonies Rob Daugherty (Cherokee Nation) will be introducing events in English and Cherokee language. Festival t-shirts will be on sale at the front gate. Food from native vendors will be available throughout the festival.
This event is sponsored by the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee Preservation Foundation and the NC Arts Council. For more information contact: Museum of the Cherokee Indian 828 497-3481. www.cherokeemuseum.org. Also see the Museum of the Cherokee Indian page on Facebook.
- Museum of the Cherokee Indian