The Southeast Tribes Festival in Cherokee North Carolina

Children from the Mystic Wind Choctaw Social Dancers (Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians)

The Southeast Tribes Festival in Cherokee North Carolina

The Southeast Tribes Festival is being held today and tomorrow, September 16 and 17, in Cherokee North Carolina at the Indian Fairgrounds on Highway 441. 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 in a press release, 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.

The festival includes the original tribes of the Southeast: Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole. Now in it’s sixth year, the Southeast Tribes Festival includes only enrolled members of federally recognized tribes, and all artists are juried. “Dance and storytelling, living history, and arts and crafts demonstrations take place daily from 9 am to 5 pm,” stated a festival press release. “Dance performances will also be offered at 7 pm Friday and Saturday evenings. Audience participation is often part of these dances as well.”

Barbara Duncan, Education Director at the Museum, said in the release 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 infant,” she said.

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. Then at 9 am a Cherokee marbles tournament and demonstration will be held at the Fairgrounds. This will be followed by a blowgun competition at 11 am. At 1 pm, Choctaw Boys Stickball will be demonstrated at Unity Field on Highway 441. And finally 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.

There’s also a great deal of amazing art on display from master artists from each tribe. These artists include Emma King and Ramsay King, both Choctaw, who will demonstrate the ancient and intricate river cane basket making, as well as Ramona Lossie, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Shawna Cain, Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma. There will also be demonstrations of mask making, stone carving, wood carving, bow making, stamped pottery, and fingerweaving with beads.

Along with arts and crafts demonstrations, there will be art of another kind on display—living history demonstrators. Aspects of 18th century Creek and Cherokee life will be showcased by Melissa Harjo and her brother Roy D. Harjo from the Muscogee Creek Nation when they 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 the Cherokee language.