Festival celebrates native people from around the world

art festivalnativepeopleVisitors to Cherokee can witness the powerful, authentic culture of Comanche, Totonac, Seminole, Cree, Polynesian and Cherokee July 13-14 as indigenous tribes gather for the eighth annual Festival of Native Peoples at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds in Cherokee.


The showcase of native dance, song and art honors the collective history, customs and wisdom of some of the oldest documented tribes from across the Americas, including the 11,000-year-old Cherokee civilization which hosts the weekend’s revelry.

“An array of entertainment as diverse as the tribes that provide it ensures visitors to Cherokee will be impressed,” said Robert Jumper, tourism manager for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “The tribes are so different, and when we come together to celebrate our collective native heritage, we gain a better understanding of our own history and customs. It’s vital that we continue to learn from our elders and pass down to the younger generations our living history and culture. Festival of Native Peoples helps us and visiting tribes do just that.”

Among the dancing, singing, prayers and art exhibited, past festival highlights have included the Totonac pole flyers of Mexico, who thrilled audiences as they fly from a 90-foot pole in a spectacle of swirling color in honor of the sun and the Totonac calendar. The voladores, or flyers, of Tulum dress in brilliantly colored traditional costumes, climb up a very high pole, tie their ropes around their waists. At the top, they leap off into the air, “flying” gracefully until they reach the ground. The voladores rite is a traditional act of worship. The caporal plays a drum and flute and invokes an ancient spiritual offering in the form of a spectacular dance.

Additional performers include Tezcatlipoca Aztec Dancers from Mexico City, The Pollen Trail Navajo Dancers, the Yurapik Dance Group of Alazka, the Laguna Youth Group from the Laguna Pueblo, the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers of Arizona, as well as the Crow and Cherokee’s Warriors of AniKituhwa and the Raven Rock Dancers.

The event will also include A Walk Back Through History of the Cree of Saskatchewan, Canada. It will help people to visually understand the meaning of the tipi and its adaptability with the changing of the seasons. Learn about the Hudson Bay Company and their effect on the First Nations People. Experience the value of trade through furs, beads and other items.

Paul Simmons and David Weathers of the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes will demonstrate the techniques of proper alligator handling. Alligator is a traditional food source for the tribes. So that the meat would be fresh, a hunter would capture the alligator alive, tie it to a tree or post at his dwelling and kill it when he was ready to eat. The hide of the alligators were good for trading for other items that the hunter might need or desire. They would trade for items like beads, gunpowder, and guns.

Gates open Friday and Saturday at 11 a.m. with performances throughout the day and into the evening. Daily admission is $10 per person; children six and under free. 800.438.1601 or www.visitcherokeenc.com.


Schedule of Events

Friday, July 13

11 a.m.: Gates Open

11:30 a.m.: Cherokee Warriors

11:45 a.m.: Comanche Scalp

Noon: Smoke Dance

12:15 p.m.: Aztec

12:30 p.m.: Polynesian Dance

12:45 p.m.: Raven Rock Dancers

1 p.m.: Voladores Pole Flyers

2 p.m.: Cherokee Warriors

3 p.m.: Smoke Dance

4 p.m.: Comanche Scalp

5 p.m.: Polynesian

6 p.m.: Aztec

7 p.m.: Voladores Pole Flyers

8 p.m.: Raven Rock Dancers

Saturday, July 14

11 a.m.: Gates Open

Noon: Cherokee Warriors

1 p.m.: Voladores Pole Flyers

2 p.m.: Raven Rock Dancers

3 p.m.: Smoke Dancers

4 p.m.: Aztec

5 p.m.: Comanche Scalp

6 p.m.: Polynesian

7 p.m.: Voladores Pole Flyers

8 p.m.: Gates Close

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