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Festival showcases Native American culture

Staff Report • May 28, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Area residents can enjoy an entertaining and educational weekend of dance, legends, music and demonstrations at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area’s 23d annual Native American Festival.

The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, June 1 and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, June 2 at Fort Watauga in Elizabethton.

The festival will focus on Cherokee heritage, with storytelling and Cherokee language workshops as well as demonstrations of Native American song and dance, flute and traditional and contemporary crafts.

Freeman Owle of Cherokee, N.C., is this year’s featured artist. He will carve Cherokee stone pipes and other stone items and tell traditional Cherokee tales.

For more than a decade, Owle has traveled across the eastern United States teaching about Cherokee culture and history. A member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, he serves on the board of directors of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and is coordinator for the Cherokee Heritage Trails project of the Blue Ridge Heritage Initiative.

Dr. Michael Abram, owner of the Cherokee Heritage Museum and Gallery in Cherokee, N.C., is the festival’s featured speaker. Inside the circle of Fort Watauga, Abram will give two presentations, “Origin, Role and Importance of the Pine Tree in Cherokee Culture” and “Cherokee Beliefs about the Panther.” He will present his lecture “Cherokee Children — Games, Raising and Behavior” at 6:30 p.m., Saturday in the Visitors Center Theater.

Among the various music, drum and dances to be performed are the Fancy Dance, Jingle Dance, Men’s Traditional Dance, Grass Dance, Straight Dance and Hoop Dance. Attendees are welcome to join in the dancing and are invited to bring their regalia.

Lowery Begay is this year’s featured hoop dancer.

Traditional flute music will be provided by Greeneville’s Daniel Bigay, who will also be selling his handmade Cherokee-style flutes.

Among the demonstrations within the fort will be pine needle basketry, beadwork, wood carving, flint-knapping, corn shuck dolls, atlatl (primitive spear throwing), finger weaving, arrow making, pottery, gourd art and 18th-century life skills.

A Lakota Tipi exhibit, ethnic Cherokee food and more Native American arts and crafts will be located outside the fort.Events will be relocated to the Visitors Center if it rains.

Admission is $4 for adults and $1 for children 12 and younger. Proceeds from admissions will benefit Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic area.

For more information, call Sycamore Shoals at (423) 543-5808.

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