Indian Reunion Oct. 4-5 Will Unite Cultures and Preserve History
COLUMBUS, Ga. --- A unique reunion Oct. 4-5 won't be uniting family members with lost second cousins, but rather will be uniting the cultures of the modern southeast with the cultures of the Southeastern Indians who once inhabited this area and now live in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and North Carolina. For many participants, it will their first time back to the area first inhabited by their ancestors.
The Southeastern Indian Reunion, which is open to the public, will be held at the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Memorial in Fort Mitchell, Alabama, and feature academic panel discussions, a sacred flame dedication ceremony, stomp dancing and crafts demonstrations.
'The idea of the reunion is that the area we now occupy was once important to the southeastern Indians, and now we're inviting them back,' says John Lupold, a professor in the Columbus State University History Department, a sponsor of the reunion.
To complete the idea of a cultural exchange, the celebration will also incorporate such southern cultural elements as bluegrass music and a choir from a Fort Mitchell church.
'Where the festival CSU has previously hosted has been a kind of opportunity for local people to see different aspects of Indian culture, this reunion will be a cultural sharing so that people from the local community will build a connection with the Indian community,' said Becky Matthews, another CSU history professor.
The Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Memorial has been built where ancestors of the reunion guests once lived.
'Many of these people are returning to the homeland of their ancestors for the first time,' Matthews said. 'Last year's guests spoke about what the memorial means to them, and it was quite moving.' This year, a flame in the center of the square grounds has been installed representing the sacred flame of the southeastern people. Saturday's events will commence with a dedication of the flame to the southeastern Indians who will be represented.
Lupold describes the 50 Indians who will be the guests of the reunion as traditional Indians. 'These are folks who are still Indian in literally every aspect of their lives; in their kitchens, they're Indians. In their communities, they are viewed as Indians, and at least part of their spiritual lives means participating in Indian religion,' he says.
Matthews believes the value of the reunion lies in this unique emphasis. 'We have decided to turn toward culture and education, not performances,' she said.
Attendants can expect to see Creek Indians in blue jeans and cowboy hats participating with Seminole Indians in patchwork clothing in an authentic stomp dance, but wont find any teepees or rubber tomahawks.
'They are average hard working people who do not earn their livings by performing at festivals,' Lupold said. While many celebrations present an Indian stereotype, the Sharing the Spirit Indian Reunion aims to celebrate authentic Indian life. Matthews said the goal of those behind the reunion is to combat stereotypicalthinking and to recognize the vitality of Indian cultures today, as well as to share and to build community.
This community event will begin Friday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. with academic discussions of cultural, historical and religious interpretations and a barbecue supper. The cost for the dinner is $10, and while donations are accepted, all other events will be free to the public. Saturday events, entitled 'Sharing the Spirit,' will begin with the dedication of the Sacred Flame Element of the Indian Memorial at 2 p.m. and continue through 8:30 p.m., concluding with a Stomp Dancing demonstration. The Fort Mitchell Volunteer Fire Department will be on site selling hot dogs and hamburgers, and a local youth group will be selling soft drinks. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
For more information, directions or to make reservations for the barbecue dinner, call Becky Matthews at (706) 565-3630 or visit http://history.colstate.edu.
Schedule of Events
6 p.m. Friday, October 4:
Keynote Event at the Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center, Fort Mitchell, Al. Barbecue dinner ($10) and opening remarks by Kathryn Braund, associate professor of history, Auburn University. Speakers: Billy Cypress, executive director, A-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and Richard Grounds, project director of the Euchee Language Preservation Project
Panel Discussions at the Chattahoochee Valley Community College, Phenix City
8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Saturday, October 5 (Free Admission, Donations Accepted):
'Historical Interpretations' - Joyce Bear, Cultural Preservation Office, the Muscogee Creek Nation; Kathryn Braund, associate professor of History, Auburn University; Sheri Shuck, assistant professor of History, University of Alabama, Huntsville.
'Artistic Interpretations' - Dayna Lee, Louisiana Regional Folklife Program; Sarah Hill, author Weaving New Worlds, Southeastern Cherokee Women and Their Basketry; Gary White Deer, Choctaw Artist and Historic Preservation Consultant.
'Interpreting Southern Indian Spirituality' - Richard Grounds, project director, Euchee Language Preservation Project; Joyce Bear, Cultural Preservation Office, the Muscogee Creek Nation; Gary White Deer, Choctaw artist and Historic Preservation Consultant.
Indian Heritage Day: Sharing the Spirit, Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center
Saturday, Oct. 6
2 p.m.: Dedication of the Sacred Flame Element of Indian Memorial
3 p.m.- 6 p.m.: Creek, Yuchi and Choctaw Dancers Pole Ball and other games Crafts Demonstrations (crafts will be available for purchase); Storytellers.
6 p.m.-7 p.m.: Supper Break (Hot dogs, hamburgers, chips and drinks will be sold); Bluegrass Music; Cake Walk.
7 p.m.- 8:30 p.m.: Traditional Indian Stomp Dancing.
Writer: Colleen Hesler
Contact: Becky Matthews, (706) 565-3630