ELIZABETHTON — Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area will host its 23rd Annual Native American Festival on Saturday and Sunday.
The festival celebrates all Native American cultures, but Park Manager Jennifer Bauer said the emphasis has been traditionally placed on the traditions and history of the Cherokees. That will be especially true this year, since 2013 marks 175 years since the forced removal of most Cherokees from their homes in the Southeast to Oklahoma, an event remembered as the Trail of Tears.
While there will be no special observance to commemorate the event, Bauer said the programs of the two days “will reflect our interest in remembering the Trail of Tears, and during the weekend we will continue to touch on that event.”
Bauer said the festival has always had a priority of education, not only telling the stories of the past but also the stories of tribes living today.
“During the weekend, you will see people dressed as Cherokees dressed in the 18th century, but you will also see people dressed in modern pow-wow regalia,” Bauer said.
Bauer said that emphasis is also shown in some of the arts and craft vendors participating in the festival.
“There are many opportunities to purchase one-of-a-kind arts and crafts,” Bauer said. These include everything from gourds decorated by Vickie Shell, to a traditional flute made by Daniel Bigay to unique corn dolls made by Terry Asbury.
As usual, one of the foremost scholars in Cherokee culture, Dr. Michael Abram, will present a series of lectures. He is the owner of the Cherokee Heritage Museum and Gallery in Cherokee, N.C., and will provide a glimpse into Cherokee history and legend. He will give two lectures on Saturday, “Cherokee Beliefs about the Panther,” and “Origin, Role, and Importance of the Pine Tree in Cherokee Culture” inside the circle of Fort Watauga.
At 6:30 on Saturday evening, in the theater of the Visitors Center, he will present a lecture on “Cherokee Children — Games, Raising and Behavior.”
Each year the festival features a Cherokee artist, and this year’s artist is Freeman Owle, of Cherokee, N.C., who will be demonstrating the carving of Cherokee stone pipes and other stone carvings as well as sharing traditional Cherokee stories. In addition to his storytelling presentations each day, Owle will be offering a Cherokee language workshop both days.
Admission is $4 per adult, $1 for children. All proceeds from admissions go to Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area to support this event. This event is made possible by the support of Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, the Travelers Inn of Elizabethton and Vicki Shell.