Sycamore Shoals Park to host Native American Festival on June 1-2

John Thompson • May 21, 2019 at 9:25 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The 29th Annual Native American Festival will take place at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park on Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. This event always showcases Cherokee dance and music, storytelling and lore. It also presents other Native American culture.

Activities will be centered around the park’s visitor center. Food vending and craft booths will be located in front of the visitor center and in the picnic area. Speakers will be inside the visitor center’s Gathering Room. The dance circle will be located in the picnic area beside the visitor center, with scheduled demonstrations taking place twice each day.

On Saturday evening at 7, a traditional campfire will be held in the shaded area between the walking trail and Fort Watauga, just below the picnic area. Several guest storytellers will tell traditional tales. Listeners are encouraged to bring a chair or blanket. There will be a chance on Sunday morning to visit and shop with the artists and craftsmen before the day’s activities begin at 11:30 a.m..

The festival will feature traditional and contemporary arts and crafts, traditional Native American song and dance, Cherokee storytelling and legends, Native American flute, Cherokee language workshops, and craft demonstrations and sales.

The educational/demonstration area will be located within the visitor center. Flute music, storytelling, lectures and more take place within the Gathering Room.

The interior of the visitor center and the museum will also host a variety of demonstrations, including beadwork, feather art, pine needle basketry, stone carving, Cherokee language, corn shuck dolls, native river cane flutes, and interpretive exhibits from both 18th century and the early 19th century Cherokee culture with historical re-enactors Mark and Sherry Finchum and historic interpreter Jackie Fischer.

Just outside the visitor center, Native American arts and crafts will be featured, in addition to Cherokee food, a Lakota Tipi exhibit, and flint knapping demonstrations.

The dance circle will host several performances of Native American music, drum, and dance. The dancing demonstrations will include the fancy dance and hoop dance, the jingle dance, the men’s traditional, grass and straight dances, and many more. All are invited to dance, so bring your regalia. Newly added will be a demonstration of 18th century Cherokee social dancing. The host of this portion of the event, Dale Cloer, makes his home in Cherokee, N.C.

Featured Cherokee dancers include internationally known hoop dancer Eddie Swimmer, head man dancer Dean Swimmer, and champion powwow dancer Nikki Crisp. Eddie Swimmer has captivated audiences across the globe using between 36 and 42 hoops. His accomplishments include a former World Champion Hoop Dancer title, performances in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City and in the World Cup Soccer Tournament in Dallas, as well as choreographing the Broadway hoop dance for “Annie, Get Your Gun.”

Dean Swimmer has competitively placed in many powwows across the Southeast for many years and has been the featured lead man dancer in a multitude of Native American festivals. Crisp has danced across the world as well, and has been performing for over 20 years. Her talents also include traditional beadwork and authentic fry bread cooking. Crisp will be providing food vending for this event, including her famous Indian tacos.

Featured storyteller is Freeman Owle. He is a noted lecturer, historian, and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, and has traveled all over the eastern United States lecturing to various groups, including churches, military units and schools. Owle has told stories and presented programs on Cherokee history and culture throughout the Southeast for more than 10 years.

Well known in the Cherokee community, Owle serves on the board of directors of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and is a coordinator for the Cherokee Heritage Trails project of the Blue Ridge Heritage Initiative. He is one of the featured storytellers in the book “Living Stories of the Cherokee‘, and he also appears in the video documentary “Cherokee: The Principal People,” which aired on public television in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Kentucky.

Featured speaker is Jackie Fischer, who serves as park manager for David Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone. Fischer served as a historic interpreter at Wilderness Road State Park in Ewing, Va. There she provided a variety of 18th century living history programs with an emphasis on Cherokee culture, including first person portrayals of the Beloved Woman, Nancy Ward. Fischer will be presenting programs during the weekend about the role of women and their work within Cherokee culture during the 18th century.

Daniel Bigay of Greeneville will entertain with traditional flute music in addition to having his handmade, traditional Cherokee style flutes for sale. Bigay is a flute maker, artist, performer/recording artist, and demonstrator, who lives with his wife, Kay, in Tennessee. He has released two CDs, the most recent being nominated for best flute recording at the 2005 Indian Summer Music Awards. Daniel and Kay are passionate about education and sharing of the Cherokee culture in the school system, at powwow’s, and various shows and festivals.

Admission is $6 per adult, $1 for students ages 7 to 17, free for ages 6 and under. 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 DoubleTree by Hilton, and the Comfort Inn of Johnson City.

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