Native American Festival returns to Sycamore Shoals this weekend

Published 7:50 am Thursday, May 30, 2019

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park will this weekend host the annual Native American Festival.

The event will be held Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 10 a.m. each day and continuing until 6 p.m.

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 with the speakers presenting 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.

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Saturday evening, at 7 p.m., the 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 share unique ancestral tales passed down from generation to generation. Those attending may want to bring a chair or blanket.

In the event of severely inclement weather, the campfire will not take place. Sunday morning will feature a special opportunity to visit and shop with the unique artisans and exceptional craftsmen before the day’s activities begin at 11:30.

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.

A unique feature of the Native American Culture festival is the park’s own educational/demonstration area, located within the Visitor Center. In addition, flute music, storytelling, lectures, and so much more take place within the Gathering Room, and park personnel will share native culture and history with guests.

The interior of the Visitor Center and the Museum will also host a variety of excellent demonstrations, which include 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 early 19th century Cherokee culture with historical re-enactors, Mark and Sherry Finchum and historic interpreter Jackie Fischer.

Just outside the Visitor Center, exceptional Native American arts and crafts will be featured, in addition to ethnic Cherokee food, a Lakota Tipi exhibit, and flint knapping.

The dance circle will host several performances of Native American music, drum, and dance, and will include the Fancy Dance and Hoop Dance, the Jingle Dance, the Men’s Traditional, Grass and Straight Dances, and many more.

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, Texas as well as choreographing the Broadway show hoop dance for ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.

Dean Swimmer has competitively placed in many powwows across the Southeastern United States for many years and has been the featured lead man dancer in a multitude of Native American Festivals. 

Nikki Crisp has danced across the world as well, and has been performing for over 20 years. Her talents also include traditional beadwork and authentic frybread cooking.

Crisp will also be providing food vending for this event, including her famous Indian tacos.

The 2019 featured storyteller is Freeman Owle, a noted lecturer, historian, and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, who has traveled all over the eastern United States lecturing to various groups, which include 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.

Featured festival speaker is Jackie Fischer, who serves as the Park Manager for David Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone. Fisher served as a historic interpreter at Wilderness Road State Park in Ewing, Va., where 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. Daniel is a flute maker, artist, performer/recording artist, and demonstrator, who lives with his wife, Kay, in the mountains of Tennessee. Admission to the festival is $6 for adults, $1 for children, ages 7 to 17, free for children, ages 6 and under.

All proceeds from admissions go to Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, to support the annual festival.