Native American Festival to honor tribes, tradition


Native American artifacts, history and culture highlight a festival this weekend in Spartanburg. Visitors will see an opening procession featuring tribes from across the state and tool demonstrations and sample food, storytelling, music and more. 

The Regional History Museum is hosting the celebration Friday and Saturday to accompany the exhibit “First Peoples of the Backcountry,” on display through Nov. 12. A reception is from 6 to 8 p.m. today. 

“This festival is to celebrate the history of Native Americans,” said Nannie Jefferies, museum director. “When I started working on the exhibit, I knew I wanted to hold the festival. I have always wanted to have something on the plaza to draw attention and encourage people to come to the Chapman Cultural Center and see what we do here.” 

Activities and booths will line the plaza, allowing people to see items and watch performances by different Native American tribes as they walk. The organizers say they want to entertain crowds but also hope people will develop an appreciation and respect for different cultures. 

This is the first time the museum has held a Native American festival. Jefferies planned the event with the help of Lamar Nelson, a Native American descendant and archaeology enthusiast, and Chief Gene Norris of the Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of South Carolina. 

Nelson will talk to people while working with a group of reproduction artists, making tools and demonstrating their uses. He has been interested in Native American artifacts and history since he was a child. 

“We will take a piece of stone and make it into an arrowhead or spear point,” Nelson said. “The first Native Americans who lived in this area were hunters and gatherers. They roamed this area looking for something to eat.” 

Over the years, Nelson has worked with archaeologists at excavation sites and projects, finding tools thousands of years old. Some of his artifacts and personal items are on display in the museum’s Native American exhibit, and visitors will be able to view them for free during the festival. 

“I do programs and teach Native American history and archaeology,” he said. “Students are always interested when we show some of the tools. One of the tools I like to show is the atlatl,” or spear thrower. “It was used thousands of years before the bow and arrow.” 

Norris will focus on Native American history and culture and has invited a jingle dress dancer to perform. Dances have been part of the culture for hundreds of years. 

“The jingle dance has a beautiful sound and is really something when you have 50 people out on the dance floor at one time performing it,” he said. 

The festival will end with a powwow or a gathering where Native Americans meet to dance, sing and honor their ancestors and culture. 

“A powwow is a gathering of family like a reunion,” Norris said. “It is seeing old friends. We go out there to dance, not to entertain you, but for ourselves and for our ancestors.” 

Author: Linda Conley | Source: Go Upstate [September 01, 2011]