Children participate in crafts

In 2013, children participate in craft activities at the American Indian Heritage Celebration at the N.C. History Museum in Raleigh. (Contributed photo)

The N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh, hosts the 19th annual American Indian Heritage Celebration, an event named a “Top 20 Event” in 2014, by the Southeast Tourism Society. This free family-friendly festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22.

Prior to the celebration, there is a public screening of the film, “First Language, the race to save Cherokee,” from 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 21. Adult admission is $5 per person and children 12 and under are free. 

Following the film, there will be a discussion with filmmakers, Neal Hutcheson and Danica Cullinan, N.C. State University linguistics professor, Walt Wolfram and members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The film is a production of the N.C. Language and Life Project and documents the extraordinary measures being taken to reestablish Cherokee as a native language. Professor Wolfram’s book, Talkin’ Tar Heel, will be available for purchase. 

Tribe members from eight states will be present from all throughout North Carolina to participate in this annual celebration. Passionate about sharing their heritage, these musicians, dancers, craftspeople, storytellers and others provide many opportunities to learn about the state’s Indian culture, past and present.

When visitors first arrive, they will be greeted with a dugout canoe being burned into shape on the museum’s front porch. Later, they may choose from countless engaging presentations and hands-on activities throughout the museum or outside on Bicentennial Plaza.

During the opening ceremony, at 11 a.m., there will be a traditional welcome dance with music by Sacred Cedar productions, a Haliwa-Saponi group featuring N.C. Heritage Award recipient, Arnold Richardson. Intertribal drum groups and Miss Indian North Carolina, Karyl Frankiewicz, will provide music.

A celebration highlight, titled the Call to Grand Entry, will start at noon. Each tribe, dressed in brilliantly colored regalia, will process onto Bicentennial Plaza for the roll call of tribes and organizations. With beadwork glistening and ribbons flowing, the tribe members will create a sight to behold. Later in the program, these children and adults will demonstrate traditional dances.

Vendors will be on-site offering traditional American Indian foods and some with a modern twist, such as Indian tacos or Sappony salsa.

A sampling of the day’s activities include:

Meet craftspeople who make weapons, jewelry, pottery, beadwork, baskets, stone pipes, fishing and hunting tools, and more. Among them are well-known potter Senora Lynch (Haliwa-Saponi), wampum and jewelry maker Julian Hunter (Meherrin), and weapon maker John Blackfeather Jeffries (Occaneechi-Saponi). 

Join hands-on activities galore. Weave a ribbonwork bookmark, go on a scavenger hunt, or play a game of traditional chunkey or corncob darts. 

Watch the world-renowned Warriors of AniKituhwa of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians bring to life the Cherokee War dance and the Eagle Tail dance. 

Let Lumbee storytellers Gwen and Barbara Locklear enthrall you with captivating tales. Lloyd and Dawn Arneach will share stories from the Eastern Band of Cherokee. 

Learn about American Indian instruments, specifically flute and drum, during a presentation by Arnold Richardson. 

Hear a panel discussion moderated by Kay Oxendine, producer of Women’s Sacred Radio and former editor of 360 View newspaper. Participants will focus on American Indians and the media, and they will share their work experiences. 

Examine a longhouse model and a display of traditional housing to see how American Indians once lived. 

Hear about the Cherokee language and learn a few words with Freeman Owle. 

The event is supported by the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs, Raleigh Arts Commission, PNC, N.C. Museum of History Associates, Food Lion, and United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

The eight state-recognized tribes are Coharie, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Haliwa-Saponi, Lumbee, Meherrin, Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, Sappony and Waccamaw Siouan. 

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, what started at the turn of the century as an effort to gain a day of recognition for the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S., has resulted in a whole month being designated for that purpose.

One of the very proponents of an American Indian Day was Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca Indian, who was the director of the Museum of Arts and Science in Rochester, N.Y. He persuaded the Boy Scouts of America to set aside a day for the “First Americans” and for three years they adopted such a day. 

In 1915, the annual Congress of the American Indian Association meeting in Lawrence, Kans., formally approved a plan concerning American Indian Day. It directed its president, the Rev. Sherman Coolidge, an Arapahoe, to call upon the country to observe such a day. Rev. Coolidge issued a proclamation on Sept. 28, 1915, which declared the second Saturday of each May as an American Indian Day and contained the first formal appeal for recognition of Indians as citizens.

The year before this proclamation was issued, Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback across several states seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On Dec. 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed.

The first American Indian Day was declared on the second Saturday in May 1916, by the governor of New York. Several states celebrate the fourth Friday in September. In Illinois, for example, legislators enacted such a day in 1919. Presently, several states have designated Columbus Day as Native American Day, but it continues to be a day we observe without any recognition as a national legal holiday.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November 1990 “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Similar proclamations, under variants on the name (including “Native American Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) have been issued each year since 1994.

In 2013, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a proclamation naming November as American Indian Heritage Month in North Carolina.

The N.C. Museum of History is in downtown Raleigh, between the State Capitol and Legislative Buildings, at 5 East Edenton St., with the main entrance facing Bicentennial Plaza and the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. Parking is available for $2 per hour on Friday and free on the weekend in the lot behind the museum and may be accessed from Jones or Edenton streets. 

Tickets to the public screening of “First Language, the race to save Cherokee” are available online at www.ncmuseumofhistory.org. If interested in participating as a volunteer, you may contact Emily Grant at emily.grant@ncdcr.gov or 919-807-7799. Volunteering offers an additional way to experience the event. If you are a student, volunteering will help earn community service hours. Saturday shifts last for two hours starting at 9 a.m. Duties include helping visitors with simple hands-on crafts, assisting presenters with loading and set-up, handing out programs, clicking attendance and more.

For further information about the tribes, go to www.doa.state.nc.us/CIA.

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