06 March 2005

Shake Your Feathers!

Native American Culture on Vibrant Display

For the Tennessean

MURFREESBORO — There was a whole lot of shaking going on. People were spinning, twirling and dancing around a large circle of hay to the rhythm of the drums.

Many were dressed in Native American clothing, headbands with feathers and long braids. Some just shook their feathers while other shook the bells attached to their clothing.

They were part of the 2005 American Indian Festival ''Shake Your Feathers'' held here yesterday at Middle Tennessee State University's Livestock Center. This is the sixth year that the festival or ''powwow'' has been held.

People come from all over, said Kevin Smith, a faculty sponsor.

He said there were visitors from across the United States and Canada, and even Mexico.

''I guess that makes us international,'' Smith said.

During the two-day event, which ends today, Native Americans dance and showcase their artwork, jewelry, music and native food.

''For the participants, it's similar to a family reunion,'' Smith said. ''It's a big part for the performers. It promotes the fact that Native Americans are still alive. A lot of people think they disappeared in the Old West.''

This year the festival includes more than 300 dancers compared with last year's 200.

Mike Serna of Chattanooga agreed with Smith about enjoying meeting other Native Americans and doing ''Indian'' things such as showing craftwork and dancing.

Serna, who is part Apache, has participated in the festival for four years. He's one of this year's featured artists, and he also makes and plays wooden flutes. Serna was selling wooden flutes as well.

In addition to the festivities, there is an effort to create a scholarship fund for a student of Native American descent to study at MTSU.

''The money at the gate supports the funding of the powwow, and the extra goes to the scholarship fund,'' said Karen Lancaster, a third-year vendor and guest artist.

Lancaster made drums, flutes and clothing for the festival.

For those looking to make purchases, visitors had a wide range of products from which to choose. The ''Vendor Village'' showcased Native American pottery, jewelry, literature, music, instruments and clothing.

Ricardo Smith was one of those selling jewelry yesterday. A member of the Creek nation, Smith taught himself how to make jewelry. He uses glass, sea beads, bugle beads, drop beads and anything he can bead around to make jewelry.

Smith had beaded jewelry around coins, arrowheads and a ring. He pointed out a pair of earrings that took him 20 hours to complete.

How long it takes to make the jewelry depends on the piece, Smith said.

Meanwhile, for those festivalgoers with growling stomachs, they could choose from bison burgers, an Indian taco, barbecue and hominy.

Live music was featured in the ''Tipi Village,'' which is where two teepees stood. There was also a display of bow making for those interested in Indian archery.

The two-day celebration continues today from noon until 6 p.m. The grand entry, which is the parade of the dancers, begins at 1 p.m.

''We have the honor guard who carries the flags,'' Smith said. ''A lot of Native Americans are veterans. They dance in a circle, and it's sanctified at that point by the dancers.''

Admission to the event is $6 for adults, $3 for youths and children under 5 are free.

''I love being here,'' Lancaster said. ''I would love to see more support from the community.''

To learn how you can be a part of the feather shaking, visit www.mtsu.edu/powwow.


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