Native American Festival excites Chehaw crowds

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- Chehaw thumped to the sound of tribal drums as dancers from Mexico and America brought their native dances and culture alive Saturday.

"This is a great family day to learn about the culture and the dances of Indians," said Virgil Anderson. "My daughter taps on a soda can at home and sings, 'Haya, hay, hay.'"

All smiles, Anderson's daughter, 2-year-old Tristan tapped on her father's chest in rhythm to show she knew the beat.

The occasion was the Chehaw Native American Festival Saturday. The festival started Friday at the park off Philema Road and continues at 9:30 a.m. today.

The native dancing probably drew the largest crowds of the probably 10,000 people that would attend during the weekend. Each tribe took center stage. The tribes all shared what the dances meant in their heritage.

Speaking about his Apache Grass Dance, T.J. Martinez of Oklahoma said the dance was used as harmony with the universe.

"It is what the plains Indians used to push the long buffalo grass down when they moved their village to another spot," said Martinez, an Apache who has a Hispanic name because of adoption. "They would dance and push the grass flat to put up the teepees. When they moved on the grass would pop up again. Harmony."

Other exhibitors at the festival gave talks to anyone who wanted to stop about their native culture. Rachel Enfinger and her son Michael, 14, stopped to talk to an exhibitor about the Cherokee and Creek tribal heritage.

"I just think it is so educational for my son," Enfinger said. "This is just such a great day."

There were also many vendors with souvenirs such as flutes, bows and arrows and artworks for sale at the festival.

Up from Florida for the festival, Creek-Cherokee artisan Dan Townsend displayed intricately carved seashell jewelry and other items based on art from the Mississippian period (1000 to 1600 A.D.) of Indian heritage.

"Not much is known about this type of art," Townsend said. "I am happy to explain it to people."

Enjoying a respite from the attractions, Alfred Thomas and his granddaughter India Garth, 8, sat at a table near the food concessions while she played a tune on a souvenir flute.

"I got it because it is what the Indians played," Garth said. "I like it."