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Virginia festival to showcase 15 American Indian tribes

Powhatan Red Cloud-Owen occasionally runs into people
including other American Indians who are surprised to learn there are still
Indian tribes in Virginia.

The free American Indian Intertribal Cultural Festival this
weekend will be an opportunity to remind people that Indians have lived in what
is now Virginia since thousands of years before English colonists founded
Jamestown in 1607.

Indians from 15 tribes around the country will gather
Saturday and Sunday at the Hampton Coliseum to dance, demonstrate crafts,
connect with each other and share their history and culture with the public.

Virginia’s eight state-recognized tribes are hosting the
festival the first time in modern history they will come together for an event
like this, Red Cloud-Owen said while setting up at the coliseum. The festival
is one of 10 signature events that are part of the 18-month-long commemoration
of 400th anniversary of Jamestown, America’s first permanent English

“We want people to know that our history began before
1607 and didn’t end in the late 1700s with the dissemination or just the annihilation
of almost all our people,” said Red Cloud-Owen, a Chickahominy tribal
council member and liaison between the Virginia tribes and Jamestown 2007,
which is coordinating the commemoration.

“We want people to know we’re here,” he said.
“We’ve been here all along, we’re still here, and we’re staying here. …
We’re still a thriving people that bring much to everyday, mainstream

The eight tribes have about 6,000 members in Virginia, which
is home to a total of about 22,000 people of American Indian descent, Red
Cloud-Owen said.

About 300 members of Virginia’s Chickahominy, Eastern
Chickahominy, Mattaponi, Monacan Indian Nation, Nansemond, Pamunkey,
Rappahannock and Upper Mattaponi are expected to take part in the festival, he

Seven tribes are visiting from other states, each sending
about 20 members. They are the Jemez Pueblo of New Mexico, Lumbee of North
Carolina, the Three Affiliated Tribes Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara of North
Dakota, Nez Perce of Idaho, Osage of Oklahoma, Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa of
Michigan and Seminole of Florida.

Organizers hope up to 7,000 people will attend each day of
the festival, which will feature drum and dance demonstrations, with a grand
entry of dancers from all 15 tribes at noon
both days. Other highlights include flute making, storytelling, pottery making,
hand drum tying, exhibits on the history of Virginia tribes and children’s
activities including a treasure hunt.

In addition, 30 Indian craft vendors will be selling
pottery, jewelry and other wares. Visitors also will be able to buy Indian
food, such as fry bread, a fried bread made from flat dough.

Speakers from various tribes and from the National Museum of
the American Indian in Washington, D.C., will discuss issues facing American
Indians today.

“Everybody that comes in is going to get a huge history
lesson on Indians around the United States,” said Ken Adams, chief of the
Upper Mattaponi tribe and festival coordinator.

“Most Americans don’t realize how much the Indians
actually struggled up until the 1970s and 1980s,” Adams said. “We’re
finally getting to the point where we’re getting past that. We still have a
ways to go. I want people to get a glimpse of our culture, part of our history,
and come away learning something about what’s going on.”

Red Cloud-Owen and Adams said they also hope the festival
will help the cause of the six Virginia tribes attempting to get federal
recognition. The Mattaponi and Pamunkey are not seeking that status.

In May, House Democrats pushed through a measure supporting
federal recognition. The tribes now await Senate action.

Indian leaders say recognition would enable the tribes to
tap into federal aid. But critics say it would be used to justify building
Indian-run casinos in Virginia. The tribes have promised to forgo gaming

On the Net:

Jamestown 2007:

– Associated Press

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