Some 10,000 schoolchildren from the metro Atlanta area got to experience Native American culture as Stone Mountain Park kicked off its four-day 14th Annual Indian Festival and Pow-Wow on Thursday.
“Thursdays and Fridays are field trips for the local Atlanta schoolchildren,” said Jeanine Jones, public relations manager at the park.
“A lot of students come up and ask very intellectual questions and their understanding has gotten better, and I think that is because they are able to do their own research and learning, but stereotypes are still pretty bad,” said Jamie Oxendine, a Lumbee, who was the emcee for the event.
“Yesterday, we had students still not understanding that we are normal regular people and that we live in regular houses and have jobs and use regular technology,” Oxendine said.
Jones said education plays a big role at the festival and pow wow. On the learning circuit are story telling, cooking traditions, crafts and primitive skill demonstrations such as flint-knapping, bowmaking, fire starting, open-fire cooking and pottery.
Among the activities popular with the kids are the Birds of Prey free-flight demonstrations and the Southeast Reptile Rescue Snake Encounter presented by Jason Clark. Children are also encouraged to crawl inside tipis and other traditional native dwellings to learn about Native history. In one of the tipis is a flute demonstration by the award-winning JJ Kent.
More excitement and color are in store this weekend, with two grand entries scheduled, plus, singing, dancing and drum competitions.
Performers include Ernest Grant as arena director and MGD (Mighty Good Drums) as host drum. On the main stage are live music and performances from Celtic violinist Arvel Bird, Aztec dancers Chicahua Yolotli.
The dance competitions are something to look forward to. Men will compete in straight, grass, fancy and traditional dances, while women will compete in the traditional buckskin, cloth, jingle and fancy shawl. Girls, boys and even tiny tots will have their own dance competitions. No information on cash prize money was made available.
For the young and old, the event offers as much entertainment as education. Oxendine said the pow wow is small compared to others, with about 125 dancers, and 5 to 6 drums.
“Some people like the very large pow wows and others like small, more traditional. This is kind of a combination of both because there is competition, but it’s small enough to feel traditional,” said Oxendine.
Jones said that roughly 25,000 people will visit the park during this years pow wow.
“Saturday and Sunday attendance has grown and we are pleased with the [Native] authenticity,” she said, explaining that with more than 50 tribes represented at the event, it is considered the largest gathering of its kind in Georgia.