This weekend Red Clay State Historic Park will host an event of historic significance as representatives from all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes come together for the park’s first Cherokee Heritage Festival.
This will be the first time representatives from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians will participate in a Red Clay event.
Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee and the Cherokee Nation will also participate in the event.
The festival will be held 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Among the special guests presenting will be The Honorable Terri Henry.
“This is the first time that the Eastern Band has ever elected a woman as chairman of the tribal council,” said Rick Bird, liaison between the Red Clay State Park and the Eastern Band.
Bird is also a former Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian tribal council member.
Henry will give the opening address at the festival.
“She’s doing a good job. I think you’ll be very impressed with her,” Bird said. “She actually has a law degree but she chose to use it as a service to the people.”
On Sunday, Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be a special guest.
The event is unique in that it will feature some of the traditional Cherokee dances that are not often seen by the public and more modern dances.
“Last year we had all traditional Cherokee and it was really nice,” bird said. “This year we wanted to bring back a little bit of the flare of contemporary powwow style dancing, just as an educational tool.”
Bird said it would give people a chance to see the differences and the way the two have influenced each other.
“They are sending a delegation of a basket maker, pottery maker, flute and storytelling,” Bird said.
Friends of Red Clay president Tammera Hicks said members of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians will be “demonstrating making the ancient game of marbles.”
Hicks said she hopes an actual marble game will displayed as well.
Cherokee Nation members will also present a Cherokee stickball game, an expansion of the game of fish to include women, during the festival.
The festival will feature a wide range of ages among the presenters. Bird said his grandchildren will be participating in dances. Styles presented will be fancy, hoop, women’s traditional, fancy shawl and jingle.
A lecture on Cherokee dance will be presented by Dr. Michael Abram.
Bird said he hopes the tribes will hold the first ever tri-council at Red Clay next year. Details have not been worked out.
An exhibit inside the Red Clay visitor center will chronicle how the Eastern band survived after refusing to be removed.
“It is going to focus on ‘Persistence, resistance and persistence: the formation of the Eastern Band,’” park manager Erin Medley said.
Abram has contributed to the exhibit as well.
No cultural experience would be complete without food, and the Cherokee Heritage Festival is no exception.
Bird said traditional Cherokee dinners will be available for sale.
“Its really good but it’s a meal you only want to eat about once a month [because of the cholesterol],” Bird said. “Our diet was real high cholesterol, I guess you would say because a lot of times the soldiers would take the meats, so all we had left was the flour.”
Bean bread, greens, fried cabbage, ramps and chicken are staples of traditional Cherokee meals
Fried bread, barbecue, sandwiches and other non-Cherokee food will also be available for sale for those not feeling adventurous.
A $5 parking fee per vehicle will be charged at the event.
For more information, visit http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/red-clay.