Native American Powwow and Festival comes to Blount
By Linda Braden Albert | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For the first time ever, the Maryville-based Nations of Unity Native American Powwow and Festival Committee will present a two-day Native American festival in Blount County. The event takes place Saturday and June 17 at Heritage High School. In case of rain, all activities will be moved indoors at the high school.
Nations of Unity is a nonprofit group under the umbrella of Hall, Oldfield , Maryville Empowerment Inc., or H.O.M.E. Inc. Loretta Thomas Howard, Nations of Unity coordinator, said, “We have volunteered and done various Native American programs in Blount County,” including bringing Samuel Holiday, a World War II Navaho code talker, to present a program at the Blount County Public Library.
The powwow and festival will be a family-friendly event for all ages. Howard said, “It will consist of Native American drumming, singing, flute music, storytelling, native arts and crafts and other crafts. Also there will be blowgun demonstrations by Jamie Russell. Jamie Russell is Cherokee. He will be telling stories and he also will be playing the guitar. We will also have Emerson Begay, a flute player and storyteller.”
Vendors will display and sell their crafts, pottery, jewelry and native foods. Children’s activities will be offered, as well.
On Sunday only, at 3:30 p.m., a special program will be presented by David Haggard, naturalist with the Tennessee State Parks, on “Live Birds of Prey.” Howard said, “He will have live birds — eagles, hawks and owls — he will speak about their environment and how they relate to Native American culture.”
Intertribal and exhibition dancing will play a large role in the festival.
“The head lady dancer is Jeanne Richardson and head man is Dennis Clause,” Howard said. “He’s from the Tuscarora, Mohawk and Algonquin (tribes), and he’s from the Tuscarora Reservation in New York. Jeanne Richardson is a Cherokee descendant, and she is from East Tennessee, at Dandridge.”
A number of Native American tribes will participate, including Cherokee, Lakota, Apache, Navaho, Blackfoot and Aztec.
Howard said, “We are going to have the Aztec dance group called the Tlaltlacayoloti Dance Group. There will be intertribal dancing, when all the dancers dance. It gives the public an opportunity to come into the arena and dance with us, too.”
Howard will dance at the beginning of the festival. “I dance traditional buckskin,” she said. Alana Riogerze, 6, will also be one of the dancers.
Memez’s Boyz’s will be the host drum, and Red Tail Mountain Singers will be guest drum.
The gates open at 10 a.m. for visitors to enjoy arts, crafts and activities, and then at 1 p.m., the Grand Entry will take place. Howard said, “This is an opening procession led by the head veteran and a color guard. This is where we honor all veterans of all military services, all EMTs, all police officers and firefighters. They are honored for their services to the United States. They risk their lives every day, and some have lost their lives. So we hold that as top priority to make sure we honor them all.”
The head veteran is Ronnie Johnson, of Rockwood, a Vietnam veteran.
“The head veteran, along with the honor guard, carry the eagle staff, the flags of the United States, Tennessee, armed forces and (Native American) nations. The flags are placed in the arena in a proper, dignified way,” Howard said. “We are going to honor the late Gen. Fred Forster. His wife, Carolyn Forster, will be our honored guest.”
Howard said Forster had been supportive of the programs of Nations of Unity. “We wanted to do something to honor him in such a way that we could show our appreciation for what he had done for Nations of Unity as well as for the whole community.”
Veterans, EMTs, police and firefighters will be admitted to the powwow and festival free of charge with identification.
Howard invited the community to attend the event, which will have something of interest for every age. She said, “What we want is for everyone to bring their lawn chairs or blankets and come and experience this two-day Native American festival.”