On September 2012, Aculturame blog launched with my first blog The Virginia Indian Festival. I want to take the time to celebrate Aculturame’s 6th Anniversary by sharing with you a few photographs and a short story of one of the festivals that inspired me to start this blog: The Virginia Indian Festival. These pictures are from the 2018 festival held on Saturday, September 8th.
As I mentioned before, I attend this festival every year since 2012. What I love about this cultural event is that it promotes cultural heritage and preservation as well community-based tourism.
In my previous blog posts The Virginia Indian Festival and Celebrating Native American Heritage Month and Aculturame’s 4th Anniversary I mentioned that this event is not an official Pow Wow (a social gathering held by many Native American communities or First Nations), but rather a small cultural festival aimed at educating the public about Native American history and culture from the perspective of the first inhabitants of the state of Virginia.
I also like that this festival serves as a great way of sparking interest in the local community towards learning more about Native American history, not only for children but adults as well. As a mother of an elementary school child, it is important for me that school-age children, whether they go to school or are home-schooled, learn about the local history of the place where they are growing up. The Virginia Indian Festival is a great way to introduce children to the history of the people who inhabited this land before the arrival of Europeans and other immigrants.
Additionally, this festival is also great for teachers and educators who are responsible for teaching history to our students, specifically in this case Virginia’s history, in an accurate manner.
I took my daughter to this year’s festival. She is now a third grader. I wanted her to learn how to be more engaged and learn firsthand from members of the tribes about the practices of Virginia’s native inhabitants. Although she was timid at first, after participating in a couple of activities at the festival, she ended up enjoying her time there. First, we watched the dance demonstrations with the Rappahannock dancers, a team of young adults who demonstrated various dances. The list of dances performed by the Rappahannock dancers included the Shawl dance, Courtship dance, Jingle Dress dance, Canoe dance, Grass dance and the Two-Step dance –for this last one performers invited the attendants to join them in the dance.
These dances teach children the concept of intergenerational dancing, the way Native American tribes and other indigenous groups dance, which include everyone in the community, the elderly, the young, even infants.
Next, I went and introduced myself to the team of Rappahannock dancers. During our conversations, I learned about their regalia (the distinctive clothing worn by Native American dancers and members of the tribe). I asked them questions about their tribe, their history, their culture and about how they learned to dance. While I chatted with the dancers I noticed that my daughter was very reluctant and timid. She is not comfortable approaching unknown people to ask questions. I told her it is important to educate yourself and asking questions and talking to people are good ways of doing just that.
There were other activities as part of this festival. We learned to throw a spear and practiced shooting arrows with bows; a practice that tribes from the East Coast engaged in a lot. We also learned what a dugout canoe was and we had to opportunity to help the crew who was making one out of a tree. This process of canoe making was a common practice among Eastern tribes, as well as other indigenous groups throughout the Americas.
My daughter and I had so much fun at this cultural event. But the best part for me was the dancing that took place at the end of the demonstration. Somehow, dancing with the Rappahannock dancers and with other people, made me feel connected to something that our ancestors used to do many centuries ago. It’s like I was taken back to that moment in time, when the community came together and everyone joined hands, children and older people, our people, to celebrate life.
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