Festival at Fort Necessity to display Cherokee culture
The Warriors of AniKituwha, a Cherokee dance group, are scheduled to perform next week at the Cherokee Culture Heritage Festival at Fort Necessity in Fayette County.
Warriors of the AniKituwha, a Cherokee dance group, in performance.
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Cherokee culture was centered around the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, but members of the tribe traveled to Western Pennsylvania to act as scouts for the British.
On Saturday and Sunday, a Cherokee Culture Heritage Festival will be celebrated at Fort Necessity Battlefield in Fayette County.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, artisans will demonstrate how to make river cane baskets and moccasins plus fingerweaving, woodcarving, quill work and the use of blowguns and darts.
Dances also will be demonstrated.
The event is part of the 250th anniversary celebration of the negotiations between the British and the Cherokee that took place in 1762, said Ken Blankenship, executive director of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, based in Cherokee, N.C.
The Cherokee asked the British to send an emissary to their towns in eastern Tennessee to explain the terms of the peace and as a gesture of good faith.
"In the 18th century, the Cherokee had a notion of corporate responsibility," said Travis Henline, who will impersonate the character of British Lt. Henry Timberlake at the festival.
"What this means is that if any British subject took the life of a Cherokee, the British would be expected to redress this wrong by taking the life of one of their own," said Mr. Henline, coordinator of the American Initiative at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Lt. Timberlake volunteered to serve as the British emissary and spent three months with the Cherokees under the protection of war chief Ostenaco.
It was tacitly understood that Timberlake's life would be forfeited in return for any Cherokee killed by a British subject.
John Standingdeer will portray Ostenaco in two daily presentations at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. of customs, diplomacy and culture.
Another highlight will be the staging of the Cherokee War and Eagle Tail dances by the Warriors of the AniKituwha, a Cherokee dance group.
"Dance did not disappear from Cherokee culture, which goes back centuries and continues even into the 21st century," said Barbara Duncan, education director at the Cherokee museum.
"The War Dance, also known as the Welcome Dance, hadn't been performed since the 1920s. However, using Timberlake's descriptions of the dance in his memoirs, wax cylinder recordings of the song from the Library of Congress, plus our traditional knowledge of dance, we've managed to re-create [it]."
Although it might sound contradictory for a dance to be called both a war and a welcome dance, Mrs. Duncan said it helps to think of it in terms of a color guard at a parade or sports event and to see it as a show of strength for the Cherokee people.
"Our presentations have been well received everywhere we go," Mr. Blankenship said.
The troupe has traveled to Washington, D.C., Williamsburg, Va., Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and to Oklahoma.
In addition to an exhibit on the Cherokee of the 18th century at Fort Necessity that will be on display through March, park staff will present programs about soldiers' life and the Battle at Fort Necessity at 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. both days. Demonstrations of historic weapons will follow.
Park superintendent Jeff Reinbold suggests visitors arrive at least 30 minutes early for a program, wear walking shoes and bring folding chairs or blankets.
Admission is $5 for adults, free for those younger than 15. Free parking is available at the former Woodland Zoo property, just west of the fort in Wharton. A shuttle bus will be provided.
First Published July 6, 2012 12:00 am