Are you an American history buff?
If you want to journey back in time, follow the beat of the drums this weekend as Native Americans trace the rhythms of their ancestry at Long Hunter State Park, where more than 50 tribes from throughout America and Canada will gather.
Held on ceremonial sacred grounds of Long Hunter Park, located at 2010 Hobson Pike between Interstates 24 and 40, this marks the 32nd annual Native American Indian Associations’ Fall Pow Wow.
At last year’s Pow Wow, one Native American musician described the presence of Geronimo as “America’s last free Indian.”
“Geronimo is as free as the wind,” musician Arvel Bird said as the wind rustled nearby gold-tinted tree leaves on park land that formerly served as hunting grounds for Tennessee’s Cherokee Nation.
“I sing about the man the day before he decided to surrender his freedom,” Bird said. “His spirit lives here among us.”
Internationally acclaimed, entertainer Bird is of mixed Native American ancestry of the Paiute/Me’tis tribes.
“We sing to the warriors, and their mothers’ cries,” the song stylist warbled into the stiff wind that whistled over their former hunting grounds on the first day of 2011 Pow Wow “… cries that echo with sadness, saddened by the loss of our 500 Native American tribes.”
Middle Tennessee is recognized as “regional sacred heart” acreage.
“Long Hunter Park sits on the exact route of the infamous ‘Trail of Tears’ where thousands of Indians perished following an order signed by President Andrew Jackson,” described NAIA President Sally Wells, a Choctaw princess who resides in Smyrna. “We feel the Great Spirit led us to hold our annual Pow Wow on this sacred site here at Long Hunter State Park… in the sacred heart land of Middle Tennessee.”
“The NAIA Pow Wow (which has offices at the Smyrna Airport) has been named one of America’s top 16 Native American cultural events,” Wells confirmed.
What is a pow wow?
“Pow wows were formerly a family coming together event for tribes,” explained Ray Emmanuel, NAIA executive director, whose ancestry traces back to the Lumbee, a coastal tribe of North Carolina. “Today, our pow wow is the centerpiece of fund-raising for NAIA that promotes health care, job training and housing for Native Americans throughout Tennessee. “Since we have no reservations in Tennessee, we founded NAIA in 1980 to help secure federal funding for things such as education. We have a creed of ‘Indians Working For Indians.’”
Pow wow events include spiritual songs, dancing and Native American arts, crafts and food throughout the three-day event.
Rutherford County teacher Theresa Barnett annually takes her pupils to the Pow Wow.
“School children are admitted free on Friday, the first day of the pow wow,” Barnett said. “It’s a great opportunity for children to observe living history of America.”