This year marked the 22nd Annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration hosted at the Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon.
Every year the park puts together the festival to educate people on Native American traditions and cultures.
Many nations ranging from the Muscogee Creek to the Cherokee were represented at the celebration.
They shared a glimpse of their culture and history through dance, music, storytelling, crafts, cuisine and more.
The colorful costumes and entertainment provided a way for kids and adults alike to take the history out of the textbook, giving attendees a hands-on experience.
Diamond, a Cherokee counsel man, explained, “That’s why we do these things, to educate people.”
Before becoming a counsel man, Diamond traveled to schools to teach the history and traditions of his people.
He said that in his experience he often had to address false stereotypes and “undo what had been taught in the schools”.
One of the most common misunderstandings is their name. “We are called Indians or Native Americans but that is not what we are. We are called tribes and yet we have our own languages, cultures, and governments.”
He continued to explain that it is more respectful to address them as native or indigenous people from different nations.
The Ocmulgee Celebration serves as another way to share these truths and more with whoever is willing to learn.
Clay Mote, a freshman music major at Mercer University, attended the festival. Mote said, “The festival was very enlightening to the severity of the native stereotypes. It was neat to get a glimpse into the reality of their cultures and traditions.”
The various nations that were represented each had their own traditions to share. The Muscogee Creek dancers started off the program in the arena by demonstrating ceremonial dancing.
While the men sang, the women shook shells in rhythm. It was explained during the presentation that the separate routines show the equality of gender; the dance needs both man and woman to proceed.
Other dancers included the Chahta Himittowa Dancers representing the Choctaw nation, as well as the Touch the Earth Dancers from the Cherokee nation.
While there are over 500 different native languages spoken across America, there are some similarities between most nations.
One common tradition is the importance of the Earth and how it is living and should be taken care of and treated with respect.
The “heartbeat” of the earth is represented in many ceremonial dances through the rhythm of drums, which could be heard all throughout the weekend’s festivities.
A number of other performances included storytelling, flute music, a stickball demonstration, and a lesson on the Muscogee Creek language.
Surrounding the performance arena was a variety of arts and craft tables selling handmade jewelry, dream catchers, and more.
On the outskirts of the festival were encampment replicas, and for the hungry celebration goer there were plenty of food stands advertising anything from buffalo tacos to roasted corn.
The celebration has proven to be a cherished tradition by the Macon area and continues to educate and entertain people of all ages.
Chloe Stewart, a local resident new to the Macon area, shared about her first experience at the celebration.
Stewart said, “The weather was perfect and the atmosphere was exciting. It was a great introduction to Macon and I will definitely be back next year.”