Native American fest provides look into history - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Native American fest provides look into history

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November 20, 2004

Albany-It takes less than two minutes for Russell Cuts to turn raw materials into fire. He's just one of more than 20 demonstrating educators at the Parks at Chehaw Native American Cultural Festival.

"We have more educators in the demonstration area than any other event that I'm aware of in the Southeast, and we take great pride in that," says Ben Kirkland of the Parks at Chehaw.

"When we killed something we used everything," says Jim Sawgrass.

Sawgrass explains how tribes in the Southeast could take one alligator and use it for dozens of things, including a meal.

"Items like cloth, glass beads, silver, and metal tools were adopted early on. A lot of the stone tools that people find in their backyards today they quit using," he says.

Sawgrass's demonstration represents a time 200 years ago when the Creeks had already been trading and new materials were being accepted. He even explains how slang terms we use today were derived from items the Native Americans traded.

"We call our money today bucks. Well that word bucks came from the deer skin."

Just a few feet away, Nancy Basket entertains and educates a group of Girl Scouts as she demonstrates to make a kudzu basket.

"You've got to be modern with the kids, bring them from back in the day to who we are now with what they can understand, and do it with jokes and rhyme because then they remember it most of the time," Basket says.

In addition to sharing her craft, Basket says demonstrating allows her an opportunity to dispel myths about her Cherokee heritage.

"I like it when they can understand the truth and you can tell them in a joke or something, so nobody has to feel guilty for anything anybody did to each other back in the day. What we can do is form a new attitude and treat each other differently now and that's what's important."

Gates are open Sunday from 9 AM to 6 PM. The arena and dance events will end at 5 PM. The festival cost just one dollar with park admission.

Posted at 4:50 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com

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