Learn about Native American culture at Chehaw - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Learn about Native American culture at Chehaw

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November 19, 2005

Albany--  You may have seen several tepees around town in the past couple of weeks. They're one of the many things associated with the Native American culture but the culture is represented by much more than a tepee. Those things can all be found this weekend at the Parks at Chehaw.

On the Parks at Chehaw grounds, the bright colors and music make it hard not to focus on a 13-year-old boy with a pretty powerful last name. It's Big Mountain. "It's my Grandpa's name and I'm very proud of my last name," says Joseph Big Mountain.

Joseph Big Mountain dances with several small hoops. It takes practice and patience. "All my life," says Joseph, "just looking at other dancers growing up and everything, got moves from them, made my own moves." His moves are just one part of this year's Native American Cultural Festival.

"There are many different tribes represented, many different nations represented," says Chehaw Natural Resources Manager Ben Kirkland.

The sights range from moving feet on the ground to flapping wings in the air. "The Native Americans felt that birds of prey were very important to them because these are the creatures that flew highest in the skies closest to the heavens and they would take their prayers to the creator," says Hawk Keeper Ray Pena.

"I'm weaving a bag," says weaver Jackie Briggs. Although she isn't Native American, weaver Jackie Briggs get to teach and learn about the culture. "You always learn. Even if you're teaching, you always learn," says Briggs. It's a culture inspired and moved by music set by drums.

"You always need the drum and the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth. That's what the drum represents to us, our people," says Bronson Haywahe. It spans generations and reaches new ones like Joseph Big Mountain. He says his dance has a purpose. "To keep our culture going and to teach people that there's still Native Americans and we're still here," says Joseph.

It may take going through a few hoops to teach that lesson but in the end everyone's taught the significance of a culture with the help of song and dance.

There's plenty of demonstrators, arts and crafts, along with entertainment. The festival ends on Sunday. It goes from 9 until 5.

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