Native Tribes gather at Stone Mountain to share their culture

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-9-41-39-amVisitors going to Stone Mountain Park can meet members from Native American tribes across the nation as they gather for a four day celebration of Native American culture and history.

Jeanine Jones, the Public Relations Manager for Stone Mountain Park, said the event is expected draw in “between probably 20 and 25,000 people.”

“We have people coming from all over the country to compete in the dance competitions that happen on Saturday and Sunday,” Jones said. “We’re lucky to be in the city of Atlanta, so there’s a lot of population. The interest in the Native American tribes and communities are very important. Also a lot of people have never seen the dance competitions or the opening ceremony of what a Pow-Wow would consist of, so it’s a really unique opportunity to be a part of their culture and learn more about their culture.”

What to Expect

The park will be in full celebration mode with Native music and non-Native food vendors, including Roadrunner Grill, Nikki’s Frybread and Bruster’s Ice Cream. There will plenty of events for park visitors to eat and be merry, while celebrating Native American culture.

“I think that you’re going to be extremely surprise and pleased at what you see,” Jones said. “The first time I watched the opening ceremonies I was just blown away. It was just incredible to see all the tribes come together and enter the dance circle together. They honor veterans. It was just a very moving experience, so I would highly recommend being there on Saturday or Sunday in time for the opening ceremony.”

If you can’t catch the opening ceremonies, there will plenty to do over the course of the festival. The main attraction is the Dance and Drum Competition. There will be several competitions spanning Saturday and Sunday for both the dance and drum competitions. There is no age limit, although cash prizes will be awarded by age group. There are also different categories for dancers.

“They have the Fancy and Jingle,” Jones said. “[In that] they have different kinds of categories that they compete in. So they’ll have each person that’s registered in the competition come out and dance in that particular category. Then the prizes are awarded at the end of the event.”

Park visitors can also experience Native American culture through pottery and sculpture at the artists’ marketplace. The market will feature both Native artists’ and Native-inspired artists’ work. The marketplace will also feature live pottery making demonstrations through different tribal traditions.

If pottery isn’t enough, there will be plenty of other skill demonstrations during the festival, including bow and arrow making, flint-knapping (flint shaping), fire starting and open fire cooking. Festival goers can also get a feel for Native American living by exploring tipis and other traditional Native American living spaces.

There will also be a special encampment show hosted by Jim Sawgrass, which explores the lifestyle of local and regional tribes through interactive experiences.  

How it Got Started

The Indian Festival and Pow-Wow gained fame in the region, even ranked as a Top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society. It all started when a group of Native Americans came to the park wanting to share their culture.

“We had some members of the Native American community that came to us and wanted to partner in an event and at the time we were trying to create more educational events for kids so it seemed like a great partnership,” Jones said.

The festival brings in schools from across the area each year to explore the festival.

“We wanted to make sure the event fit the curriculum for the local schools,” Jones said.“So whatever they were learning in the classroom they could also come out and see in living color.”

While the festival is growing each year, there is very little Jones would like to change about it, except for potentially adding more skill demonstrations.

“I personally really like all the demonstrations,” Jones said. “I like to see the different ways that different tribes do the same type of pottery or functional-type of demonstrations for different artwork or functional life, things like pottery or animal skins. It’s interesting to see what one tribe would do with something versus another tribe that just lives 200 miles away. That’s my favorite thing and I think we’re always looking to add more demonstrations to the event.”

Festival Basics:

Hours:

Nov. 3 and Nov. 4:  9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Nov. 5: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Nov. 6: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Ticketing:

Indian Festival and Pow-Wow tickets are $15 plus tax and can be purchased inside the park. Children under 3 are free.

Visitors can also purchase an Adventure Pass, which includes access to the Indian Festival, as well as Geyser Towers, Summit Skyride and Scenic Railroad.

Adult (12+) with meal:$31.95

Adult/Child no meal: $25.95 plus tax

Parking:

Vehicle entry to the park is $15, but covers a full day of parking. Annual permits can also be purchased for $40.

Note: No pets will be allowed into the Indian Festival and Pow-Wow.

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