Oka Kapassa Return to Coldwater Festival, attracts national attention

By  | September 6, 2019 | Filed under: News


TUSCUMBIA-American Indians from throughout the nation are headed to Tuscumbia to share the stories and traditions of their ancestors during the 19th annual Oka Kapassa, Return to Coldwater Festival Sept. 13-14.

The festival, at Spring Park, 1 Spring Park Rd., Tuscumbia, has been recognized as one of the top events in September by the Southeast Tourism Society and as a National Park Service Centennial Event. It is an official Alabama Bicentennial Event.

The free family event features American Indian heritage entertainment and education through hands-on activities and demonstrations.

Terry McGee, chairman of the festival, said Tuscumbia is a special place for American Indians.

Lewis Johnson

During the forced relocation of Native Americans in the 1830s – which was became known as the Trail of Tears – Tuscumbia residents brought food, clothing and blankets to Indians as they passed through the town during their journey to western reservations. Chilly McIntosh, a chief of the Creek Indian Nation responded to the acts of kindness by saying, –“As long as our nation remains upon the earth, we will recollect Tuscumbia.”

McGee said the other Indian Nations have joined the Creek’s in honoring McIntosh’s promise to return to Tuscumbia.

“This is what the Oka Kapassa Festival is based upon and why the Nations return to Tuscumbia, “The Homeland” each year,”

Juanita Gardinski

McGee said.

Among the American Indians attending this year’s festival is Lewis Johnson, an Assistant Chief of the Seminole Nation. Johnson previously worked at the Seminole Nation Museum for nearly twenty years, where he has been featured in documentaries on Southeastern Native History televised on the Discovery Channel, PBS and 60 minutes on CBS. He is also an ordained minister and serves as Associate Pastor of Indian Nations Baptist Church in Seminole.

Several well-known American Indian cooks will attend and prepare foods that were developed by their ancestors.

Juanita Gardinski and brother Billy Thompson (Choctaw), are returning to Oka Kapassa serve delicious and authentic Native American foods such as buffalo stew and burgers, fry bread, Indian tacos, fish and roasted corn. Juanita also demonstrates bead work and shares Choctaw culture with attendees at Oka Kapassa. She has served on the Oka Kapassa Festival Advisory Board for 19 years.

Gina Brown (Chickasaw) will travel from Ada, Okla., her tribal homeland, to cook traditional pashofa, a stew combining pork

Gina Brown

and cracked corn. This is traditionally cooked for powwow dancers and participants. Cooked in a cast iron pot over an open fire, it is left unseasoned allowing the person eating it to season to their own taste.

Mary Newnan (Eastern Cherokee) will be demonstrating traditional outdoor cooking of the 1800’s, preparing foods in cast iron and clay pots over a campfire.

Another popular Native American artisan attending is world-renowned shell carver Dan Townsend.

Growing up in the Everglades and Florida Keys Townsend carved tikis and totems, sea turtles and dolphins into coconut shells. Working almost exclusively in shell, Townsend replicates designs found on many Native American sites from the Mississippian period (1000 to 1600 A.D.).  His work is exhibited throughout the world – including Thailand, Denmark, South Africa, China, Russia, New Guinea, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Borneo, and Vietnam.

Dan Townsend

Festivalgoers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. Concessions will be available.

Friday, Sept. 13, is school day at the festival. Around 1,000 students, from as far away as Walker County in Alabama and southern Middle Tennessee, will attend.

Festivities on Saturday, Sept. 14 get underway at 9 a.m. with special crafts, fancy and traditional dance demonstrations, storytelling and music. The grand entry of American Indians will be at 10 a.m. The festival concludes at 6 p.m.

Authentic Native American artwork and crafts will be available for purchase.

The Coldwater Stagecoach Stop, living history log cabin, 301 S. Dickson St., Tuscumbia, will also be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

For more details about Oka Kapassa, Return to Coldwater Festival, call Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau at 256-383-0783.




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