Oka Kapassa. Return to Coldwater Festival, Attracts National Attention

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TUSCUMBIA-Native Americans from throughout the U.S. are headed to Tuscumbia to share the stories and traditions of their ancestors during the 21st annual Oka Kapassa, Return to Coldwater Festival September 8-9. 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. The free family event features Native American heritage, entertainment, and education through hands-on activities, arts, crafts, and demonstrations.

Terry McGee, chairman of the festival, said, “Tuscumbia is a special place for Native People.”  During the forced relocation of Native Americans in the 1830s, which became known as the Trail of Tears, Tuscumbia residents brought food, clothing, and blankets to members of the Creek tribe as they passed through the town during their journey West. Chilly McIntosh, 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.”  The Oka Kapassa Board Members are proud other Indian Nations have joined the Creeks in honoring McIntosh’s promise to return to Tuscumbia. Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Alabama, and Choctaw are just some of the tribes that will be attending, “This is what the Oka Kapassa Festival is based upon and why the Nations return to Tuscumbia, ‘The Homeland’ each year,” McGee said.

Friday, September 8th is school day at the festival. Approximately 1,000 students, from as far away as Walker County in Alabama and southern Middle Tennessee, will attend. Education is a . major component of the Oka Kapassa Festival, which stresses authenticity in all demonstrations, offering a learning experience for fourth and fifth graders.  Also on Friday evening, a Native American cultural program will be presented at 5:30 p.m. until 7:00 p,m, at the Tuscumbia Roundhouse, including a trolley tour around the town to view Witness Sites of the Indian Removal period.

Festivities geared for the public get underway at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 9th, with special crafts, fancy and traditional dance, demonstrations, storytelling, and music. Authentic Native American artwork and crafts, including basketry, jewelry, and shell-carvings, will be available for purchase. Events conclude at 5:00 p.m. Festival goers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.

No festival is complete without food! In addition to concessions, several well-known American Indian cooks will be preparing foods that were developed by their ancestors.  Juanita Gardinski and brother Billy Thompson (Choctaw) are returning to Oka Kapassa to serve delicious and authentic Native American foods such as buffalo, fry bread, Indian tacos, fish, and roasted corn. Gardinski also demonstrates bead work and her family share 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, OK., her tribal homeland, to cook traditional pashofa, a stew combining pork and cracked corn. 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 Newman (Eastern Cherokee) will be demonstrating traditional outdoor cooking of the 1800’s, preparing foods in cast iron and clay pots over campfire.


 In addition to events in the park, the Coldwater Stagecoach Stop, living history log cabin, 301 S. Dickson St., Tuscumbia, will be open during the festival from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Oka Kapassa- Return to Cold Water, is made possible through assistance from Alabama Department of Tourism, Alabama State Council on the Arts, the City of Tuscumbia, the Chickasaw Nation, Colbert County Community Development Commission, Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area, Northwest Alabama Resource Conservation and Development (RC & D), Poarch Band of Creek Indians, and Tennessee Valley Authority. Other local businesses and community sponsors are listed on the festival Facebook page, Oka Kapassa Festival-Return to Coldwater.

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


Media Release/Maryanne Floyd Director of Communications Colbert County Tourism & Convention Bureau

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