Oka Kapassa – Return to Coldwater

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                                      “If the stories fall silent, who will teach the children?”

Tuscumbia, AL- The 8th annual Oka Kapassa Festival – Return to Cold Water, will be held in Spring Park, Tuscumbia, Alabama, on Friday and Saturday, September 7th and 8th.  More than 100 American Indian artists, dancers and cultural demonstrators will gather to celebrate the richness and diversity of their heritage with the Shoals community.  For two exciting days, Tuscumbia will be the center of Native American art and culture as more than 10,000 visitors celebrate and share the traditions.  Friday, September 7th is School Day, focusing on educating the youth of the surrounding area.  The festival continues all day on Saturday, September 8th. There is no charge to attend.  In case of severely inclement weather the event will move to the Roundhouse at the Tuscumbia Railway Depot.

 

For many Native artisans, it was the memory of a grandmother’s hands skillfully weaving a treasured pine needle basket or perhaps it was awareness that the craft might be lost to the modern world. Such is the case with Dan Townsend, who follows in the footsteps of his ancestors by carving ancient Southeastern designs and symbols on shell. Townsend is one of a select number of artists invited to display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. His work and demonstrations by additional artists and crafts persons, all of whom carry official recognition as authentic Native Americans, will be included in the Oka Kapassa Festival.  Basket-making, stone carving, pottery and beadwork, along with silver work and jewelry by acclaimed Navajo silversmith Niles Aseret will be included. Collectors and admirers of Native American art will have opportunities to purchase both contemporary and traditional examples.

 

 Hoop Dancer Lyndon Alec will return to this year’s festival to bring his impressive talent to audiences. The plaintive tones of the Indian flute will be offered by William Harjo, with additional authentic music by Injunuity, a group based in Ada, Oklahoma, and demonstrations by the Alabama Coushatta Dancers and the Chickasaw Dance Troupe. Additional presentations will center on life skills, including a 1750 Indian hunting camp living history, arrowhead making (flint-knapping) and dugout canoe preparation. The Indian game of Stickball will be taught. Freeman Owle, historian, teacher, artist and storyteller, will pass along the legends of the Cherokee people. At Oka Kapassa, guests may sample traditional foods, including Chickasaw pashofa (corn and pork “stew”), buffalo burgers, Indian tacos, Navajo beans, homemade Indian tamales, and roasted corn.

 

To register school groups for Friday’s activities, contact Laura Dennis at 256-765-4228 or Tammy Wynn at 256-765-4359. The day opens at 9:00 a.m., with demonstrations completed by 2:00 p.m. In recognition of the role of the townspeople in aiding the American Indians with food and clothing during the Indian Removal of the 1830’s, the log cabin (adjacent to Spring Park) will be open from 11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., with a demonstration of pioneer living history. School groups may also visit this site at no charge.

 

 On Saturday, September 8, Spring Park will open at 9:00 a.m. Demonstrations and entertainment by

all the artists are scheduled throughout the day with the Grand Entry of Indians and Veterans’ Salute (honoring WWII Veterans) slated to take place at 11:30 a.m. The pioneer log cabin will be open from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. with living history. Robert Thrower (Creek) will give a presentation at the cabin at 1:30, followed by a tour of Tuscumbia Landing. Transportation to the site will be available by Trolley. The festival concludes at dusk with the impressive Boy Scout Torch and Canoe Ceremony around Big Spring and the Spring Park Light and Water Show.

 

“The Walk of Life” from Tuscumbia Landing to Spring Park, which signifies the return to the East of the Native People, will begin from the Landing site at 9:00 a.m.  Participants may gather at Spring Park at 8:00 a.m. to be transported to the Landing.

 

Creek Chief Chilly McIntosh was quoted as saying, “As long as our people remain on the earth, we will recollect Tuscumbia.”  And so it is.

 

For more information:  visit www.okakapassa.org or contact Colbert County Tourism & Convention Bureau at 256-383-0783.  Festival Chairman Terry McGee may also be contacted at 256-757-4438.

PHOTOS BY SHERI WIGGINS

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