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Celebration of Indian heritage
Festival wows spectators
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Seth Adkins of Charles City, Va., wears a large, colorful headdress at Saturday’s23rd Annual Indian Festival put on by the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Dances, exhibits and activities also were featured at the annual event. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
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Sunday, September 16, 2007

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

In a neon green costume, Seth Adkins was hard to miss as he danced at the Virginia Museum of Natural History's 23rd Annual Indian Festival on Saturday.

The faster the drums beat, the faster he twirled, with the yellow feathers and multi-colored fringe on his costume swaying from the motion.

"I used to do that a few years ago - a long few years ago," quipped Master of Ceremonies Powhatan Red Cloud Owen who, like Adkins, is a member of the Chickahominy tribe.

Owen said that Adkins' dancing was "very flashy" and energetic.

This was the third time Adkins, of Charles City, has visited the festival.

"I like getting together with other Native Americans, listening to drumming, dancing and meeting new people," he said.

Owen invited festivalgoers to join a friendship dance with the performers.

"Just have some fun," he said. "It's a memory you can take home with you."�

And many people did just that. Adults and children alike held hands as they danced around a circle in the field behind Martinsville Middle School.

"It's very nice. There seems to be a diverse group of people" at the festival, said a first-time visitor, Carolyn Washburn of Sanford, N.C. She was attending a family reunion in the area and decided to drop by the event.

A total attendance figure was not available Saturday, but museum staff estimated at least 1,300 people were at the festival by mid-afternoon.

"It's a bigger crowd than what I thought it would be," said Tom Salkeld. He and his wife, Debbie, who are from the Staunton-Waynesboro area, were two of the many crafters selling their wares at the festival. It was their first visit.

"There's a lot of children here" learning about Native American traditions, Debbie Salkeld said. "It's a good thing."�

A grand entry procession began at noon Saturday. Assistant Chief Wayne Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe led a tribunal ceremony, and a powwow featuring Native Americans from Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland continued throughout the afternoon. Along with the Chickahominy, tribes taking part in the festival included the Monocan, Cherokee and Haliwa-Saponi.

Festivalgoers learned about the differences in how Indians from Virginia and the Midwest lived. For instance, those from Virginia usually lived in huts while those in the Midwest lived in tepees.

Two tepees were set up at the festival for visitors to look around in. The tepees were adorned with pictures of eagles, bears and other animals.

A model of a Virginia Indian hut is on display in the "Beyond Jamestown: Virginia Indians Yesterday and Today" exhibit at the museum, according to Marketing Associate Zach Ryder.

Children had their faces painted with Indian designs, and many food vendors were on hand with hamburgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes, sno-cones and other goodies.

Arts and crafts for sale included jewelry, wood carvings and paintings, as well as flutes, drums and other hand-crafted musical instruments.

A similar Native American festival was held Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. Museum officials said, though, they did not think it hurt attendance at the Martinsville event.

Cindy Gray, assistant to museum Executive Director Tim Gette, mentioned that a busload of people came to the festival from Greensboro.

"It's gone well," she said of the event.


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