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Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma Celebrates Its Tribal Heritage and History at the “Chickasha Poya—We Are Chickasaw” Festival


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian presents Chickasha Poya—We Are Chickasaw, a two-day event about the Chickasaw people of Oklahoma. The free festival will take place Friday, Aug. 15, and Saturday, Aug. 16, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

This year’s celebration will begin both days with a welcome by Josh Hinson at 10 a.m. followed by a Chickasaw stomp dance at 10:30 a.m. Stomp dancing is significant to Chickasaw culture. Men sing stomp-dance songs in a call-and-answer format, following a male song leader, who often sets the dance rhythm using a handheld turtle shell rattle. Women enhance the rhythms with shakers made from box-turtle shells worn on their legs. The use of turtle shells is intended to show respect and gratitude to the animal world for providing so many good things for the people. The dance group will have three additional presentations at 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. in the museum’s Potomac Atrium.

Workshops for making mini-bows, stickball sticks and trade-bead bracelets will entertain kids all ages at the museum’s imagiNATIONS Activity Center, daily at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Families will also be able to create corn-husk dolls in Rooms 4018/19 daily at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, there will be Chickasaw storytelling at 11:30 a.m. with Lorie Robins and at 2 p.m. with Stephanie Scott. A flute demonstration with Jesse Lindsey will be performed in the Potomac Atrium at noon.

Injunuity, an all-Native American flute-based orchestral rock band, will perform on Friday and Saturday at 1 and 3 p.m. in the Potomac Atrium. The award-winning contemporary Chickasaw band includes Choctaw composer Brad Clonch and Chickasaw composer Jeff Carpenter. Injunuity’s sound focuses on introducing Native American music and history into the popular culture and preserving Native heritage with the use of the cultural iconic Native American flute.

The festival will also present a live paint session at 1:30 p.m. with artist Eric Hardison in the Potomac Alcove. Visitors will enjoy First Encounter, a historical documentary film exploring the Chickasaw Nation’s confrontation with Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto at 4 p.m., and they will be able to meet the filmmakers, actors and a tribal historic preservation officer and participate in a Q&A session after the film in the Rasmuson Theater. Chickasaw Press will offer books for sale, and there will be a general information table about Chickasaw history and current activities of the tribe. The Chickasaw language will be presented by Josh Hinson and Lori Hamilton in the Potomac Atrium.

There will be daily demonstrations of Chickasaw culture and traditions in the Potomac Area with Chickasaw art on display and for sale. The highlights of the artists and demonstrations include Chickasaw foods with JoAnn Ellis and Gingy Nail, finger weaving with Halley Taylor and Wakeah Vigil, basket weaving with Dixie Brewer and LaDonna Brown, tattooing with Dustin Mater and Chance Brown and beading with Lorie Robins and Stephanie Scott.

For more details about the festival, visit Join the conversation on Twitter @SmithsonianNMAI and use the hashtag #Chickasaw and #WeAreChickasaw.

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