Archive for Monday, October 21, 2002

Group seeks to revive heritage of SW Missouri American Indians

October 21, 2002

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— On land their ancestors might have traveled, members of nine American Indian tribes gathered to celebrate their heritage and make plans for preserving their culture in the future.

The second annual Red Heart Rendezvous Powwow drew more than 100 people from tribes to 25 acres of farmland near Aurora, about 20 miles southwest of Springfield, on Saturday.

As the smell of burning sage wafted through the crisp fall air, vendors hawked their wares: jewelry, blankets, clothing and food. White teepees stretched high into the sky, and dancers in ancestral regalia moved to the pounding of ceremonial drums.

Mark Simms smiled at the sight.

"We want to help Indians and non-Indians to learn about the Indian way," said Simms, who serves on a seven-member tribal advisory board working to establish the Red Heart Intertribal Cultural Center on the same plot of land.

The board expects to open a cultural center and gift shop within a few months. Down the line, the board would like to build a living tribal village.

"It would provide an opportunity for people who are interested in the Indian culture to come together and learn from each other," Simms said.

Larry Maggard, of Springfield, said some of the classes the cultural center would offer include crafts and beadwork.

Powwows bring American Indians from across the region together to celebrate their heritage. Those at Saturday's Powwow included members of the Ojibwe, Shawnee, Delaware, Osage, Navajo, Cherokee, Otoe, Cheyenne-Arapaho and Creek tribes.

Kenny Brown, a member of the Delaware tribe and the powwow's "head man" dancer, traveled from his home in Catoosa, Okla., to participate in the gathering. At 55, he is a structural-steel draftsman and a Vietnam-era veteran.

"I probably go to two of these a month," Brown said, his gray-streaked hair dangling past his shoulders, the corners of his eyes dabbed with red paint. "To see this is great. It's good to see these kids come out and have some education about their culture."

Vanessa Renae Johns, 15, traveled with her family from Tahlequah, Okla. She is a member of the Cherokee National Youth Choir, which recently captured the "Best Gospel Recording" title at the Native American Music Awards.

"The Cherokee language and cultures are disappearing within the youth," she said. "I'm just trying to do my part to bring it back. I like to see the younger kids dancing."

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