Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Native American regional festival | May 8

Drums are readied & dancers prepare for 19th annual Native American regional festival

If you have never experienced the dances, the drums, the celebration and the pageantry of an actual Native American Pow-Wow, this preservation event of heritage and jubilation will provide you with a ring-side seat to an enchanting, if not inspiring, event.  Native Americans dressed out in fully authentic regalia will converge at Occoneechee State Park located on Kerr Lake in Clarksville, VA for this year’s festival on Saturday, May 8th.

Festival goers can enter the park on Saturday morning when the gates open at 10:00 AM.  With an open field site near the park’s office, visitors can see the preparations made for what is a significant Native American event called a Pow-Wow.  Of a somewhat spiritual nature, a circle is outlined where the dancers must travel in a clock-wise manner throughout the event.  The dancers will perform traditional non-tribal dances and songs.  During some dances, visitors are invited to enter the circle to participate, but they must travel in a clockwise manner.  All of this is done to the sound of beating drums and the chanting and singing of songs.

Approved vendors will offer Native American hand-made crafts and other merchandise.  A number of food and beverage vendors including the Friends of Occoneechee State Park will sell everything from water to meals.

In its 19th year, the 2010 festival will draw many Occoneechee descendants and representatives of many other tribal groups who come together to provide a day full of a must-see celebration that represents a legacy that lived long before this country was created.

As in previous years, the festival is sponsored by the Virginia Division of State Parks, Occoneechee State Park and the Friends of Occoneechee State Park.

Admission is $5.00 per adult and $3.00 for children 3-12 and seniors 62 and over.  Admission is free for children under 3 years of age, with admission funds going to park improvements.

 For more information, contact the Occoneechee State Park Office by phone (434) 374-2210 or email occoneechee[at]dcr.virginia.gov or go to www.friendsofocconeecheestatepark.org or to www.virginiastateparks.gov

About Occoneechee Indians

Occoneechee State Park is named for the tribe of Native Americans who inhabited this region.  One of the first written accounts of the people of this region is from a German traveler, John Lederer.  Lederer was commissioned by the Governor of Virginia to explore the territory.  Lederer made his expedition in 1670, and his accounts report that the “Akenatzy” people lived on an island in the Roanoke River.  According to Lederer, the Occoneechee were governed by two chiefs; one who governed in war, the other in peace.  The island home of the Occoneechee was a great regional trading center, with other Indians traveling from hundreds of miles away to trade; and the Occoneechee language was widely used as a common language of trade. 

Nathaniel Bacon’s rebellion came to Occoneechee Island in 1676.  Bacon accused Virginia Governor William Berkley of doing nothing to prevent ongoing Indian raids on settlers along the border.  Bacon was a proponent of unlimited expansion into the west, a position opposed by Governor Berkley who feared a general war with the colony’s Indian neighbors.  In what is considered the first armed rebellion in the New World, Bacon raised an expedition of over 200 men and led them into the interior.  The justification for this expedition was to pursue a band of Susquehannas from the north that had moved into the vicinity of the Occoneechee, allegedly killing whites along the way.  Bacon persuaded the Occoneechee to attack the Susquehannas, but a quarrel erupted between Bacon and the Occoneechee chief Rosseechee, possibly over the fate of captives and items of value.  The quarrel erupted into a violent conflict that resulted in a number of Occoneechee casualties.  The remaining Occoneechee, along with their neighbors the Saponi and Tutelo subsequently left their island home and relocated to a site on the Eno River near present day Hillsboro, NC.

The Occoneechi only remained at their Eno River home for a few decades.  Around 1716 the combined tribes moved back to Virginia, settling at Fort Christiana near present day Lawrenceville, VA.  The fort provided protection for friendly tribes, and the tribes in turn were intended to act as a buffer between the settlers to the east, and more hostile Indians in the south and west, such as the Iroquois.  However, in 1740 a general peace was established between the Virginia colony and the Iroquois and Carolina Indians, and Fort Christiana was closed.  The Occoneechi, now part of a larger mixed group at Fort Christiana, dispersed to various locations

About Occoneechee State Park

Occoneechee State Park occupies 2,695 acres on the north shore of the John H. Kerr Reservoir, near Clarksville, VA.  The park features 88 campsites for tents and RVs, some of which are located right on the lakeshore, as well as 11 campsites for equestrian users with covered stalls for horses.  11 housekeeping cabins are also available, so guests can enjoy all the comforts of home while visiting the park.  Over 19 miles of trails wind through the woods and along the shoreline providing opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors on foot, bicycle, or horseback.  Three boat ramps provide access to 50,000 acres of aquatic recreation on the reservoir.  Visitors to the park’s Visitor Center can explore a museum featuring the story of the original inhabitants of the region and exhibiting artifacts found nearby.  Picnic areas with vistas of the lake are available for enjoying a picnic with family and friends, and an Amphitheater overlooking the lake hosts weddings and musical performances throughout the summer.

Tagged as: , , ,