Fire keeper G.T. Martinez adds more wood to the fire at the center of the gathering ring during the Indian Springs Native American Festival and Powwow on Saturday, Sept. 7. (Staff Photo: Beverly Harvey)
The sights and sounds of Native American traditions filled the Indian Spring Hotel-Museum grounds during the 24th annual Indian Springs Native American Festival and Powwow.
The two-day event, held Sept. 7 and 8, featured traditional dancers from a number of Native American nations, including Creek, Cherokee and Apache, who were dressed in animal skins and colorful feathers, fabrics and beads. Aztec dancers also danced at the festival.
Dancers moved to the sounds of the beating of a drum and singing by Native American performers. They danced in a gathering ring around a fire placed in the center.
The upkeep of the ring and the fire throughout the powwow was the responsibility of local resident G.T. Martinez, a member of the Creek Nation and a member of the Butts County Historical Society Board of Directors.
The fire holds a special significance to members of Native American nations. It is created as a means to “bring the spirits of our people alive” and for “remembrance of all our people,” Martinez said.
Before each dance, Martinez would check the fire and add wood, if needed. He would also slowly walk around the gathering ring carefully searching for any trash or other items to remove.
The highlight of each day of the festival was the grand entry, when traditional dancers from all Native American nations and cultures came together to dance in the ring.
Vietnam War veterans led the grand entry and were the first to step into the ring. Other military veterans and family members of military veterans were invited to join in the grand entry.
“This is the way we honor you. You have honored us,” festival emcee Steve Mansfield said during the grand entry. “It means a lot to us to be able to honor the veterans.”
Mansfield announced to the audience that veterans from World War II, the Vietnam War, Korean War, Iraq and Afghanistan participated in the grand entry. Firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMTs were also invited to join the grand entry.
Later in the afternoon, children were asked to enter the ring to take part in the candy dance. The children danced around the gathering ring, and every time the drum stopped playing, they would stop to pick up candy placed on the ground.
Native American flute music was performed both days by Ryan Little Eagle.
A birds of prey show was presented each day by Dale Arrowood with Winged Ambassadors. Arrowood spotted an eagle flying over during the grand entry, which, Martinez announced to the audience, is considered by Native Americans to be a blessing.
The Indian Springs Native American Festival and Powwow included a number of vendors who sold Native American food, dream catchers, arrowheads, clothing, jewelry and other items.
Chris Adams, a member of the Creek Nation, was one of the vendors at the festival. He was selling bows he had carved, just like his ancestors did, from red oak, hickory and osage orange woods. He also sold bows made from bass wood and river cane.
The Indian Spring Hotel-Museum was also open for tours during the festival. Before each tour, visitors could view a brief video about the history of the area and the hotel, built in 1823 by Chief William McIntosh, who was part Creek.