By DAN WHITTLE
Educators and school students from Cannon, Rutherford, Wilson and Davidson counties have an (free) opportunity to experience 'living history' of Native American Indians at Long Hunter State Park on Oct. 19, 20 and 2l…the dates of the Native American Indian Association's 31st annual Fall Festival and 2012 Pow Wow.
School administrators who want to arrange for their students to attend can call 232-9179.
"Students and classes are admitted free on Friday, Oct. 19, starting at 9 a.m., at Long Hunter Park, 2910 Hobson Pike, between I-24 and I-40," confirmed Choctaw Tribal Princess Sally Wells of Smyrna. "It's a great opportunity for youth and adults alike, to learn about the history of our Indian ancestors…"
"We appreciate the Pow Wow and opportunity for our students to learn firsthand a 'living history' of our Native American neighbors," confirmed La Vergne-based Lake Side School teacher Teresa Barnett, of Smyrna. "Our students talk about this event year-round, their interest is so keen about the demonstrations of Indian heritage and dances."
Long Hunter Chief Park Ranger Thurman Mullins praised the Nashville-based NAIA groups' effort.
"We're pleased to host such a great historical event, for the NAIA Pow Wow has been named among America's 'top 16' living history festivals depicting our Native American's traditions and heritage," Mullins added. "This is no small pageant, as evidenced by the thousands of guests who fill the park grounds each year for the NAIA's Fall Festival."
More than 12,000 persons showed up in paid attendance at last year's Pow Wow. Admission for adults is $6, $3 for 6-12 age children. Five and under children are admitted free.
"We make it as affordable as possible, in order to encourage entire families make their way to beautiful Long Hunter State Park where the rangers make us feel welcome and safe each year," Wells welcomed. "It's an awesome opportunity for educators and parents to encourage children in learning more about our nation's history and heritage."
Why bring children to the Indian festival that annually features more than 40 tribes from throughout the U.S. and Canada?
"We have representatives from Choctaw, Cherokee and Lumbee tribes, just to name a few," Wells accounted. "Our music and dances are very festive, colorful events that prove very popular with children, especially when we invite the children to enter the sacred dance grounds and participate in our living history."
Tennessee is rich in Native American history.
"There are 17,000-plus full-blooded Native Americans, and 42,000 others with Indian heritage that call Tennessee home," Wells detailed. "But since the infamous Trail of Tears (forced evacuation march ordered in 1838 by President Andrew Jackson), there has been no central gathering point for our people."
Part of Pow Wow proceeds is scheduled to go toward construction of "The Circle of Life Indian Cultural Center" in Nashville.
"We've worked tireless and dedicatedly on this worthy permanent center of our heritage the past 10 years, having raised $400,000 for construction to date," Wells noted. "This center will be space for recognition of Tennessee's first people. Help us build a dream for the Native American people of Tennessee."
Donations to NAIA, based at 230 Spence Lane, Nashville, Tenn., 37210, are tax deductible.