BY DAN WHITTLE
The Nashville-based Native American Indian Association's Circle of Life (in development) traces back to the deadly Trail of Tears for 19,500 Indians living today in Tennessee.
That's been the long journey since their ancestors were forced out of Tennessee in 1838-89 by President Andrew Jackson ... a torturous trek when thousands perished, some from tundra-like winter weather elements while some drowned as they attempted to cross the wide Mississippi River into Missouri with a final destination of Oklahoma.
This year's NAIA's Annual Fall Festival and Pow Wow (Oct. 14, 15, 16) at Long Hunter State Park is described as an important step back into the flow of life in present-day Tennessee. Part of proceeds will go toward construction of the Circle of Life.
"We have secured the property. And when The Circle of Life Indian Cultural Center is built in Davidson County, it will be a place to remember the removal and celebrate our return," accounted NAIA Executive Officer Ray Emmanuel. "We encourage parents and grandparents to bring children to witness our (35th annual) Pow Wow and Festival held on sacred grounds of Long Hunter State Park, that stands where our forefathers were force-marched out of Tennessee and Alabama."
Holding Pow Wow at this location is no accident.
Most of the Cherokee Nation was centered in the Great Smokey Mountains (of East Tennessee) prior to 1838.
President Jackson's Indian removal policy forced all Indians east of the Mississippi River to leave Tennessee and Alabama.
The infamous Trail of Tears pierced the geographic hearts of Warren, Cannon, Rutherford and Davidson counties. Several guides of the journey died and are buried in Middle Tennessee soil. There are historic markers throughout Cannon and Rutherford counties, marking the trail.
Today, some Native Americans won't accept or deal monetarily with $20 bills bearing the likeness of President Jackson.
"With the Terrible Trail of Tears in 1838, the first people's claim to the land called Tennessee was forcibly dissolved," Emmanuel traced back to the trail. "Ironically, it was ordered by an American president from this state, Andrew Jackson, a man whose life had been saved by the Cherokee in the War of 1812."
"Due to there being no Native American Indian reserv-ations in Tennessee, the American Indian has no place to call home in Tennessee," Emmanuel added. "That's one purpose of our future Circle of Life, where we will help Native Americans find jobs, attend college and secure resources."
The Pow Wow traditionally attracts more than 50 tribes from throughout the U. S. and Canada.
There are Pow Wow etiquette and tips to be respected ...
"Our Pow Wow is a fun event, but also a sacred event, as ceremonial songs and dances will be performed," Emmanuel added. "We ask visitors to dress appropriately, revealing clothing is considered disrespectful."
"Respect the Elders," Emmanuel requested. "Please don't talk while they're speaking on the public address system. When you do a photo or make a recording, please get permission first."
Friday, Oct. 14, festivities start at 9 a.m. and are free to students and seniors. Saturday and Sunday events also start at 9 a.m.
Admissions are $6 for adults, $3 for seniors and children age 6-12, for children 5 and younger, there's no charge.