published Monday, April 6th, 2009

Chattanooga: Meeting of traditions

Native Americans exhibit culture and practices at powwow

by Elizabeth Ryan


For more information on Powwows across the United States, visit:

Without her beaded headband and the mink regalia covering her braids, Kate Jolly probably looks like any other green-eyed Alabama teenager.

But the 19-year-old Birmingham resident is a member of the Ojibwe tribe, and this weekend she donned the traditional garb of a jingle dancer to help lead the festivities as “Head Lady” of the third annual Native American Powwow & Festival in Chattanooga.

“The powwow is a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s less ceremony and more exhibition. We try to show the public that we’re not extinct, that we still do have our culture and our practices.”

Tribes from across the United States joined in the three-day homage to Native American traditions, which drew about 3,000 visitors for basketweaving demonstrations, storytelling, and plenty of singing, drumming and dancing.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Margaret Fenton
    Jackie Ross of Chattanooga dances during a competition Sunday at the First Tennessee Pavilion that marked the closing of the three-day Chattanooga Native American Powwow and Festival hosted by the Native American Services Organization of Tennessee.

Organizer Tammera Hicks, of Chattanooga, who is part Cherokee, said events like this help build bridges between cultures.

“You have differences in society,” she said. “We’re all different pieces, and it takes all of us working together and coming together as one to actually get things done and progress.”

Ms. Hicks said the practice of holding powwows was adopted from tribes of the Western Plains who used the regular gatherings to feast, share news and catch up with friends.

Jerry Britt, an arrowsmith from near Bankhead National Forest, Ala., said powwows — and the Chattanooga gathering in particular — help keep ties strong among the members of the community.

“This is like a homecoming to us every time. It’s the starting of the season, we get to see friends and family that we haven’t seen through the winter months. It’s a wonderful event because it means something to us,” he said.

For Ms. Jolly, who has been dancing since she was able to walk, the weekend was indeed, a part of how she defines “home.”

“This is pretty much my life,” she said. “It’s just who I am. It’s a part of me.”

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