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By Tammie Goins

Correspondent

RED CLAY, Tenn. - For many visiting the 28th annual Cherokee Days of Recognition, it's about connecting to a cultural heritage - no matter how great or small the bloodlines may be.

Janet Kibler, of Cleveland, Tenn., said she brings her family every year because it's an opportunity to learn about the Cherokee bloodline that is prominent through her family tree, and its culture.

"We have a lot of Indian blood running through our family," Mrs. Kibler said Saturday. "We come here for the history, and I love the hands-on experience it gives my kids."

Joshua Runningwolf, of Chatsworth, Ga., who travels to several such gatherings throughout the year, agrees.

"This is a way to express my culture and keep it alive," said Mr. Runningwolf, who is two-thirds Cherokee. "I'm real excited to come learn about my culture and heritage."

Mr. Runningwolf, who was dressed in full Native American costume, is one of the traditional Cherokee dancers at this year's event.

Rossville resident Randy Shelton found out late in life about his Cherokee heritage - as well as having Choctaw and Sioux bloodlines - and now incorporates that into his everyday living.

"I've gone back to a native belief system ... which involves believing that we are related to the stars, the earth and every living thing," he said.

Mr. Shelton frequently visits Red Clay, where 11 of the last 12 Cherokee Council meetings before the Trail of Tears were held. He said events like the Cherokee Days of Recognition help him learn even more about his long-lost heritage.

The Cherokee Days of Recognition, a celebration of the hardships and accomplishments of the Indian nation, continues today from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the state park and features Cherokee dancing, food and arts. Other attractions include storytelling, living history, games, demonstrations and more.

The annual Red Clay Open Blowgun Tournament will also be held, with men's, women's and youth divisions. Eastern Band Cherokee storyteller Fred Bradley will share tales of ancestral stories and the Cherokee people. Michael Jacobs, an award winning Cherokee recording artist, will also perform, as well as the Reid Family Cherokee Gospel Singers.

Cherokee arts and crafts demonstrations also are on hand.

Tammie Goins, who resides in Bradley County, can be reached at tammiegoins@live.com.

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