Annual Indian Arts Celebration attracts large crowds

BIG CYPRESS — Participants, spectators, tribal members and visitors experienced a dizzying array of art, crafts, cultural education, entertainment, food, music and other delights at the 22nd Annual American Indian Arts Celebration last weekend.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
The weather cooperated nicely for the two-day event on the grounds of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum.

Hundreds turned out for the two-day extravaganza hosted at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation south of Clewiston as part of the Native American Heritage Month observation in the Everglades.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
Members of the Deer Family perform powwow style dancing for appreciative crowds.

The lineup of events included live skits by the 1491s, a Native American sketch comedy theatrical troupe whose members are from Minnesota and Oklahoma; alligator wrestling with Billy Walker; a first-time frybread competition; wildlife presentations by guides from Billie Swamp Safari; a fashion show with Lenora Roberts; powwow style dancing performed by members of the Leading Fox and Deer families; a community art project featuring Jessica Osceola; and a musical interlude with vocal artist Jeanie Capricien.

Cherrah Gyles, a development associate for the museum, narrated a live broadcast from the festival as the seven participants in the first Frybread Competition cooked up their entries. Anyone who wished got to be a judge for a donation of $5 to choose their favorites among the contestants. The winner, Jason Melton of Big Cypress, won a trophy plus a supply of Fry Bread Mix from the Red Corn Family of Oklahoma.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
Quenton Cypress (second from left), a Seminole tribal heritage official, hosts members from the Native Learning Center in Hollywood, who conducted interviews for their newest podcast, “Hoporenkv.”

Ms. Gyles said they kept the requirements simple — “just flour” — for this first contest but next year, “hopefully we’ll open it up, be even bigger, and have different flavor frybreads like the pumpkin and guava and whatever else we can think of.” The contest was open to all Seminole or other federally recognized Native American tribe members.

For Ms. Osceola’s interactive community art project, she brought handmade papers made of junk mail, banana, hay, lint and other non-plastic materials cut into feather shapes and invited participants to decorate their own feather, which she then planned to add to ceramic bird forms that will be displayed in the museum.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Courtesy of Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
Jason Melton is the 2019 winner of the Florida’s Best Frybread Championship.

“This community art project has a specific focus, but my work and inspiration tend to encompass life cycles and our relationship to nature. Aside from culture, race, gender and species we all live together and need to work at our relationships to sustain. I have used these birds as a symbol of diversity, environment, culture and, well, I’m just plain inspired by them,” she said.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment