Choctaw Days Cultural Festival at National Museum of the American Indian
Choctaw Days is returning to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., for its third straight year. The event, scheduled for June 21-22, will provide a Choctaw Nation cultural experience for thousands of visitors. The Choctaw Nation celebrates its tribal history and heritage with two days of food, workshops and performances, all in the theme of “Cultural Awakening.”
Activities and demonstrations include Native dancers, singers, storytellers and booths showcasing beadwork, pottery, flutes, the Choctaw language and tribal cooking. Hands-on activities for kids and families along with being able to meet Choctaw Nation princesses of all ages will allow visitors to learn more about Choctaw culture.
“We find Choctaw Days to be just as rewarding for us as the people who come to the museum say it is for them,” said Choctaw Nation Chief Gregory E. Pyle in a press release. “We meet families vacationing from places like Switzerland, Italy and Africa. It is a great opportunity to share culture.”
The Choctaw Nation princesses will have a world map set up and encourage everyone to place a pushpin in the general area of their home. The map from last year’s event was covered with the multi-colored circles, representing travelers from 23 countries. Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray, Junior Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Shomo and Little Miss Choctaw Nation Josephine Gilmore will also open each day with the “Lord’s Prayer” in sign language and participate in a “Four Directions Ceremony” in the afternoon.
Approximately 1,000 tribal members live in the area and they look forward to reconnecting with their heritage as well.
They will be able to hear the Choctaw language through conversations, songs and stories. Dancers will mimic the antics of the playful raccoon and the curving paths of the snake. The Choctaw is the only American Indian tribe who includes women in their war dances, recognizing the important role of women in their society. The dancers are scheduled to perform three times each day, demonstrating several dances including the Four-Step War, the Wedding and Stealing Partners.
Pottery, basket weaving and Choctaw flute experts will demonstrate the creativity passed down through generations. The skill of today’s craftsmen reflects the versatility implemented centuries ago out of necessity combined with improved techniques made possible by modern materials and equipment.
“One of my favorite things during the festival is watching people’s expressions as they walk from table to table,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton, in the release. “They are fascinated with the process of shaping a bowl or water vessel out of clay. The Choctaw Nation has some of the best instructors in the country on historic preservation.”
There will be much to see, hear, and taste during Choctaw Days. The Choctaw Nation’s cultural awakening will be evident throughout the Potomac Atrium, films in the theatre and in the Mitsitam Native Foods Café with several Choctaw-inspired dishes on the menu.