Smith brings awareness to Indian heritage

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sonya Smith was born into an Indian family.

She is proud of her heritage, however, there was a time when many Native Americans tried to conceal their heritage but that is changing.

“It was not until 1972 that Native Americans could own land,” said Smith, who is a graduate student at Troy University.

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“The land that my family owns was acquired as sharecroppers. But I’m extremely proud of my Native American heritage and do all that I can to raise public awareness about our culture and our traditions.”

Smith is the event organizer for the American Indian History Month Festival, which is from 4:30 until 10 p.m. tonight at the Dothan Civic Center.

This is the second annual festival and is sponsored by the Center for Community Advancement in Dothan.

There are nine tribes in Alabama – the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama, Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama, Ma-Chis Lower Creek Indian Tribe, Star Clan of Muscogee Creeks, Cher-O-Creek Intra Tribal Indians, Mowa Band of Choctaw Indians, Piqua Shawnee Tribe and United Cherokee Ani-Yun Wiya Nation.

“Nearly 44,000 people of Native American heritage live in Alabama,” Smith said.

“So there is a lot of interest in the Native American culture from those of us those who share that heritage and those whose heritage is from other cultures.”

The American Indian History Month Festival will feature the grand entry, flute music, dancing, historical tribal exhibits and storytelling.

“The gourd dance will be performed before the grand entry,” Smith said.

“The gourd dance is the blessing of the circle. The grand entry features all of the dancers in their native costumes and veterans – all veterans – will follow the flags.”

Smith said the flags include the American flag and the Eagle staff and the POW/MIA and the DAV flags.

The festival will include individual non-competitive dancing, competitive dancing and stomp and pow-wow dancing.

“Stomp dancing and pow-wow dancing are different in that stomp dancing is done with shakers and rattlers and pow-wow dancing is done with drums,” Smith said. “Flute music will be by Marcia Johnston and she is extremely talented. Everyone will enjoy her beautiful music.”

All nine Alabama tribes will be included in the historical exhibits, which are all informative and educational.

Admission to the American Indian History Month Festival is $10 for adults.

Children five and under are admitted free.