Choctaw Days! June 22 through 25 at NMAI in Washington
Join the people of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as they celebrate Choctaw Days, Wednesday, June 22, through Saturday, 25, 2011, at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Showcased during the four days will be Choctaw food, cultural performances, hands-on activities, stickball demonstrations, dancing, singing, and storytelling. Booths will be set up featuring pottery, beadwork, flutes, tribal cooking, and tribal language. One unique highlight of Choctaw Days will be a re-enactment of a traditional Choctaw wedding.
Each morning will begin with the Choctaw Youth Dancers accompanied by singer Ron McKinney at the museum’s east entrance. The youth dancers will perform the jump dance, fast war dance, stealing partners dance, and snake dance. Throughout each day, guests can view the work of the Choctaw Nation’s most celebrated artists, with opportunities to purchase contemporary and traditional pieces from flute maker Presley Byington, basket weaver Eveline Steele, modern and traditional bead workers Marcus and Roger Amerman, and pottery makers Ian and Amy Thompson. “I will be demonstrating step-by-step, how to make a six-hole flute, in the fashion that the Choctaw's make their medicine whistles out of cane and bamboo,” said Presley Byington.
Paul King, a painter and illustrator whose award-winning art is featured as the image of Choctaw Days 2011, will have several pieces on hand. Gwen Coleman Lester, another award-winning Choctaw artist, will have paintings, prints, and hand-painted gourd Christmas ornaments on display. Regina Green, director of the Choctaw Nation Museum in Tushka Homma, and traditionalist Les Williston will demonstrate the craftsmanship of tools, weaponry, clothing, basketry and pottery.
NMAI Executive Chef Richard Hetzler will collaborate with Vonna Shults and Shirley Barboan to feature ten Choctaw-styled dishes in the museum’s Mitsitam Native Foods Café. During Choctaw Days, the menu will include fried salt pork, pinto beans, tanchi labona (hominy corn and pork mixture), fried rabbit, rabbit gumbo, braised venison, banaha Indian bread, grape dumplings, wild onions and eggs, and pumpkin soup. Chef Richard will cook samples of the dishes at 11:30 AM Wednesday and Saturday.
For families, the Choctaw Nation Cultural Events Department will facilitate hands-on activities on the third floor of the museum where visitors are invited to create a basket, clay pot, or piece of beadwork to take home. Two daily sessions will be held: 10 AM to 12 PM and 2 to 4:30 PM. “It is a great chance for the whole family to do something together,” said Cultural Events Executive Director Sue Folsom, “and they will have a small sample of Choctaw culture to take home with them.” Celebrated storytellers Tim Tingle and Greg Rodgers will share their unique Choctaw stories each afternoon. Both storytellers have been instrumental in sharing Choctaw culture in schools throughout the United States.
The films Choctaw Code Talkers and The Long Walk will be shown continuously in the Rasmuson Theater on the first floor of the museum. The Choctaw Code Talkers Program, created during World War I, was the first formal American Indian code program and is credited with saving thousands of American lives. Also taking place several times each day are performances by Brad Joe and the Johnson Family Singers, who will share Choctaw songs throughout the festival.
Language instructor Lillie Roberts will be available to share information and answer questions concerning different types of Choctaw language classes currently available. A computer will be set up to give visitors the opportunity to interact with a language instructor in Oklahoma, similar to One-Net classes held in schools throughout Southeastern Oklahoma. At 1:30 PM Saturday, a special, re-enactment of the centuries-old, traditional Choctaw wedding ceremony will take place in the Rasmuson Theater.
—Dennis Zotigh, NMAI
Click here for a printable pdf of the schedule of daily activities.
Here are the links to each day's online schedule of events, suitable for posting on the web, saving to your calendar, or emailing to friends: