- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 8, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - When Native Americans make the trek back to Tuscumbia for Oka Kapassa - Return to Cold Water, it won’t just be Tuscumbia they’re returning to.

The cities of Florence and Killen are sites for Oka Kapassa events this year as well, with a presentation at the Killen Public Library featuring hoop dancer Lyndon Alec and Native American storyteller Freeman Owle.

In Florence, Injunuity and Arvel Bird will perform in concert on the lawn at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library at 6 p.m. Friday. Attendees are invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

Festival chairman Terry McGee said while Oka Kapassa is in Tuscumbia, it’s a Shoals event.

“We have a lot of school groups that come from all around the area,” McGee said. “So we decided to do something in Florence and Killen this year to show our appreciation.”

Organizers said there will be a variety of new festival events in Tuscumbia’s Spring Park for both the school day activities for students on Friday and the main festival for the general public on Saturday.

This year, there will be an Eastern Cherokee hunting camp and a Western Cherokee encampment.

“The Western Cherokee were influenced by the western tribes more,” McGee said. “We put them side by side so they can see the differences.”

This year also will feature a Cherokee dance troupe. Anita Flanagan, an Eastern Cherokee and Oka Kapassa board member, said dancers will be doing pow wow dancing, which is fast-paced.

“Pow wow dancing - it’s lots of feathers, lots of movement, lots of action, it’s flamboyant dancing,” she said. “The kids and the adults alike will have fun.”

Most tribal dancing is slower-paced, usually done in a circular pattern, but the groups this year will be doing the fast-paced movements, what Flanagan said she calls bling dancing.

“It’s all traditional dances, but these are the competition style, a lot of them are more western, like the grass dance,” she said. “It portrays warriors stomping grass, its very fast-paced, quick movement.”

The fancy dance, Flanagan said, has dancers mimicking animals - anything from stalking a bear, to hunting a deer or a bobcat at night hunting prey.

The main reason, Flanagan said, they do this is for the students.

“That’s our main thing, just the historical value of this area and the park and the relationship between the Indians and the settlers that came into this area,” she said.

American Indians return to Tuscumbia each year to commemorate the actions the people of the city took when the Native Americans were camped here during their removal.

“They brought a Creek group through here and camped them here, they were Chilly McIntosh’s group,” McGee said.

“The townspeople came in and saw they were in disarray and cold. They went back and gathered blankets, firewood and food and took care of the people.

It’s the only documented instance of where a town came in and actually helped people during the removal, McGee said.

Chilly McIntosh was quoted in a local newspaper during that time as saying “As long as our nation remains upon the earth, we will recollect Tuscumbia.”

“They had everything taken from them, they had been robbed and treated bad,” McGee said. “The people here were on the right side of history. That’s why we have it here.

“It means a lot to the Native Americans that come here and know that story.”


Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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