American Indian Heritage Celebration returns to Raleigh this Saturday

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Thursday, November 17, 2022
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The Museum of Natural History in downtown Raleigh will host the American Indian Heritage Celebration Saturday.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Museum of History in downtown Raleigh will host the American Indian Heritage Celebration on Saturday.

"We'll have the American Indian leaders from across the state from eight state-recognized tribes. The Eastern Band of Cherokee are the only federally-recognized tribe that lives here in the state. We'll have Indian individuals in their unique regalia's during a procession at the start of the event. We'll have vocal performances throughout the day from contemporary as well as traditional artists. We will have demonstrations by traditional artists doing civil work, pottery, painting, other arts and crafts, basketry included. We will have lectures from Indian authors who have written books, children's books specifically. And just a number of other types of lectures, we have someone talking about their civil rights struggles in Harnett County, so we'll have a panel of individuals talking who were there for that particular event," said Kerry Bird, who is the Director of the North Carolina American Indian Heritage Commission.

Bird was part of the team with the Triangle Native American Society which initially helped start the event.

"It's really important because it helps create more visibility for our American Indian population here in the state. It's one of the things that's part of our theme - we're still here. We want to educate the community about some of our traditional arts and crafts but also some of our contemporary experiences such as the civil rights conversation. We've had individuals talk about the murder of indigenous women's movement, we've talked about people who shared their cultural experiences in other communities. A bridge between the two," said Bird.

Ryan Dial, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, is serving as the Head Male Dancer during the event.

"I'm thinking for the next generation; I'm thinking for my children, for my grandchildren, I want them to continue living in a space that they're proud to be an indigenous person and they can have this culture to carry with them," said Dial.

The day will include demonstrations, presentations, and performances involving music and art, as well as an emphasis on the contributions from American Indians in North Carolina in a number of fields, including science and history.

"A lot of times when we talk about US history or even state history, there's a lot of instances where American Indian people are left out," said Dial.

"People tend to think of us in historical perspective. So we're also bridging the gap between the historical celebration of our culture but also that we're still here, and that we live like everybody else. We have professional jobs, we go to universities. We are doctors and lawyers, teachers, and we're really involved in normal, everyday activities that most people don't think about as far as the American Indian experience," Bird said.

According to the 2020 census, more than 130,000 North Carolinians self-identified as American Indian, and about 50,000 more identified as American Indian and another race/ethnic group.

"It's important for young kids to be able to see people like them, to see people who look like them, who talk like them, who are from their communities in these kind of settings, not just in the native setting, but also try to be a role model in my professional life as well," Dial, who works at UNC Hospital, explained.

"We're not just bows and arrows and feathers and the stereotypical imagery that people have of us. That we go to work here at the Department of Culture Resources, that we're business professionals, that we're news folks, that we have a life just like everybody else's," added Bird.

Bird said the event will also highlight the diversity of American Indians in the state.

"I think perception is a big problem. And also when people think of native people, we only talk about it in the context of getting removed, and what we've lost, the languages we don't speak. The ceremonies we don't have. But nobody talks about what native people are doing today to combat that. And how we've evolved," Dial said.

The celebration runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.