Native American culture, heritage on display in Jacksonville
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Jun 02, 2013 | 7026 views |  0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In a swirl of energetic color, Jeffery Henson of Heflin dances as part of a Native American celebration in Jacksonville Saturday. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
In a swirl of energetic color, Jeffery Henson of Heflin dances as part of a Native American celebration in Jacksonville Saturday. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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An animal pelt hugged tightly across his chest, Mark Rummell tied feathers to the back of his head while shiny slivers of metal on his sleeves reflected the Saturday afternoon sunlight.

"The Eastern Woodland Indians, they were pretty flashy — they would wear lots of jewelry on their clothes," Rummell said, explaining the significance of his outfit.

Rummell, of Huntsville, was preparing Saturday to participate in a men's dance at the first Intertribal Pow Wow in Jacksonville. The event will continue today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Germania Springs Park.

About 100 people showed up Saturday afternoon to watch the many Indian dancers from Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Each dancer had his or her own unique traditional Indian outfits, some with large bright and colorful feathers protruding from their backs. The dancers performed a variety of different Indian dances in a circle to the beat of a large drum.

Vendors were also at the event selling Indian-related merchandise, including all natural herbal medicine.

Rummell said he started performing Indian dances around the state about five years ago. Though he first learned the dances with his son through the Boy Scouts of America, he continues to do it to honor his ancestry.

"My great-great grandmother was a Delaware Indian and where I grew up in Ohio, there was a lot of Delaware influence," Rummell said. "I got to studying it and that's what got me interested."

Mark Davis and his wife Ruth Davis of Weaver organized the event. The couple had previously organized similar Indian events for nearly a decade in Oxford. However after 2010, construction work on Interstate 20 took away the park space the event typically used, Mark Davis said.

Davis said he and his wife wanted to continue the events and teamed with the East Central Alabama Young Marines in Anniston and the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department to make it happen.

"We try to make these all very family-oriented events," Davis said.

Several of the performers Saturday were also veterans, including Jerry "Smitty" Smith from Georgia, who served during the Vietnam War and has Sioux Indian ancestry. Smith said he has performed in similar events across the country for the last 25 years. Smith said he immersed himself in his cultural heritage upon returning home from Vietnam.

"After I came back from Nam, I needed something to put my head together and my people was what I needed," Smith said.

Smith said performing gives him strength and he will continue to do it as long as he is able.

"It gives me another day of life ... it gives me another day to appreciate what the creator has given me," Smith said.

Kim Medders of Anniston was out with her family at the pow wow Saturday afternoon. Medders said her great-great grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee and tries to attend similar Indian-related events whenever she gets the chance.

"I just love the background history of the Indians and the things they made," Medders said as her granddaughter cautiously looked inside an authentic teepee.

Though she arrived just minutes earlier, Medders said she enjoyed what she had seen so far and looked forward to seeing more of the dancing.

"It's pretty neat," she said.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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