Moundville Native American Festival

Mound P at the Moundville Archaelogical Park
The view from Mound P
The Black Warrior River
The Hoop Dancer with many of his hoops
A Choctaw drum circle
The Choctaw Corn Dance
All ages dance together

Today Tom and I took a break from building (Care-A-Vanners work Monday through Friday) and went to the Moundville Native American Festival.  The Moundville Archaelogical Park is a Mississippian cultural site on the Black Warrior River, near Tuscaloosa.  The site is administered by the University of Alabama and encompasses 185 acres with 29 platform mounds around a rectangular plaza.  The site was occupied from around AD 1000 until AD 1450.  The site was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

The Moundville Native American Festival has been held at the site every year for the last 25.  Descendents of the Mound Builders come to share their culture with people who live in the area and with those who travel in for the festival.  About 10,000 people were expected to visit over the four days of this year’s Festival.  The Festival runs from Wednesday through Saturday with schoolchildren on field trips being the primary audience.  There are Native American dancers, food, interpreters, and craft demonstrations.

Tom and I enjoyed walking around the Festival.  We have always enjoyed the Yankee Peddler Festival in Ohio, and the Moundville Native American Festival was similar but with more of an emphasis on the Native American culture.  We watched performances of Muscogee Flute music, Choctaw tribal dancing and singing, and a Chickasaw Hoop Dancer.  The Choctaw dancing was fun to watch with lots of audience participation.  I had never seen a hoop dancer before and the patterns he made with the 24 hoops were amazing.

There was a small food court with buffalo burgers, fry bread, hominy, roasted ears of corn, and the obligatory Dippin’ Dots.  I’m not sure how Dippin’ Dots are related to Native American Culture, but the whole festival was a interesting blend of Native American, colonial, and modern southern.  We saw some beautiful baskets and bead-work, and hand crafted bows and arrows.  We talked to a lot of the demonstrators who were from areas around Tuscaloosa as well as Mississippi, Texas, and Oklahoma.  One interesting thing I learned:  the Raven Tribe of the Choctaw were one of the few tribes who melted into the wilderness instead of being part of the Trail of Tears.

We climbed up one of the mounds and enjoyed the view from the flat top.  We also went into the small museum at the Archaelogical Park.  I think the gift shop was a big as the museum, but it was a good place to be because it was the only place at the Moundvill Native American Festival that was air-conditioned, and the temperature was 91, sunny, with about 80% humidity.  You didn’t have to be out in it long to be dripping with sweat.  Not the kind of mid-October weather we are used to!

We enjoyed our visit to the Moundville Native American Festival, saw lots of interesting things and learned a little bit in the process.