July 14, 2012

Tradition comes to life at American Indian Festival

The spirit of dance is alive and well in Wichita, the emcee of the American Indian Festival at Century II said Saturday.

The spirit of dance is alive and well in Wichita, the emcee of the American Indian Festival at Century II said Saturday.

As Native Americans of various tribes danced in elaborate costumes at the festival’s powwow – drums pounding, feathers and fringe shaking – Wichitans and out-of-towners of no tribe were among those basking in traditions that are native to Wichita. The festival continues today in Expo Hall with another powwow and with vendors selling Native American jewelry, art, drums, baby moccasins, deerskin by the foot, and knives that have handles made of elk antlers and blades from the leg bones of Texas longhorns.

“It’s very interesting,” Diana Scott of Wichita said Saturday as she joined her husband, Victor, for a tradition that has long been part of his family – even though he is not an American Indian. Diana Scott took photos of the dancers with her cellphone, figuring she’d post them on Facebook.

She was one of many people capturing the colorful scene with still and video cameras. Kevin Eyes Like the Sky Browning was a popular subject. In town from Fort Worth, he is Comanche and Osage and is an actor. He was dressed as an 1860s Comanche warrior, spear in hand, braids wrapped in beaver fur, his face painted in a story of colors: black, for going into battle to meet death; red, for the blood shed by him and his enemy, because even the enemy is shown respect; teardrops, for those who died; white, for beginning a new life.

“I really like to bring out the history,” Browning said, putting on a stern face when being photographed, then breaking into a friendly smile afterward.

Fernando Bruno approached Browning to have a photo taken with him and his daughter, Shannon. Bruno and his wife, Maria, are from Peru but have lived in Wichita for 14 years, where their two children were born. Fernando Bruno attends Native American events in Wichita, his wife said.

“Look at my face,” Fernando Bruno said. “Inca.”

Terri Fike also asked to take Browning’s photo. She had traveled three hours from Buckner, Mo., with her husband, who is an American Indian, and friends for the powwow. (They also took in the “Star Wars” exhibit at Exploration Place and the Keeper of the Plains while in town.)

“Every time we go someplace we try to do something Indian-related,” Fike said.

Among the vendors at the festival, Deanna Tidwell Broughton, a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, combines history with artistry to make miniature sculptures of babies of different tribes in cradleboards – traditional infant carriers.

Broughton came up from Dickson, Okla., with a display of the hangable sculptures, measuring 4 to 7 inches. “I’ve studied at the Smithsonian,” she said – just one place where she’s researched her tiny subjects, made of colorful polymer clay.

Programs are being handed out at the festival this year so that people can be comfortable experiencing a powwow “from a culture we all have a shared history with, and feel part of this community,” said Angela Cato, marketing director for the city of Wichita’s Arts and Cultural Services.

“The Indian community feel very proud and they want to help and share it with others. The artwork , the jewelry they create – it’s beautiful. To have it all in one place, it’s a rare opportunity.”

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