American Indian Festival aims to entertain, educate about Native-American culture

For the third year in a row, the Mid-America All-Indian Center’s American Indian Festival promises to be a mecca of culture for thousands across the region, museum executive director April Scott said.

Filled with the sights, sounds and colors of many of the 566 tribes in the United States, the festival is a time to celebrate, both for people with Native American heritage and for those without, she said.

“Everyone is welcome,” Scott said. “This is for all of us. It gives you a better understanding of the culture.”

The festivities, to be held next weekend at Century II’s Expo Hall, 225 W. Douglas, also are known as a powwow.

“This is a part of Wichita culture — you’ve got cowboys and Indians,” said festival committee chairperson Louie Stumblingbear. “The cowboys are right across the street,” he said, referring to Old Cowtown Museum, which is near the Indian Center.

The main attraction at the event is the contest powwow, which features dancers from across the United States who come to compete here, Stumblingbear said.

Last year, the dance contest attracted about 130 participants, and he said he hopes that figure will double this year.

Dancers will make their grand entry to the powwow at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and at 1 p.m. on July 14.

When the dancers are not performing, Stumblingbear said he encourages people not to be afraid to interact with them.

“The dancers love to answer questions,” he said. “What they don’t know they make up.”

Horses from Old Cowtown Museum will be painted in tribal style, and the painters will explain the significance of each marking, Stumblingbear said.

“Protection, strength and courage,” he said.

“Kneehigh,” a small pony, will be there and is a festival favorite among children, Stumblingbear said.

“He’s real approachable for the kids,” said Angelo Cato, marketing director for the city’s division of arts and cultural services.

In addition to the dancing and arts and crafts demonstrations, the festival will bring back its popular Indian tacos and fine art market.

Tonya June Rafael and Jolene Bird, New Mexico silversmiths who work with turquoise beads, are the featured artists.

“People do a lot of shopping,” Cato said. “It’s like taking home a piece of the festival.”

Last year, the festival attracted more than 4,000 people.

“From our humble beginnings to now, it looks to me like our powwow arena will continue to grow,” said powwow committee co-chair Lynn Stumblingbear.

Louie Stumblingbear said the goal of the festival is not only to entertain, but also to educate about Native American culture.

“People come up to me and ask if I still live in a teepee,” he said.

“It’s got to have air conditioning and Internet,” his wife, Lynn, said.

“We want to break those stereotypes,” he said.

The two-day festival begins Saturday. The museum also is hosting a preview party from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday for $30 per person. Reservations for a table of 10 can be made for $250. The preview party includes a catered meal, drink service and a sneak peek at everything that will be featured in the festival, except for the powwow dancing.

To purchase tickets to the preview party, contact Scott at 316-350-3341 or ascott@wichita.gov.