Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (Durant, OK)

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Adult and small child in full Pow Wow regalia

The Choctaw Nation Pow Wow begins with
a grand entry. Photo courtesy of BISHINIK

With 168,000 members and a land base that covers more than 15,000 square miles of hills and valleys, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is the third largest Indian tribe in the United States. Since 1984, Choctaw Nation has celebrated its heritage and the future of its nation through an annual Labor Day festival, drawing more than 200,000 individuals each year from both around the United States and internationally.

For 2006, the Choctaw Nation received an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant of $20,000 for its annual free festival, and in specific, the Pow Wow, Living Village, and Arts Show components that emphasize the tribe’s culture and history.

The Pow Wow provides both entertainment through dancing and singing, and an understanding of the spiritual side of this ritual. Visitors are exposed to the language, values, and teachings of the Native-American community, and young American Indians learn more about this important part of their heritage. This traditional Pow Wow is led by an emcee with head dancers, and includes a contest, gourd dancing, and performances by the Choctaw Dancers.

Through the Living Village activity, participants become completely immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the historic Choctaw people. Members of the tribe cook over fires, repair homes, weave baskets, and make tools and weapons to illustrate the history of their culture. Lastly, the Choctaw Art Show displays traditional Choctaw crafts, such as painting, bead work, sculpture, and stickball.

The festival activities are designed to highlight the rich culture of the Choctaw Nation, celebrating both their heritage and their current contributions.

(From the NEA 2006 Annual Report)