Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Great Seal of the Choctaw Nation

smithsonian_main_graphic_web Choctaw Days’ Return to the Smithsonian

Choctaw Days 2013 Agenda

Choctaw Days is returning to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., for its third straight year. The event, scheduled for June 21-22, will provide a Choctaw Nation cultural experience for thousands of visitors.

“We find Choctaw Days to be just as rewarding for us as the people who come to the museum say it is for them,” said Chief Gregory E. Pyle. “We meet families vacationing from places like Switzerland, Italy and Africa. It is a great opportunity to share culture.”

The Choctaw Nation princesses will have a world map set up and encourage everyone to place a pushpin in the general area of their home. The map from last year’s event was covered with the multi-colored circles, representing travelers from 23 countries. Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Murray, Junior Miss Choctaw Nation Cheyenne Shomo and Little Miss Choctaw Nation Josephine Gilmore will also open each day with the “Lord’s Prayer” in sign language and participate in a “Four Directions Ceremony” in the afternoon.

Approximately 1,000 tribal members live in the area and they look forward to reconnecting with their heritage as well.

They will be able to hear the Choctaw language through conversations, songs and stories. Dancers will mimic the antics of the playful raccoon and the curving paths of the snake. The Choctaw is the only American Indian tribe who includes women in their war dances, recognizing the important role of women in their society. The dancers are scheduled to perform three times each day, demonstrating several dances including the Four-Step War, the Wedding and Stealing Partners.

Pottery, basket weaving and Choctaw flute experts will demonstrate the creativity passed down through generations. The skill of today’s craftsmen reflects the versatility implemented centuries ago out of necessity combined with improved techniques made possible by modern materials and equipment.

“One of my favorite things during the festival is watching people’s expressions as they walk from table to table,” said Assistant Chief Gary Batton. “They are fascinated with the process of shaping a bowl or water vessel out of clay. The Choctaw Nation has some of the best instructors in the country on historic preservation.”

Choctaw Nation Cultural Services staff will be holding make-and-take sessions each day to teach how to make animal forms with glass beads that would be ideal to hang on a key chain or lanyard. The finished work will be a treasured keepsake of the time spent at Choctaw Days.

Janis McKinney’s beaded jewelry adds sparkle to the eyes of girls from the age of 2 to 92. She and husband, Karl, will set up a booth covered with everything from simple bracelets and hair barrettes to intricate medallions and collars worn with cultural clothing. Visitors can watch as McKinney continuously works with her beads or sews a Choctaw dress for one of her daughters or granddaughters.

Everyone who comes together to present Choctaw Days is multi-talented. Most of the artists can also dance, chant or sing. Storyteller Tim Tingle brings many elements to life in his tales. Surrounded by his audience, Tingle becomes a rabbit or a turtle. The author often includes sad laments or rhythmic beats of a drum with his stories, capturing and holding the attention of all who hear. He turns the sad thoughts of the Trail of Tears to happy sounds of laughter with a description of how the rabbit lost his tail, waving his hands above his head to imitate the long floppy ears of a cottontail. Tingle tells of Choctaw trials, travels and triumphs.

There will be much to see, hear, and taste during Choctaw Days. The Choctaw Nation’s cultural awakening will be evident throughout the Potomac Atrium, films in the theatre and in the Mitsitam Native Foods Café with several Choctaw-inspired dishes on the menu.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is located at 4th St. and Independence Ave., SW, in Washington, D.C.

There will also be a book-signing for the 200-page book, “Choctaw: A Cultural Awakening” from 12-1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, in the museum’s Roanoke Museum Store on the second level.


Choctaw Days June 21-22

10:30 a.m.
Princesses – The Lord’s Prayer in sign language
Social Dancing
Flutist Presley Byington
Historian Olin Williams – Stickball
Dr. Ian Thompson – History of Choctaw Food

1 p.m.
Princesses – Four Directions Ceremony
Social Dancing
Flutist Presley Byington
Storyteller Tim Tingle

3 p.m.
Lord’s Prayer
Choctaw Social Dancing
Storyteller Tim Tingle
Soloist Brad Joe