Native American Festival Draws crowds despite rain


Between twenty and twenty-five different tribes participated in the fifth annual Native American Festival celebrated Feb. 3 and 4, 2018. The event was held at Florida Classic Park. Participants traveled from all over the United States, Canada and even from as far away as South America and Mexico.

Paul DeLuna, one of the organizers of the festival, is of Apache heritage and hails from South Texas. He's a skilled artist who uses oil, acrylic and graphite pencil to create his artwork.

Paul stated, “Our goal is to help promote Native culture and help give the public a true understanding of Native American life today.”

These festivals which take place year around all over the United States also give Native artists and entertainers an opportunity to earn a living doing what they love.

José Lus Hernandez, an Aztec jewelry-maker came all the way from Mexico City to sell his beautiful creations. Luis and Rose Salinas are also Aztecs, although she was born in the United States. The three are part of the Nahui Ollin Aztec Fire Dancers.

Rose remarked, “We pass our traditions down from generation to generation. We want to share the Aztec culture with others.”

Those who attended the festival enjoyed a variety of entertainment, including traditional and contemporary dancing, drumming and singing. Vendors sold native foods, such as fry bread and buffalo burgers. There was also a wide assortment of authentic Native American crafts and artwork for sale. These included leather goods, flutes, jewelry and paintings.

Each of the dances had a purpose and a meaning in native culture. For example, the Duck and Dive Dance is a war dance performed by men, accompanied by drummers. The staccato beats represent the cannon and gun fire of battle. The Healing Dance was a way to help cure the sick.

Lowery Begaye, a Navajo, explained, “Because there was no modern medicine, the tribes had special gatherings for this purpose. The Native Americans relied on faith, prayer and spirituality. It was the prayers going to the Creator, not the dance or the dancer that healed the sick.”

Some dances, such as the Fancy Shawl Dance are performed exclusively by women. This is an example of a more modern dance.

The Native American attire is very colorful and each part of the outfit has a significance. For example, the Jingle Dress has 365 cones sewn on it to represent the days of the year and four horns to represent the four directions – north, south, east and west. As the woman sewed on each piece she would say a prayer. Originally, they used natural materials, but when trade with the white man came about, the cones were replaced by lids from snuff tins. The lids were rolled into a cone shape and the metal would make the distinctive jingling sounds you hear as the woman dances - hence the name “jingle dress.”

DeLuna estimates that between 7,000 and 7,500 people attended this year's Native American Festival, despite rain on Sunday. The crafts people did a lively business and the food vendors were popular, as evidenced by the long lines.

For 9-year-old Roxy Domagtoy this was her first time at the festival. She and her mother had come from St. Petersburg for the event. Roxy showed off the dream catcher and friendship bracelets she had purchased.

Roxy remarked, “I liked the crafts, the dances and the music. I'll absolutely come back next year.”

To find out more about the festival go to You can like their facebook page: to see photos and keep up-to-date on next year's schedule.

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