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Flagler's Native American Spirit

Kim Medley
Kim Medley

Wind wisps across rippling waters of Pellicer Creek, silently swirls among the tree tops, glides along Winter’s shortened blades of grass, winds its way through a wooden flute, and finally emerges as a calm, spiritually, soothing sound hearkening the return of many to a place once known as Cherokee Grove. For years, leaders worked to bring the Native American Spirit to Flagler County and they have finally succeeded. The Native American Festival is well on its way to becoming a premier event for both residents and visitors.

Beneath canopies of great oaks still laced with Spanish moss from the times of the Timucuan, men, women, and children of the great Cherokee, Cheyenne, Cree, Muskogee, Creek, and Lakota Nations returned the heart of Mother Earth to Princess Place Preserve. Guided by the beat of the drum, members of the Deep Forest Native American Experience presented the sacred Eagle dance, honored local Veterans, demonstrated the Hoop, Grass, Chicken, Fancy, and Shawl dances, offered fascinating exhibitions of tomahawk and spear throwing, archery skills, stone cooking, pottery, weaving; and, of course horses. Whiffs of roasted chicken filled the four corners throughout the day. Dream catchers not only caught glistening flashes of sunshine; they captured the imagination of young and elderly, alike. Magnificent colors spanned a panoramic view. Brilliant blues, fiery oranges, invigorating greens, twinkling yellows, ruby reds, warm browns, and royal purples came to life in dances, woven fabrics, decorated pottery, hand-strewn jewelry, and painted faces. Songs and dance paid homage to our flag, those who served, mothers of those who served, and our Earth. Spring was welcomed with the Shawl Dance, often called the Butterfly Dance.

Historical perspectives were offered throughout the day. Imagine roasting a chicken over an open fire! Bread and corn cooked to perfection using stones. Images of the tomahawk, spear, archer’s arrow, and painted ponies brought to mind a time in Florida’s history where skills with each were not only mastered; they were necessary. Stories were offered throughout each of the many dances. Through the use of many, brightly colored hoops, a future hoop dancing champion, Cody Boetner, dazzled onlookers as he symbolized the circle of life by forming vibrant and interesting shapes representing significant Native American symbols, animals, and stories, one hoop after another. One of the oldest dances, the Chicken Dance, comes from the Blackfoot Nation and is meant to embody the prairie chicken in the spring. The fastest moving dance, known as the Fancy Dance or Bustle Dance, is easily recognizable. It is performed by young men, who, along with their twin bustled costumes, adorned with brightly colored fringe, symbolizing the rainbow, rely on their strength and stamina to keep pace with the ever increasing pulse of Mother Earth.

Perhaps the most welcomed event of the day was the simple opportunity to unplug. Whether folks visited for an hour, or remained for the full calendar of events, a revival of a spirit not felt in many years returned to Cherokee Grove, now Prince Place Preserve, and Flagler County. Ancestral calls, silenced for far too long, are now loud and full of life and a part of the fabric that makes Flagler County a uniquely Florida destination. The inaugural event, although long anticipated, was well worth the wait, and should be included with anyone’s itinerary.

Event:                          Native American Festival

Host Group:                Deep Forest Native American Experience

Presented by:              Flagler County Board of County Commissioners

Date:                           Last Weekend of February (please check for future events)

Event Time:                 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday – 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, Sunday

Park & Camping:        Princess Place Preserve