5 Civilized Tribes join Fort Smith’s bicentennial
Visitors and citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes join in a ceremonial dance during a Fort Smith (Arkansas) bicentennial celebration on March 3 in the city’s convention center. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
FORT SMITH, Ark. – The Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations, also known as the Five Civilized Tribes, participated in celebrating Fort Smith’s bicentennial on March 3 at the city’s convention center.
Cultural activities included dances, singing, demonstrations in ancient weaponry and artwork, as well as the showing of traditional clothing, basketry, pottery and paintings.
Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Director Travis Owens said some Cherokee artists who partook in the commemoration were painter Tana Washington, potter Crystal Hanna, textiles artist Lisa Rutherford, sculptor Matt Girty and Cherokee National Treasure Tommy Wildcat.
“In addition to the artists who are here to tell about history and culture, we actually brought some of our programs,” said Owens. “Specifically our ‘Visit Cherokee Nation’ group are encouraging visitors to not only learn about our culture here in Fort Smith but to come to Cherokee Nation and visit us there as well.”
Tribal Councilors Janees Taylor and Joe Byrd also attended, as well as other tribal dignitaries and ambassadors.
“Cherokee Nation has had a strong presence here today,” Byrd said. “I spoke this morning and gave the mayor a seal of the Cherokee Nation before introducing the Cherokee Nation Youth Choir who sang our national anthem.”
Seminole Nation Tribal Band Chief Rodney Factor spoke about the Seminole Nation’s history in Fort Smith. “Well, it’s a historical place for us. A lot of our people came through here during the removal period. Also, a federal court was established here that our people were subjected to. And, we were also gathered here in 1865 to sign a peace treaty after the Civil War.”
Jim Perry, Fort Smith Bicentennial Arts and Culture Committee chairman, said he was pleased with the attendance.
“We felt it was significant to invite the Five Civilized Tribes to Fort Smith to help share their culture, their lives and history with Fort Smith because they’ve had such a great influence over this part of the country,” he said. “This is the first time, as far as I understand it, that the five tribes have come together at this kind of celebration and cultural event. As a result of that, the goodwill, the camaraderie, the atmosphere and the joy or the celebration has really taken hold. People here are very excited about this, and there has been talk that we need to do this more often.”