Enterprise down nearly any twisting main street in Atlanta, and likelihood is you might be touring down a pathway initially carved out by the unique residents of the land it sits on — the Native American Muscogee nation. Whereas most of the tribe’s historic names stay — Chattahoochee, Coosa, Etowah, Coweta and lots of others — the Muscogee folks suffered an ethnic cleaning from White settlers in Georgia. Those who weren’t killed had been compelled to depart their homeland within the 1830s and marched by the army to Oklahoma.
A powerful effort to make the ties with Atlanta’s Indigenous previous, current and future extra seen and tangible — and to focus on some top-of-their-field artists within the course of — will likely be entrance and middle at this weekend’s first-ever First Voices Pageant in Little 5 Factors.
The inaugural full-day occasion on Saturday, co-produced by 7 Phases, Little 5 Factors Enterprise Affiliation, Turtle Island Buying and selling and Zintkala Zi Powwow, will have fun the wealthy cultural heritage and present-day craft mastery of Indigenous artists from across the nation. The pageant may also current a uncommon Intown alternative for audiences to witness and take part in an genuine powwow, a ceremony and communal gathering that goes again generations and — though it has many variations and has developed over time — typically combines dance, rhythm, storytelling and costuming.
The First Voices Pageant begins Saturday with the powwow on the Little 5 Factors Soccer Area from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m.
Further occasions embody the “Artwork of Activism Meal & Dialogue” on the Wrecking Bar Saturday night, with particular visitor William Harjo, a flute maker and Muscogee elder, and meals offered by Three Sisters Soulfood.
The First Voices Pageant will cap off with a efficiency at 7 Phases by visiting musicians (and husband/spouse workforce) Shelley Morningsong, a famend singer/songwriter and flute participant who comes from a Northern Cheyenne and Scandinavian background, and Fabian Fontenelle, who’s Zuni/Omaha and an authentic member of the American Indian Dance Theatre.
Forward of the massive day, ArtsATL chatted with co-organizer Carmen Halagahu of Turtle Island Buying and selling in Little 5 Factors about how the occasion got here collectively and what to anticipate from the multi-faceted (and multi-fascinating) event.
ArtsATL: Why is an occasion just like the First Voices Pageant necessary, particularly in Atlanta?
Carmen Halagahu: It’s difficult in Georgia as a result of there are not any federally acknowledged tribes right here. It’s arduous if you stay in a neighborhood with out a lot illustration. Somewhere else within the U.S., it isn’t like that in any respect. I’m touring in New Mexico and Arizona, and there are Indigenous folks in every single place I am going.
That mentioned, Atlanta attracts Indigenous folks the best way it attracts anybody. Folks migrate to Atlanta for numerous causes. And there are traces of the unique peoples nonetheless right here. You will discover that within the title of locations just like the Chattahoochee, which comes from the Muskogee language. There are lots of underlying structural elements that folks don’t understand had been initially created by the primary folks dwelling right here as a result of there’s an enormous amnesia about it.
One of many goals of forming this cultural pageant is to lift consciousness and start that dialogue to say Indigenous individuals are nonetheless right here. In some methods, your life continues to be influenced by what they created earlier than your ancestors moved right here. Go searching, and also you is likely to be shocked.
ArtsATL: What drew you to Atlanta initially, and the way did you turn out to be a co-owner of Turtle Island Buying and selling?
Halagahu: I grew up in northwestern Wisconsin and migrated right here a very long time in the past after I was a lot youthful. I’m happy to have been capable of develop with this metropolis. I labored in company America; then I retired, and the chance to purchase (Turtle Island Buying and selling) simply got here out of the blue in April 2021. We promote primarily handcrafted jewellery made by artisans from Indigenous nations. Every bit has its personal fashion.
ArtsATL: How did you curate the assorted artists featured on this pageant?
Halagahu: Like every group of individuals, many cultural expressions exist. So the way to decide? The one factor that we wished was to ensure that the Indigenous voice was on the middle of that planning. My enterprise companion’s brother is Buffalo Yellowbird, who’s organizing the powwow. The apparent first name was, “Hey, how would you wish to carry a powwow to Atlanta?”
ArtsATL: What are you able to inform me concerning the First Voices Pageant powwow — particularly for Atlanta audiences, a lot of whom might not have had an opportunity to attend one earlier than? What are some issues that folks might not understand about it?
Halagahu: The unique powwow was an exercise the place all these folks from completely different nations gathered collectively. You possibly can consider it as a household reunion or convention.
The drum represents the heartbeat of all the things and leads all the things, together with the dancing. It units the tempo. As a result of this was traditionally a gathering of many alternative folks of all completely different tribal nations, the singers didn’t sing in anyone language however as a substitute made sounds, so nobody felt excluded. In order that’s one facet from the way-back instances.
Then the dances are designed to inform tales. You don’t have to make use of your language, once more, however as a substitute, use your physique language and motion. So, all of the storytelling and spreading of reports would happen over motion and sounds. That’s initially that’s the way it began.
Later, Buffalo Invoice sort of put his spin on it along with his Wild West Present. That was how the powwow got here into the (wider) American consciousness.
ArtsATL: How do you steadiness that newer demonstrative/performative facet of powwows with the unique, extra historic intention of being a participatory, totally interactive neighborhood occasion?
Halagahu: On this powwow, we will do each issues. The powwow will unfold with intertribal moments, after which it is going to open to anybody from the viewers to come back into the circle and dance. Then there are additionally social dances, just like the Spherical Dance, the place everybody comes collectively no matter what band, clan or tribe you’re a part of.
ArtsATL: What are you personally most enthusiastic about forward of Saturday?
Halagahu: There are a lot of threads woven into this ball of pleasure in my abdomen. First, I’m excited for the Indigenous folks, who themselves haven’t had this type of alternative to show their craft and their magnificence and their tradition in Atlanta. I’m excited to have the ability to have a hand in making that doable. That’s so significant, and we’re so grateful to 7 Phases. Then I’m enthusiastic about all of the enjoyable we’re going to have. Powwows are designed to be enjoyable. That’s the primary factor we wish: for folks to have an excellent time.
Alexis Hauk is a member of the American Theatre Critics Affiliation. She has written and edited for quite a few newspapers, alt-weeklies, commerce publications and nationwide magazines together with Time, the Atlantic, Psychological Floss, Uproxx and Washingtonian