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Celebratory dance Native American dancers perform for a crowd Saturday night during the Cherokee Heritage Celebration at the Gainesville Civic Center.Celebratory dance Native American dancers perform for a crowd Saturday night during the Cherokee Heritage Celebration at the Gainesville Civic Center.

By DELANIA TRIGG

Register Staff Writer

Members of several American Indian tribes were on hand Saturday for Cherokee Heritage Day at the Gainesville Civic Center.

The event gave visitors the chance to see Indian artwork, animals pelts, native dancing, storytelling, food and music.

A highlight of the pow wow was a check presentation for Murrow Indian Children’s Home in Muskogee, Okla.

The home was apparently in bad financial shape last December according to director Joan Brown. So bad, in fact, that officials with the facility were afraid they might have to close it.

“We were struggling,” Brown said.

Help came from a Texas couple, Jackie and Doug Walp, who began to get the word out to members of the Indian community and other volunteers. Then, organizers for the pow wow learned that the Wal-Mart corporation was going to make a donation to the home during the event.

The donation was thought to be $1,000, but officials at the home were surprised— and pleased, Brown said — to find the corporation was actually increasing the amount of the donation to $5,000.

In addition to the corporate donation, visitors also donated a large carton full of shampoo and other toiletry items, two pickup loads of food, and three big boxes of story books for younger Murrow residents.

One woman donated an envelope containing five retail gift cards.

“We also got, I don’t know how many pairs of shoes,” Walp said. “There were shoes everywhere.”

The Murrow Indian Children’s Home has been operating for over a hundred years, Brown said. Murrow provides shelter and education for Indian children, most of whom have either an incarcerated parent or a family life disrupted by alcoholism or substance abuse. Many come to the home as groups of siblings.

The organization tries to keep siblings together whenever possible.

“We take in children from all tribes, in all of Oklahoma,” Brown said.

“Seventy-five percent of our income is from churches and individuals. The support we got was just amazing,” she said.

A group of children arrived in two vans to attend the event Saturday evening.

“They just had a wonderful time. There were eight older children, teens, and one younger boy. The group treated them so well. They even had a special dance for them. A face painting vendor painted their faces for free and (Native American clothing and accessory) vendor, Kim Taylor, dressed one of our girls, Tiffany, so she could dance in one of the dances.”

The event was also a celebration of American Indian art and dance.

Artist Arnulfo Pena and his wife Victoria brought some original paintings as well as prints.

In a previous interview Arnulfo — who goes by Arty — said he likes to attend events such as Saturday’s pow wow.

“I’m getting to the point where I have become an elder in the community,” he remarked. “I can get advice out through my paintings,” he said.

Pena and other members of the Indian Color Guard arrived wearing their organization’s uniforms.

The Vietnam veteran also said he derives inspiration from his experiences as a soldier.

Walp said she thinks the cool April weather may have put a damper on things, but she was pleased with turn out for the event.

“It went great,” she said, adding that another group of school children also visited the event.

“We had a school group show up from Kingston, Okla who came in and stayed a while,” she said.

“We’ll probably put one on again in Gainesville,” she said.

Walp said she and other organizers including her husband, Doug, want to express appreciation for everyone who came to the celebration and for all the generous donations both to the schools and to community elders who received food baskets during the event.

Brown said the pow wow has the potential to outgrow the civic center.

Many of the dancers wore elaborate costumes. Some of the men dressed as animals with dyed pelts, horned headgear and body painting while most of the women and girls wore handmade long dresses and brightly-colored shawls with fringe. The shawls are made so that their fringed edges catch the light as the dancers move in circles around a group of Native American musicians.

A nine-year-old Rosston girl, Kirsten Trigg, watching the display was mesmerized by the music and the dancers.

“This is great. I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said.

Reporter Delania Trigg may be

contacted at dtrigg@ntin.net

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