By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Attendance at the Tupelo Buffalo Park’s eighth annual White Buffalo Powwow was bolstered this year by the appearance of two stars of television’s Swamp People.
Many attended the ritual dancing event to get an autograph from Swamp People’s RJ and Jay Paul but stayed for Native Americans performing in full tribal regalia.
“The turnout this year is absolutely unbelievable,” said Buffalo Park co-owner Sheila Franklin.
A line for autographs wrapped completely around the interior wall of Tupelo Furniture Market’s Building V and as it grew shorter, the crowd of onlookers around the dancers’ sacred circle grew.
“This event we do every year helps the Native Americans,” said Buffalo Park co-owner Dan Franklin. “It helps them make their living and give them a chance to keep their traditions alive. It’s also an event the whole family can stay together and participate in.”
Robert E. Brasher, a Cherokee and commissioner of the Alabama Indians Affairs Commission, said Saturday’s event is a great Southern event since many in Mississippi and Alabama can trace their bloodline back and find Native American ancestors.
“We have these events all over Mississippi and Alabama,” he said. “The western Indians called them powwow. Cherokees don’t have powwows, we have festivals, but white folks know it better if you say powwow.”
Dancers included people from tribes in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, representing Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and others.
Jim Thigpen, a member of the Echota Cherokee tribe, danced like a Kiowa on Saturday.
“My style of dancing is northern traditional because I have a cousin in the Kiowa tribe and they give me the right to dance the way I do,” Thigpen said.
He clothed himself in a hawk-feather headdress, a yolk made from beaver and buckskin, a decorative apron and shoes adorned with deer toes. The toes click together to when the dancers stomp their feet.