Originally created 06/13/05

Recovering tradition



Whenever American Indians are portrayed in popular culture, it's almost a guarantee they'll be on horseback.

But Pat Lokey told attentive listeners at Augusta Museum of History that tribes did not even have horses until the Spaniards conquered their villages.

"Once we got them, we made good use of them, though," the Aiken woman said. "Native Americans just would have dogs, and they pretty much used them as beasts of burden."

It was one of many bits of information Ms. Lokey provided during Sunday's Family Fun Day, which was dedicated to American Indian heritage.

Program coordinator for the Salley-based Beaver Creek Indians, Ms. Lokey took time to explain dozens of artifacts and replicas to each museum visitor who wandered in during the afternoon.

Set out on tables, the exhibit featured re-creations of bows and arrows, 15,000-year-old arrowheads, jewelry, corn husks often used to fashion moccasins and a traditional chief's headdress made with beaver fur and turkey feathers.

"We'll take all this to the schools to teach the students about our culture," she said. "We just want people to know who we are."

This is not as easy as it sounds, however.

Ms. Lokey explained that for more than a century, since the time of the Trail of Tears, American Indians have "tried to hide their identities."

"Now we're trying to recover so much of what's lost," she said, explaining that an intensive effort is going on to get South Carolina to recognize the Beaver Creek Indians. "It's not going to mean a lot of money, but it's letting people know we're around. ... We're the only people who have to prove our identities."

Also at Sunday's celebration, members of Spirit Drum Singers, an intertribal group of area residents, played traditional kiowas and poncas, while women clothed in Indian regalia bounced around in a circle, doing "fancy dances."

Chief Soars Like a Hawk, of the Cherokee Shawnee's Hawk clan, said the drum circle and accompanying singing are a form of prayer in the same way as worship songs at a church service.

"The drums are the heartbeat of Mother Earth," he said. "Absolutely everything revolves around the drumming."

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.