Ramblin' Rhodes: Lecture, festival will focus on Native American history

The earliest music heard in the Augusta area probably were the songs and chants of various tribes of American Indians who settled up and down the Savannah River.


Except for a couple of historic markers for old Indian trails and the display at the Augusta Museum of History, most people know very little about local Native American life in pre-Revolutionary War days.

There is a marker on the east wall of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, at Sixth and Reynolds streets, that tells of a historic gathering on that site in 1763 when it was Fort Augusta.

Seven hundred Native Americans of five Indian nations met with the Colonial governors of Georgia, Virginia and North and South Carolina to discuss trading rights and other things.

That, of course, was the very reason fur traders Kennedy O’Brien and Roger de Lacy in 1735 picked the same site to establish a trading post dealing with various local tribes, including the Creek, Cherokee, Choctaw, Catawba and Chickasaw.

British General James Edward Oglethorpe, the founder of the colony of Georgia, subsequently ordered the creation of Fort Augusta to further the growth of trade and keep the peace between the Native Americans and white settlers.

So it seems appropriate that right across Reynolds Street from the site of Fort Augusta will be a free talk given about Native Americans in the Savannah River Valley at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, in the second floor auditorium of the Augusta Museum of History.

Chester DePratter, an archaeologist with the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina will discuss both the major tribes and lesser-known tribes in the area such as the Westo (namesake of Augusta’s Westobou Festival), Yuchi, Apalachee and Shawnee (or Savano).

DePratter is the author of the book Late Prehistoric and Early Historic Chiefdoms in the Southeastern United States.

The talk by DePratter is a prelude to the Oka’Chaffa Indian Festival being held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park near Bush Field Airport and the New Savannah River Lock and Dam.

Admission is $12 for adults, $6 for children 6 through 12 and free for kids 5 and younger. All military veterans and active duty military with identification will be admitted free on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

There will be Native American games, arts and crafts, dances, songs, storytellers, warriors on horse back, a birds of prey demonstration and authentic food for sale as well as a Native American village.

Chipa Wolfe, part Cherokee and part French resident who directs Rolling Thunder Enterprises in Jasper, Ga., will be riding his buffalo, Thunder. Swamp life expert Okefenokee Joe also will be on hand with his nature talks.

The name Oka’Chaffa means “one water” in Chickasaw, which applies to Phinizy Swamp’s being the one water last natural cleansing that Augusta’s wastewater receives on its journey back into the Savannah River.

The Oka’Chaffa festival is expected to be the largest gathering of Native Americans in this area since an Indian Cultural Festival was held at Fort Gordon’s Engineer Field in November of 1992.

An organizer of that festival, Janice Mousseau, said of the reason for having it, “Past history has not treated them (Native Americans) well. We can’t go back and change history, but we can give them the recognition they are due and try to clear up misconceptions.”


ERYN EUBANKS’ FESTIVAL: There also will be lots of music, dances and food at the Fifth Annual Eryn Eubanks Music Festival from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Kroc Center, 1833 Broad St. Admission is $10 with kids 12 and younger admitted free. Call (706) 736-0043 or visit eryneubanks.com.


MARKING 42ND ANNIVER­SARY: Just want you to know that this week marks the 42nd anniversary of my writing this column every week. It made its debut in the Savannah (Ga.) Evening Press on Oct. 31, 1970.

Thank you, dear readers, for being along on this remarkable journalistic journey and for sharing your lives with me.