to the Trail of Tears to be Site for
Native American Cultural Arts Celebration
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (June 13, 2001) - The plaza that surrounds
the Tennessee Aquarium is said to be one of the sites where
the Trail of Tears began in 1838, when thousands of Cherokee
and Creek men, women and children were rounded up at gunpoint
by American soldiers, held in stockades and herded into flatboats
at Ross's Landing. The forced march to Oklahoma led to the loss
of more than a fourth of the Native Americans on the trail.
But this summer, the plaza will be the site for a Native American
celebration, rather than sorrow, when it comes alive in a new
way with traditional Native American music, dance, storytelling
and folk art every day from June 30 to July 29.
"Nature is the center of the Native American culture," said
Betty Miles, Aquarium member program coordinator and organizer
of the month-long event. "We want visitors to enjoy the connection
between the Aquarium's environmental story and the rich traditional
art of the indigenous peoples of the Southeast.
" Authentic Native American cultural artists from the indigenous
tribes of the Southeast -- Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Choctaw
and Seminole -- will be featured.
Artists will tie Native American ideology to the environment
by depicting elements of the natural world in their art. Each
weekend will feature performances by dance troupes from all
the southeastern tribes. Storytellers will weave traditional
tales incorporating nature and the history of the native peoples.
Craftsmen will use natural materials and wildlife images to
make baskets, masks, musical instruments, jewelry and other
"Many of the plants and animals on exhibit in the Aquarium are
integral to traditional Native American art of the southeastern
tribes," says Miles. "So, inside the Aquarium, our docents will
inform visitors about the folklore and uses of animals and plants
in Native American cultures."
In addition to the cultural offerings on the plaza, the plaza
itself and the exterior walls of the Aquarium building pay special
tribute to the river's history. There are 53 bas-relief medallions
that encircle the building, relates Miles. The medallions follow
a linear timeline, beginning with the myths, rituals and lifestyles
of the Cherokee Indians and -more- progressing through time.
The medallions cover a wide range of themes including: the life
and time of the Cherokee Indians; the arrival of the Europeans;
the coming of new settlers; changes in the river and land; displacement
of the Native Americans; growth of industry and transportation;
problems that arose from overuse and misuse of natural resources;
and the river's present and future status.
"The Aquarium does a magnificent job of recreating lifelike
habitats that illustrate the complex and wonderful relationships
among wild plants and animals, and I think the Native American
cultural arts celebration will commemorate mankind's connection
with the natural world through rich, traditional arts," says
The Chattanooga Indigenous
Resource Center and Library (CIRCL) board of directors is
helping Aquarium organizers maintain the quality and authenticity
of the Native American performers and artisans.
"The plaza of the Aquarium will be an excellent public forum
for the modern people of the region to become acquainted with
the arts and talents of the original people," said Vicky Karhu,
CIRCL director. "We foresee this being a world-class event and
a landmark collaborative effort. It will be something of which
we can all be proud."
CIRCL is a non-profit organization established to promote awareness,
protection, appreciation and preservation of the history, culture
and contemporary contributions of the indigenous peoples of
the southeastern United States through community involvement,
education and cultural exchange programs.
Tennessee Aquarium's Native American Celebration is supported
in part by a grant from the Tennessee
For more information, call 1-800-262-0695. Plaza activities
are free of charge and open to the public.
Native American Celebration
Photos & Cutlines
Native American Satellite Announcement
Native American Celebration Calendar
Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is the largest freshwater
aquarium in the world. Built with private contributions, this
non-profit educational organization is dedicated to the understanding,
conservation and celebration of aquatic habitats. Admission
is $12.95 per adult and $6.95 per child, ages 3-12. Advance
tickets may be purchased online at www.tnaqua.org or by phone
at 1-800-262-0695. Members enjoy unlimited visits and other
benefits. To join or for program and trip information, call
267-FISH. The Aquarium is open every day except Thanksgiving
and Christmas and is accessible to people with disabilities.