Folkmoot celebrates Smoky Mountain culture, too!

Folkmoot celebrates Smoky Mountain culture, too!

Folkmoot celebrates Smoky Mountain culture, too!

Along with culture and musical and dance traditions from around the world, Folkmoot takes pride in and likes to also celebrate the unique culture of our own Smoky Mountains, part of the greater Blue Ridge, the land once known to our native people as Shaconage, the land of the blue smoke.

Along with dance troupes representing the Angl0-Appalachian traditions of dance and music, handed down from the 17th and 18th Century immigrants from the British Isles, our own mountain native people, Tsalagi or Cherokee – our region’s First Nation, play a prominent role in each Folkmoot Festival.

Folkmoot 2018 opens Thursday and runs through July 29 and will feature performing dance troupes from Ghana, Italy, Czech Republic, Mexico, Thailland and Northern Cyprus and Venezuela as well as Anglo Appalachian and, as always, Cherokee dancers and musicians. 

Ticket packages and tickets for individual performances are available here.

Folkmoot celebrates Smoky Mountain culture, too!Once here for the festival we invited you to stay awhile and enjoy all our beautiful region has to offer.

The entire Folkmoot Festival with travel July 24 to the town of Cherokee to celebrate for a major celebration, which will include the gift of a special dance from one of our visiting dance troupes, which also includes First Nations people, to the leadership of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

And one of the more subtle ways in which Folkmoot honors and celebrates our Cherokee friends is something you’ll find hanging around the necks of Folkmoot staff & volunteer festival credentials: specifically designed and hand-beaded lanyards crafted especially for Folkmoot by the festivals’ Cherokee Coordinator Lisa Wilnoty.

Lisa began making the lanyards for the 2016 festival and something of a “new tradition” appears to have been born. She has continued to make more lanyards each year since.

Her journey into lanyard making began just over four years ago when she decided to pursue her passion for traditional Cherokee crafts. Her husband, Freddy Wilnoty II, showed her the basics and from there she began creating her own designs.

When designing these beautifully beaded lanyards, she incorporates an array of colors, especially watercolors to be used as a representation for how water gives and sustains life. 

Many of the guides and staff look at these hand-beaded lanyards as a symbol of Folkmoot, a unique keepsake of all the wonderful memories from the festival. They all recognize the hard work that Lisa puts into making these special gifts. It is humbling to receive one and an honor. 

 “The lanyard represents a sense of unity,” said Festival Guide Gracie Feichter. “All of the colors blend beautifully together, much like we do in our own world. Even though the pattern of beading on each lanyard is different, it symbolizes how we are able to create something beautiful if we work together.”

A Métis dance for the Cherokee people

A Métis dance for the Cherokee people

Métis dance for the Cherokee people will be a featured cultural exchange July 24 when Folkmoot 2018 takes our international dancers to visit our Western Carolina First Nation residents

At least 10 members of our visiting Le Ragazze Italiane dance troupe of Canada, as it turns out, are also members of the Canadian Métis (pronounced, “maytee”) First Nation people. 

A Métis dance for the Cherokee peopleTo honor their visit to Cherokee the Métis members of Le Ragazze will dance a, “thank you,” for Cherokee Principal Chief Richard Sneed and Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley. The dance, one of the most famous Métis dances is, “La Gigue de la Rivière-Rouge,” or as it is known in Michif, “oayache mannin,” or in English, “The Red River Jig.”

Its accompanying fiddle tune is considered an unofficial Métis anthem. The dance is a combination of Plains First Nations footwork with Scottish, Irish and French-Canadian dance forms. The basic jig step is danced in most Métis communities. Dancers often add their own solo dance steps during certain segments of the tune. Some dancers even use solo steps to identify their home community.

The dance and exchange between our Canadian Métis friends and our Cherokee friends is sure to be a highlight of Cultural Ambassador Day in Cherokee, July 24

Folkmoot 2018 opens July 19 and runs through July 29 and will feature performing dance troupes from Ghana, Italy, Czech Republic, Mexico, Thailland and Northern Cyprus and Venezuela as well as Anglo Appalachian and, as always, Cherokee dancers and musicians. 

Ticket packages and tickets for individual performances are available here.

The Red River Jig finds its origins in the Red River Settlement (Winnipeg). One dance origin story explains how the Scottish lived on one side of the river, and the French Canadians and Métis lived on the other. The Scots played bagpipes on the one side of the river, while the people on the other side listened. Then one night a man decided to imitate the bagpipes with his fiddle, turning what was a lament into a rollicking jig that made everyone want to dance.

A short history of the Métis

The advent of the fur trade in west central North America during the 18th century was accompanied by a growing number of mixed  offspring of Aboriginal women and European fur traders.  

As this population established distinct communities separate from those of  First Nations and Europeans and married among themselves, a new Aboriginal people emerged  – the Métis people – with their own unique culture, traditions, language (Michif – a derivative of French and Oji-Cree), way of life, collective consciousness and nationhood.

Distinct Métis communities developed  along the routes of the fur trade and across the Northwest within the Métis Nation homeland. This homeland includes the three Prairie provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta), as well as parts of  the Northern United States.

Today, many of these historic Métis communities continue to exist along  rivers and lakes where forts and posts were hubs of fur trade activity from Ontario westward. As well, large numbers of Métis citizens now live in urban centres within the Métis Nation Homeland; however, even within these larger populations, well-defined Métis communities exist.

Consistently throughout history, the Métis people have acted collectively to protect and fight for their rights, lands and ongoing existence as a distinct Aboriginal people and nation within the Canadian federation –from the Métis provisional governments of Riel in Manitoba (1869-70) and Saskatchewan (1885) to contemporary Métis governing bodies. This dedication continues to exist as citizens and communities throughout the Métis Nation Homeland  keep the nation’s distinct culture, traditions, language and lifestyle alive and pursue their own social and economic development. 40,000 people in the city of Winnipeg identify as Métis. For the most part, their first language is French.

The Red River Jig:

Cherokee people strengthen ties with Folkmoot

Cherokee people strengthen ties with Folkmoot

The Cherokee people strengthen ties with Folkmoot through the award of a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.

The grant, announced May 7th, is part of a long-standing relationship between Folkmoot and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian.

In addition to bringing to Western North Carolina folk dancing troupes and slices of culture from around the world, Folkmoot also strives to promote our own region’s  rich cultural heritage and no regional cultural heritage shines brighter – nor with more history or value – than that of the Cherokee people, the Tsalagi.

“Folkmoot is grateful for Cherokee community partnerships which lead to cultural understanding and for the technical assistance provided by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation which makes Folkmoot a stronger organization,” said Folkmoot Executive Director Angeline Schwab. “Cherokee heritage and history is vitally important in our region. We look forward to many years of partnership.”

Cherokee dancers are an integral and celebrated part of the Folkmoot Festival each July and always among the most popular dance troupes to perform each year. Folkmoot also participates in and hosts events throughout the remainder of the year celebrating Cherokee culture and history.

Folkmoot 2018 opens July 19 and runs through July 29 and will feature performing dance troupes from Ghana, Italy, Czech Republic, Mexico, Thailland and Northern Cyprus and Venezuela as well as Anglo Appalachian and, as always, Cherokee dancers and musicians. 

Ticket packages and tickets for individual performances are available here.

The Folkmoot grant was one of 20 individual grants announced Monday by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. The grants are awarded to partners which “meet the Foundation’s mission of improving the quality of life for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indian (EBCI) and the surrounding region,” according to the Foundation.

The complete list of Foundation grantees is published in the Cherokee One Feather, a link to which is here.

In the past decade, the Foundation has handed out over $166 million in grants and awards. It received in February the award for Outstanding Foundation Award from the Association of Fund-Raising Professionals.

The Cherokee Preservation Foundation’s full mission is to “preserve our native culture, protect and enhance our natural environment, and create appropriate and diverse economic opportunities in order to improve the quality of life for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and our neighbors in western North Carolina.

Enjoy this short video of Cherokee dancers teaching Folkmoot performance patrons a traditional Cherokee dance:

Cherokee Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe passes on

Cherokee Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe passes on

The Cherokee people, the State of North Carolina, the nation and, indeed, the world is mourning today as Cherokee Beloved Man Jerry Wolfe passes on.

Folkmoot lost a cherished friend, mentor, adviser in his death and the Tsalagi people lost a hero, historian, story-teller, grandfather figure to all and one of its national treasures – the first formally named Beloved Man since the 1800s.

Wolfe’s passing was announced last night in a Facebook post by the Cherokee One Feather. UPDATE: His obituary and information on services have been published in the One Feather.

Cherokee leader and Folkmoot friend, Lisa Spring Wilnoty eulogized Wolfe in a Facebook post of her own last night.

Folkmoot was honored, just last summer, to participate in a surprise ceremony for Wolfe during which he was awarded North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Jerry Wolfe honored in the summer of 2017 with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. (Photos by Holly Kays of the Smoky Mountain News).

An extraordinary person by any measure, Wolfe’s decades of self-sacrifice and hard work on behalf of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will place him in the pantheon of greatest Cherokee legends and American heroes. 

Although there are and have been Beloved Women in Tsalagi tradition, Wolfe was the ribe’s first Beloved Man in nearly 200 years.

Raised in Cherokee, Wolfe grew up learning traditional Cherokee customs, attended a Cherokee boarding school and then enlisted in the U.S. Navy during WWII. Six years later, he returned to Cherokee, married, and began learning building trades including stone masonry, which he taught for twenty years with the federal Job Corps Program.

Upon retirement, he traveled with mission teams to third world countries and participated in building projects.  

Wolfe, who was fluent in the Cherokee language, spent much of his time in recent years telling tales at the Cherokee Museum, where both traditional Cherokee stories and personal stories serve as a means by which to preserve and share Cherokee culture.

“We’re honored and thrilled that this experience is part of the 2017 Folkmoot Festival,” said Angie Schwab, Folkmoot’s Executive Director at the summer 2017 ceremony honoring Wolfe. “Our mission as an organization is aligned with that of the Cherokee which is the promotion of community across cultures.”

Since its creation in 1963, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine has been presented by N.C.’s Governor to honor persons who have a proven record of service to the State of North Carolina and their communities. Past recipients are Andy Griffith, Billy Graham, Maya Angelou, Earl Scruggs, Kenny Rogers, Oprah Winfrey, Balsam Range banjo maestro Dr. Marc Pruett and, recently, Brenda O’Keefe of Joey’s Pancake House in Maggie Valley.

Wolfe was recognized by many organizations and received many honors over the years for his cultural knowledge. In 2003, he received the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award and in 2010, he received the Brown-Hudson Folklore Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society. He has been a Beloved Man since 2015 – but in reality, probably for much, much longer.