Dancing, canoe carving highlight of Va. Indian heritage festival

As the drums sound, dancers dressed in traditional costumes perform for the more than 200 person crowd craning to see along the Potomac River Saturday.

GREAT FALLS, Va. – As the drums sounded, dancers dressed in traditional costumes performed for a crowd of more than 200 people all craning to see along the Potomac River Saturday.

It was part of a seven-nation celebration in Riverbend Park for the 16th annual Virginia Indian Festival.

The performance by the Rappahannock tribe dancers was made up of both heritage dances like the welcome dance and social dances like the snake dance.

“They can understand and feel the dances, instead of just sitting there watching us do them,” says Judy Fortune who leads the dance troupe.

Native Americans from the Monacan Nation and the Chicakahominy, Mattaponi, Pamukey, Rappahannock, Tauxenent and Upper Mattaponi tribes took part in the celebration.

Visitors could see how a tree log is slowly carved and charred into a canoe. Kids could learn to shoot a bow and arrow, work with flint and construct a tee-pee and learn the technique of softening and conditioning hides.

Richard Shumann brought his kids back this year for the festival knowing the educational opportunity it provides.

“It was a lot of fun for the kids. There’s a lot of things to do with the dancing, shooting the bows and arrows, and learning about Native American culture,” Shumann says.