A veil of smoke carrying the fragrance of cedar, tobacco, sweet grass and sage wafted through the air as American Indians wearing colorful leather, feathers and beads danced to a pounding drumbeat.
A crowd of more than 50 people watched as the dancers shared their culture at Saturday's Cherokee Trail Festival at Cayce's Riverwalk Park. The festival, in its seventh year, is hosted by the Circle of Native Americans, a group of people from various tribes who come together to teach others about American Indian history and culture, said Susan Little of Elgin, who helped organize the event.
The festival always is held on the weekend before Thanksgiving, a time when many Americans are thinking about the relationship between American Indians and the white people who came to this continent hundreds of years ago.
"Our heritage and culture has been lost for so many years," said Little, who is part of the Stockbridge Munsee Band of the Mohicans. "If we don't teach it, it will be lost forever."
Little kicked off the festival by leading children in a friendship dance. They held hands in a circle and bobbed to the drumbeat. Later, she spread candy on the ground, and children scrambled for the treats after completing their moves.
Throughout the day, people representing different tribes showcased their native regalia, dances, music and other traditions. The Rev. Craig Talbot, a Waccamaw holy man, led people in a prayer ritual as tendrils of smoke rose from his spirit circle.
Roy "Spotted Eagle" Glass, a Cherokee, played his flute. Absaroke Crow of Burlington, N.C., wore an outfit decorated with blue beads, feathers and bells as he performed the Prairie Chicken Dance.
And Karen Swearingen of Aiken performed a Jingle Dress Dance, which is a dance of healing from the Ojibwa tribe. The red and yellow dress made a delightful tinkling from the hundreds of metal snuff can lids woven into the fabric. The Ojibwa tribe mostly lived in the northwestern part of the United States, so she enjoys performing in an area where few people have seen it.
The dance, she said, is a calling.
"I prayed about it," Swearingen said. "The Lord said, 'You've got two good feet, and you've got two good ankles.' "
Visitors to the festival also shopped at booths selling dream catchers, jewelry, leather goods and books about American Indian culture and history.
Tabitha Heron of Lexington brought her two sons and two nieces to the festival. After all, it was a gorgeous sunny day to get out of the house.
Heron said she wanted to bring the children because it was free entertainment for them.
"I'm fascinated with Indians," she said. "To me, the white man has done the Indians worse than we've done anybody. But it didn't matter what we did. They still did things their way anyway."