Celebrating Mississippi’s Native American Heritage – The Oxford Eagle

Mississippi, once home to a wider variety of native tribes than any other southeastern state, celebrates its Native American heritage July 13-16 for the 72nd Annual Choctaw Indian Fair. The fair takes place on their centuries-old homeland in beautiful Choctaw, Mississippi. They come together every July to celebrate their heritage and share their beautiful and vibrant culture with friends and neighbors. The theme for this year’s fair is “The Choctaw Spirit Lives On.”

Fair goers will experience the magnificent journey of the Choctaw people through historical and cultural exhibits, social dancing, tribal arts and crafts, Choctaw stickball – the ancestor of all field sports – as well as the Princess Show Indian Choctaw and traditional Choctaw food. The fair also features carnival rides and games for young and old, the Shawi Discovery Zone, and chart-topping musical performances each evening.

Although many people know of places throughout the state that bear Native American names — including Yalobusha, Itawamba, and Mississippi itself — few realize how many Indigenous peoples call Mississippi their home. Until the 1700s, local tribes included the Acolapissa, Biloxi, and Pascagoula tribes on the Gulf Coast; the Bayougoula, Houma, and Natchez tribes in the lower Mississippi; and the Chakchiuma, Ibitoupa, Koroa, Ofogoula, Taposa, Tiou, Tunica, and Yazoo tribes on the Yazoo River in the Mississippi Delta. The first Mississippians were the Choctaw, who date back to the early 1500s. The Choctaw were by far the most populous and remain so to this day.

Visitors to the area can immerse themselves in Choctaw culture by stopping at the Choctaw Heritage Museum or attending the annual Choctaw Indian Fair. This regionally renowned event hosts the World Champion Stickball Games and includes a celebration of tribal music, crafts and traditions.

If you want to come face-to-face with the most impressive monuments of the ancient past, plan a Mississippi Mound Sites Tour, featuring well-preserved Native American mounds built from earth. These mounds were the centers of daily and spiritual life, and you can find remnant sites across the state. Among the most visited are Winterville Mound, located in Greenville, and Pocahontas Mound A, located north of Jackson.

Recently, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History celebrated the groundbreaking of the Mississippi Mound Trail. Stretching from Desoto County to Wilkinson County and following the Highway 61 corridor, the trail will highlight earthworks constructed at thirty-three sites. Four sites—Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, Pocahontas Rest Area and Welcome Center, Winterville Mounds, and Emerald Mound on the Natchez Trace Parkway—are state or federally operated and open to the public. Visitors are invited to wander among the mounds and learn more from interpretive panels and exhibits. All are free. This article is courtesy of VisitMississippi.com.

Gene Hays is an author and historian, and a retired sailor, with books on Amazon.com.

About Edward Weddle

Check Also

Farmers markets, local Brunswick County farms open for the season

If you don’t have a green hand or fingers, but love fresh, ripe fruits and …