Under crystal clear, azure blue sky, the Waccamaw Indian People celebrated their heritage as South Carolina's original inhabitants today at their 26th Annual Cultural Arts Festival and Pauwau, held at their Tribal Grounds at Aynor, SC, just a few miles north of Myrtle Beach.
Young Indian children opened the pageantry dancing to the beat of a heavy drum in a large grassy circle formed by hay bales and tents for honored guests.
Then came the Grand Entry, led by flag bearers, Waccamaw indian Chief Harold "Buster" Hatcher, tribal officers, chiefs and officials from other tribes in South Carolina, and dozens of other Native American celebrants.
"We dance for the creator," said Chief Hatcher. "We dance for the earth mother. We dance for all the things that God has given us. We dance for all those people who cannot dance."
The chief reminded the hundreds of people gathered around the hallowed circle to "remember that the Indian people are your neighbors, too."
He honored America's veterans -- he, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran, and his wife, Susan, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Noting the dangers of combat and the fear facing our fighting men and women, Hatcher said, "We thank you for your service."
Then he asked them to join the procession in the circle and be honored, and they did; men and women of all ages, many elderly in wheelchairs or being assisted by family members. But they walked in the circle of honor to the beat of the Indian drums.
After the speeches, which included political leaders who have been helpful to the Waccamaws, there was more dancing, storytelling, demonstrations and a fire ceremony at the Fire Circle. Indian arts and crafts were on sale in booths that surrounded the Circle.
On Thursday and Friday, the Waccamaw Indian People held School Days for schools in surrounding counties. Teachers, students and parents heard music, asked questions about basic tribal history, heard Native American storytelling, and were able to speak with traditional dancers.
All of Saturday's activities followed a Blessing & Purification of the grounds on which the ceremonies took place, setting the tone for the day's celebration. And it all happens again on Sunday.