The sound of children’s laughter and balls reverberating off of a gym floor could be heard as members of the Auburn community were invited on Thursday to look at the Native American Art Museum filled with arts and crafts inspired by Native American culture and made by children of the Boys and Girls Club.
Tables were set up in the rooms beside the Boykin Center Gymnasium, each one covered with a different art project from the groups of participating children while the calming songs of Native American flutes and drums played in the background accompanied by the natural sounds of rain and flowing streams.
Foot tall tee pees made of paper cones, decorated with multi-colored crayon patterns and held aloft by brown pipe cleaners were on one table while clay figurines of Native American Spirit guides were on another: a buffalo for abundance, an armadillo for the home, a turtle for slow progress and a porcupine for protection.
Incense and convenient store candles burned in a back room before an example of a typical Native American meal (beef jerky, flat bread, fruit preserves and tea) while another table featured handmade bows, arrows, spear heads, tomahawks and other examples of tribal weaponry. Education and Art Director for the local Boys and Girls Club Abby McGowan-Robinson urged guests to close their eyes while tipping over paper-mâché rain makers and spoke of the impact that learning about Native American culture had on the children.
“Summer camp actually started June 5 and tomorrow is the last day. Each group had a tribe that they did: Chickasaw, Cherokee, Biloxi and Koasati,” McGowan-Robinson said. “There’s the concept of teamwork, and I think it reinforced what we’ve tried to instill in them here at the Club and to work as a team, and they’ve seen a lot of that going on in the history of Native Americans because they had to work as a team to survive.”
After a lunch inspired by the food of the Native Americans, members of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians arrived and began getting prepared for the presentation they would soon give to the children of the Boys and Girls Club.
The Poarch Creek adorned colorful outfits of bright neon sequined skirts and shawls, multicolored ribbons and feathers and a set of box turtle shell anklets filled with beads weighing anywhere from 12 to 15 pounds that rattled as they walked.
The younger children of the Poarch Creek spoke to each other about Nintendo Wii and Pokémon Go while another slightly older boy strapped a crest of feathers to both his back and neck.
Boys and Girls Club children filed into the gym and filled the bleachers while The Poarch Band of Creek Indians Planning and Events Coordinator Christopher Blackburn did a sound check beside two small amplifiers pointed towards the gathering audience.
Blackburn gave an introductory commentary of each dance before it occurred, explaining how one girl’s dress had chimes sewn to the skirt intended to mimic the sound of rain as she danced, the importance of the garb the princesses of the tribe wore and how another set of regalia, while not being completely historically accurate, was popularized by the theatrical shows of Buffalo Bill at the turn of the 20th century.
At one point Blackburn yelled a loud “Roll Tide” through the microphone which was met by a mixture of groans and affirmative responses from the audience of children who, during some of the Indian dance performances, could be heard questioning whether or not the dancing was “real” dancing.
Despite the stagnant heat that filled the gym due to a lack of air condition, when Blackburn asked the audience if they would like to participate in the last dance, over half of the attending children rushed to the gym floor as Blackburn sang and beat on his drum.
After the dancing, Sidney James Nakhjavan of the Lee County Bicentennial Committee was invited to speak to the children of the Boys and Girls Club.
"'Great futures start here,' That is the slogan and tagline and mantra of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County, and boy do they ever start here,” Nakhjavan said. “This program is the first of 200 tributes that the Lee County Bicentennial Committee will endorse throughout the next two and a half years. On Dec. 19, 2019, we’ll be 200 years old. Before we were a state, we were a Creek nation, and we are so proud of all of our heritage and we pay special tribute today to our Creek family.”