I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and have a one-on-one with René White, event organizer for this year’s The Gathering. This will be the third year that the educational event is held, and there’s a reason behind that: people love seeing Native American traditions, learning about their culture, and feeling like they belong to something positive.
“Since we (we being a group of volunteers in this community) started working on this first, we felt led to do this spiritually,” she began. She alludes to something bigger than themselves, some driving force, and a feeling of doing what’s right, for the main reasons behind her and all of the volunteers getting together to create what is now The Gathering. The volunteers consist mostly of Clarke County natives, both literal and in the more general sense. Their dedication to this historically important event is so heartfelt, that one volunteer even dedicates her vacation hours to the organization of the event.
“Each volunteer gives so much of themselves and their resources, which helps keep me going to do this. They’re the reason this is able to happen. I think when people come to this event they’ll see that it’s one of the most diverse audiences.” René likes to put the emphasis on unity in commUNTIY, and this is where the event really shines. Its ability to bring so many diverse people together for a good cause is outstanding.
“Really, I feel like it’s a new tribe rising,” she said, when describing the overwhelming sense of community that the The Gathering has.“We see The Gathering as a kind of seed, representing a growing consciousness from the volunteers and the community.” The more they can educate people on Native American customs, and how they used to live in the past and now, the more their purpose is fulfilled.
“Really, I feel like it’s a new tribe rising.”
“We see The Gathering as a kind of seed, representing a growing consciousness from the volunteers and the community.”
In previous years, The Gathering has hosted some pretty awesome things – much of what will be at this year’s Gathering with a few differences. The attendee number is set to soar into the tens of thousands, really reflecting just how tremendous The Gathering is and how many people appreciate it’s educational brilliance. They’ve got plenty of great happenings that you’ll want to view and be a part of, including Indian harvest dancing and singing, trading post vendors and living history exhibitors, a military veteran and uniformed service tribute, a “multicultural Thanksgiving”, and more. One day after the initial opening of The Gathering, they’ve got a charity motorcycle “run” happening. This connects the Native American’s love of horses with more of a figurative horse – the “Iron Horse,” hence the name of the charity run. You can sign up here.
There are so many historical happenings in the Native American community that we don’t know about. More and more reservation land is encroached upon every year on what is already a pretty small acreage for most, and though softening over the years, prejudice against the Native peoples can still be found in the country today. Many people with publicity power have protested against these rapid, harmful changes occurring still to this day – Marlon Brando, for example, sending Apache Sacheen Littlefeather in his place to refuse his Oscar at the 45th Academy Awards in protest to the stereotypes and mistreatment of Native Americans.
We talked about how Native Americans compare to other cultures throughout history. “We are the only culture that I know of that everyone keeps in the past tense… When you talk about a Native American person they say, ‘This is how they used to live, this is how they used to wear their clothes, they used to wear feathers in their hair’, things like that. When they see a picture of a modern day Native American they say, ‘Oh, they don’t look Indian enough,’ and other things like that.”
That’s where The Gathering comes in – to correct the misguided interpretations of what Native Americans are “supposed to look like”, to spread awareness of their current situation, and to celebrate the fact that we are all human beings.
Let your spirit reawaken as you learn about Native American culture, help spread awareness, and donate to a wonderful cause. $7.00 at the gate, or $5.00 online advance purchase will get you into the Clarke County Fairgrounds where the event will be held. We hope to see you there.