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CELEBRATION OF CULTURE: Clewiston's 2nd annual Indigenous Arts and Music Fest showcases rich traditions

A vibrant gathering honors youth and promotes cultural exchange, featuring artists and performers from across the globe
Posted at 9:47 PM, Feb 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-02 21:47:26-05

CLEWISTON, Fla. — The air of Big Cypress Preserve was alive with the vibrant beats of drums and traditional songs on Friday, as the Second Annual Indigenous Arts and Music Festival kicked off. This celebration of cultural heritage saw a significant gathering of native tribes and artists from across the United States, Canada, and as far as New Zealand, each showcasing the rich tapestry of indigenous culture.

"Having an event like this, we're able to provide information and share our culture," said Releana Begay, a jewelry maker from the Navajo Tribe of Arizona. Begay, who has been crafting sterling silver Navajo tribe jewelry for 15 years, traveled to Clewiston with her daughter, and says she really resonates with the theme of this years festival - 'Honoring Our Youth.'

"We keep that going in our culture. Like her selling with me and her learning about other cultures," Begay added.

Marianne Billie, a councilwoman of the Seminole Tribe and the festival's coordinator, shared her vision behind focusing on the youth. "Our youth are important, our youth are our future, they are our current and future leaders," Billie stated.

The festival not only serves as a platform for artists like Begay to display their work but Billie says it’s also as a beacon for the broader community to engage with and appreciate indigenous cultures. "Everybody here is proud of who they are, proud of where they come from, and to share it with people, the community and others who come out and, you know, let them know we're still here," Billie expressed.

With another day packed with activities and performances scheduled for Saturday, from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM, the festival invites everyone to immerse themselves in indigenous culture. Attendees can look forward to experiencing traditional blankets, dresses, clothing, and food. "I hope that this will stick with our community for years to come,” said Billie.