A medley of sounds filled the air throughout downtown Tahlequah last weekend, when Green Country Roots Festival was held under Leoser Pavilion and Norris Park.
Although heavy rains canceled the festivities on Friday, a clear sky and dry weather allowed the party to continue Saturday and Sunday. A diverse list of genres accompanied the festival, as attendees heard music ranging from country, to rock, to reggae, to traditional powwow music.
The variety of tunes was perhaps fitting for the occasion, as the group coordinating the event - Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation - wanted to show diversity exists in Native American tribes, as well.
Ty Wilson, CBIHP president, said the organization has been hosting the event for a few years now, and it was "time to throw some culture in there."
CBIHP is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization part of the Cherokee Nation's Community and Cultural Outreach program. Its mission is to preserve Native American history, with an emphasis on black Indian history.
"Most people don't know that black Indians exist," said Wilson. "I don't know if you noticed or not, but I'm black."
The group was awarded the Cherokee Community and Cultural Outreach Nonprofit of the Year award recently, and continues to show its support for the local community by giving back, said Wilson. So not only did the event allow CBIHP to spread its mission and message, but it also let local residents have a good time.
The lineup included bands like Free Kennedy, a country artists from Muskogee; Goodfella, a pop punk band from Tahlequah; and Local Hero, a reggae band that recently performed during this year's Reggae in the Park in Tahlequah. Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame Inductee Pat Moss played, and Katelyn Myers, a 14-year old from Tahlequah, also impressed the crowd with her rendition of Dolly Parton's "Jolene."
"She's so good for being so young," said Ruby Sampson, who brought her two granddaughters to the festival. "I was kind of blown away when I heard her voice for the first time. I wish I could sing like that, and I'm much older."
Wilson said finding the performers wasn't too difficult, since many were his friends. Also, it's gotten the point where he has over 200 bands contacting him asking to perform, so he can "be a little picky," but keep the lineup diverse.
"When I grew up here, we had one or two radio stations, so you'd listen to a little bit of everything," said Wilson. "You listen to a little bit of country and a little bit of pop."
Although the temperature was high Sunday, people decked out in colorful Native regalia took part in the powwow. The group broke out a number of Native American dances, like shawl dances, the Buffalo Dance, several intertribal dances, and more, as they circled their way around the singers/drummers.
The powwow's master of ceremonies, Stanley John, was busy, as he would speak in between dances before joining in on a few himself. He said the powwow was a chance to teach youth about their history and culture, and that at one time, Natives were discouraged or forbidden from singing the traditional powwow songs.
"That's the reason why went into the hills, hiding from the federal government," he said. "If they heard any kind of music going on, they came and put a stop to it. So today, it's a different story. We're able to come out and express ourselves. We're able to come out and enjoy what we've got today."