Ma-Chis Powwow: A festival of living history  

Published 3:20 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The vibrant cultural heritage of the Ma-Chis Lower Creek Indian Tribe of Alabama came alive on Oct. 27 and 28 during their annual powwow. This significant gathering marked a milestone as it was the first time the event took place on the tribe’s own tribal grounds located at 2950 County Road 377 in Elba. 

Drawing hundreds of people and representatives from various tribes, the powwow served as a celebration of the past, a recognition of the present, and a promotion of the tribe’s aspirations for the future.

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Tribal citizen Amy Mitchell Daugherty of Dozier shared her personal connection to the old ways. Raised in an environment where making bows, flint knapping, and pottery making were part of everyday life, Daugherty expressed her commitment to sharing her culture and ensuring that younger generations continue these traditions.  

“It’s just a way of life for us,” Daugherty said. “It always has been and in today’s world I really think that everyone should have some experience with getting back to the basics of life. Our tribe aims to help people do that, to get back to what matters by continuing to show and teach young people the old ways and in the process we can keep our unique history alive for generations to come.”

Daugherty’s late brother Tim Mitchell served as the tribe’s historian, and her late father Rex Mitchell was also very involved with the tribe. Daugherty sees preserving the old ways as a way to honor both their memories. 

The event showcased a rich history steeped in culture and traditions with demonstrations ranging from flint knapping and hide tanning to primitive pottery making, stick weaving and more. Grand entry ceremonies, featuring dancers led by esteemed elders, took place each day at 10:30 a.m., symbolizing unity and representing all tribes present.

For De Williams, a tribal citizen and native of the Shiloh community near Elba now living in Fayetteville NC, attending the powwow was a way to contribute to the preservation and promotion of Native American history. She emphasized the importance of events like these in keeping the cultural flame alive.

“Participating in powwows is a key ingredient in celebrating cultural resilience, preserving and practicing cultural heritage and letting the community know that ‘we are still here’,” Williams said. “Visitors to the powwow had an opportunity they would not otherwise have- to experience our culture for themselves via demonstrations, powwow dances, witnessing artisans tailoring bone into jewelry, flint knapping, viewing hides being dyed for regalia and more. I believe in immersing my son Elliott in his culture for many reasons, including preparing him to be able to teach future generations and carry on our unique traditions and culture.”

Williams son Elliott, who danced during the Powwow, was named American Indian Youth of the Year, and has spent the last year working on his regalia, traditional dances, and learning American Indian history. His mother is currently in the American Indian Leadership Program at Campbell University where she recently completed the Cultural Heritage Tourism program. She received a certificate through George Washington University and is thankful for the support from Chief James Wright, and Vice Chief Nancy Carnley that helped to facilitate this achievement.

Diverse tribal communities came together for the powwow, including members from Cherokee tribes and Alaskan natives, contributing to the cultural exchange through storytelling and traditional dances.

The powwow.also showcased a dedicated children’s corner, where young attendees engaged in activities like simple beading and an “archeological dig,” fostering an early appreciation for Native American heritage.

Vendors at the event provided an opportunity to take home a piece of Native American craftsmanship, with handmade items such as native ribbon skirts, leather purses, candles, and beaded items available for purchase. 

The diverse food options, including Native American delicacies like fry bread and roasted corn, added to the overall experience and educational booths allowed visitors to explore and learn about the Creek language and other important tribal topics.

Tribal Chief James Wright highlighted the educational aspect of the powwow. especially during the designated school day. Students from Coffee County Schools and various home school associations visited the powwow, engaging in demonstrations, games and dancing, creating a unique and impactful educational experience.

“Including the students, we had around 1,500 people total,” Wright said. “We had a good flow and everything turned out pretty good. We want to teach kids and adults about the culture, the history of the area and the things that you don’t hardly ever read about. Native Americans evolved to survive. Whatever it took to survive, we did, and here today, we are not just surviving, we are trying to progress and help the community as a whole.”

The Ma-Chis Lower Creek Indian Tribe, remnants of the Creek Confederacy, is dedicated to preserving its heritage and educating others about Creek culture through events like the annual powwow..

In the spirit of the powwow.’s original meaning, as a social gathering for Native American communities, the Ma-Chis Lower Creek Indian Tribe’s event serves as a powerful bridge between the past, present and future, honoring traditions and fostering cultural exchange. The powwow stands as a testament to the tribe’s resilience, evolution, and commitment to preserving their unique identity in the face of changing times.

Editor’s Note: This article should have featured in the Nov. 16 edition of The Luverne Journal. We apologize for the error and are happy to run the article again.