American Indigenous Arts Celebration November 3rd-4th, 2023
It is that time of year again! This year’s American Indigenous Arts Celebration (AIAC) will be held November 3rd and 4th on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Hosted by the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, the celebration brings Indigenous art, music, crafts, culture, dance, and demonstrations from around the world. Follow below for exclusive information on some of the exciting offerings, how to get there, and basics you need to know to enjoy the celebration!
In our featured image this week, you can see Seminole Stomp Dancers from the 10th Annual American Indigenous Arts Celebration in 2007 (2015.6.6305, ATTK Museum).
The 2023 American Indigenous Arts Celebration (AIAC) will be held November 3rd and 4th, 2023. Gates will be open from 10 am through 5 pm both Friday and Saturday. Parking is free with entrance to the event. As an extra special benefit, visitors with paid admission to the event can enjoy FREE admission to the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum and boardwalk. Admission to the event is $10 for adults and $7.50 for seniors and students. Tribal members, children (4 and under), and museum members receive free admission. Are you a teacher? Friday is school field trip day, and the Museum welcomes school groups of all sizes. Teachers can contact the Education Coordinator Abena Robinson for more details. Groups of ten or more who book in advance can enjoy a group discount of $5 per person.
The American Indigenous Arts Celebration will be held outside on the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum festival grounds. Even though it is November, we are still in Florida. We encourage you to dress accordingly! Comfortable shoes, sunhat, sunscreen, and a water bottle are recommended. Additionally, the festival grounds are grass, which can be uneven. We encourage you to take caution and gauge your own ability to navigate uneven surfaces. There will be ample areas to sit and rest among the celebration activities.
This year’s AIAC has an array of exciting events and demonstrations sure to please every visitor! Check out some of the featured events and guests below to get a better idea of the celebration offerings.
Founded by Larry Yazzie, Native Pride shares “the cultural history, traditions, ways, beliefs, and spiritual importance of indigenous peoples around the world.” Yazzie is a two-time World Champion Fancy Dancer, Men’s Northern Traditional Dancer, and Eagle Dancer from the Meskwaki Settlement in Tama, Iowa. Native Pride Production’s goal is to “share cultural traditions through artist-in-residency workshops, performances, lectures, classroom instruction and theatrical performances enhancing access to diverse, multicultural artists for people of all ages and backgrounds.” Native Pride dancers wear traditional regalia that “are adorned with vivid assortments of brightly-colored ribbons, feathers, beads, and furs-all of which honor our nations’ elders and the legacy of our traditional arts.” Their high energy show is a blend of contemporary and traditional Indigenous dance styles. Some examples of their dances include Men’s Fancy Dance, Women’s Fancy Shawl Dance, Hoop Dancing, the Chicken Dance, Women’s Jingle Dancing, and the Grass Dance.
HAKA Māori Cultural Experience
Did you miss this unique cultural experience last year? Well, you’re in luck! The HAKA Māori Cultural Experience is back at AIAC 2023. Learn more about the Māori culture, including Taa Moko (traditional tattoo) displays. Last year, Māori culture and arts ambassador James Webster emphasized how deeply tied the Taa Moko are to Māori culture. He stated “It’s actually something that’s been going through a revival process since about the late 80s, sort-of 90s. So, there’s a lot more people getting facial tattoo — Moko. So, energy rising as the culture strengthens, so does our self-expression.” The HAKA Māori Cultural Experience will also feature HAKA traditional dances, Whakairo Wood Carving, Raranga Basket Weaving, Mau Rakau Weaponry, cultural displays, and a live art expo.
Other Exciting Events in the AIAC Lineup
Want to see some genuine Seminole alligator wrestling? How about some archery and hatchet throwing? In addition to the featured experiences detailed above, there is much, much more at this year’s AIAC! Try some traditional Seminole fry bread, and explore the unique arts, crafts and food vendors. Experience live wildlife shows, and even take a photo with an alligator! Make sure to stop by and meet the newly crowned Seminole Princesses. Interested in learning more about Seminole Princesses? Check out a previous blog post here! A special meet and greet with Diné actor Ryan Begay is scheduled for both Friday and Saturday afternoon. Begay is a writer, director, and actor who started in film with the Colorado Film School. He is known for his roles in Breaking Bad, Dark Winds, Sicario, and Get Shorty. Begay is passionate about film, and encouraging more indigenous representation and work in the film industry.
Rez Jamz, a musical series designed to spotlight tribal talent, will perform live music. On Friday, there will be an Ahfachkee Youth Fashion Show. On Saturday, there will be a Seminole Fashion Show by Lenora Roberts. Cyiah Lavilla will provide a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Tribute. The MMIP movement seeks recognition and justice, as well as serves as a call to action, for the disproportionate amount of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples across Indian Country. We encourage you to seek out resources and learn more about this grassroots movement.
The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum
In addition to the festival events, purchasing a ticket to the American Indigenous Arts Celebration also gets you FREE Museum admission for the day of the event. Just head across the road from the festival grounds to the Museum to explore the many exciting exhibits. Rotating specialty exhibits can be found in addition to permanent offerings. Visitors can explore the Museum’s permanent exhibits and learn more about Seminole culture, history, and legacy.
The Museum also features a mile-long boardwalk through a cypress dome, where visitors may spot wildlife such as birds, snakes, alligators, and more! There is something for people of all ages and interests this year at the 2023 American Indigenous Arts Celebration. We hope to see you there!
Where is it? How do you get there?
This year’s American Indigenous Arts Celebration (AIAC) will be held on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. It is approximately one hour from Fort Lauderdale, and 90 minutes from Fort Myers, FL. The address is 34725 West Boundary Road, Clewiston, FL 33440. Although the address lists “Clewiston,” the town of Clewiston is approximately 45 minutes away from the center of the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. So, make sure you have your directions correct before you leave! Below, you can find directions from either coast of Florida, as well as a map. We encourage you to make sure you have ample gas, food, and snacks for your journey out to the reservation.
From the East
Take I-75 east until exit 49 (Snake Road). Continue for roughly 17 miles as you enter the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. The Museum will be on your left at the intersection of Josie Billie Hwy and West Boundary Rd. Follow signs and directions for free AIAC parking.
From the West
From Fort Myers, take FL 82-E for about 19 miles. Keep right to turn on FL-29. Continue on FL-29 through Immokalee. You will turn left onto E Main, and then almost immediately turn left onto County Rd 846. Take County Rd 846 for 20 miles. You will come to an intersection where you will take a sharp right onto County Rd 833 S. You will take 833 S for another 16 miles, and end up right on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Follow signs and directions for free AIAC parking.
Originally from Washington state, Deanna Butler received her BA in Archaeological Sciences from the University of Washington in 2014. Deanna moved to South Florida in 2016. Soon, she began working for the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Deanna was the THPO’s Archaeological Collections Assistant from 2017-2021. While at the THPO, Deanna worked to preserve, support, and process the Tribe’s archaeological collection. She often wrote the popular Artifact of the Month series, and worked on many community and educational outreach programs. She lives in Fort Myers, FL with her husband, two sons, and dog.