NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Mixed in among the jazz, Cajun, blues and zydeco flowing from the stages here are the singing, chanting and drumming of Native American acts featuring dancers donned in colorful feathers and fringe.
Louisiana Native Americans have long been represented at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, but this is the first year the focus on the culture has been expanded to include tribal nations from elsewhere in the United States, as well as Canada and Latin America.
At the center of the festival is a makeshift “village” with a tepee, a thatched hut made of palmetto branches and an open fire where demonstrators cook traditional Native American dishes such as squash with wild rice and hominy with black walnuts.
The village is also filled with music and festive drum and hoop dances, and features music sets by singer Pura Fe, flutist Robert Mirabel, and others.
Roughly 50 nations are represented at the 2013 festival, which continues through Sunday.
“The main purpose is to show the diversity of the Native American culture,” said Gray Hawk Perkins, a New Orleans native of Choctaw and Houmas tribal descent. “That's what this is giving us a chance to do, to see how much sometimes we're alike but often see how much we are different.”
It's also an opportunity to show that Native American music still has a place in mainstream music, Perkins said.
“Here at Jazz Fest, it's a chance to hear the Native Americans and then walk over to another stage and go, wow, I heard that over at the Native American area. I heard that same rhythm,” said Perkins, whose band will perform Sunday.
Several Native American acts are playing the festival's big stages as well as in the village area. Last weekend's featured performers were the Stoney Creek Singers and A Tribe Called Red, a trio of DJs from Canada who incorporate Native American singing and drumming in their electronic music.
“We like to describe it as a cultural continuance,” said Ian Campeau, whose stage name is DJ NDN. “We're just continuing a certain powwow culture that's always been around. It's still happening, so it's a very vibrant culture. We're just putting our urban spin on it.”
Mirabel and Pura Fe will be performing on the main stages this weekend.