Meridian Star

Local News

July 10, 2013

Choctaw Indian Fair

Annual event celebrates Choctaws' courageous journey

MERIDIAN —    Four days of Choctaw tradition and culture at its finest begins today as the 64th Annual Choctaw Indian Fair gets under way.

     Deeply rooted in the ancient Choctaw New Corn Ceremony – or Green Corn Festival – the modern-day event celebrates the courageous Choctaw journey. The Choctaw Indian Reservation is the setting for the fair, which is presented under the auspices of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

    "We are proud to showcase everything that our culture has to offer," said Chief Phyliss J. Anderson.

    "Come see the creations of our Choctaw artisans, watch Choctaw dancers, young and old, performing traditional dances, take in an exciting game of stickball and experience hands on the various Choctaw cultural and language activities. There is plenty for everyone to do and enjoy at the Choctaw Indian Fair,” Anderson said.

    Day and evening activities are featured and fair-goers will be treated to native food, enriched by the traditions of the Choctaw Indian Princess Pageant and entertained by chart-topping country and Native American entertainers. There also will be an appearance by Si and Alan Robertson of the A&E Network's reality show "Duck Dynasty." The fair is a non-alcoholic family event.

    Tonight's opening is considered exciting for many young Choctaw ladies as a new Choctaw Indian Princess will be crowned.

    The title of Choctaw Indian Princess is a very prestigious title that holds many responsibilities. In addition to serving as an ambassador for the tribe for one year, the Indian Princess travels around the country, many times with the tribal chief, to promote awareness of the tribe.

    The competition provides young Choctaw ladies the opportunity to showcase her abilities as an ambassador. Each contestant competes in five categories: talent, formal dress, traditional dress, on-stage question and answer and interview. The talent competition, held earlier in the week, gives tribal members their first look at the contestants.

    During the competition, each contestant showcases beautiful evening gowns and vibrant traditional dresses. The young ladies wear colorful, ornate beadwork and carry a hand woven Choctaw basket with their traditional dress. In addition to the traditional dress portion of the pageant, each contestant answers an on-stage question that addresses Choctaw history and culture.

    The nightly Wold Series Stickball is a big attraction of the fair.

    Stickball has been a part of Choctaw life for hundreds of years. Opposing teams use handcrafted sticks or kabocca, and a woven leather ball, or towa. Each team tries to advance the ball down the field to the other team's goalpost using only their sticks, never touching or throwing the ball with their hands. Points are scored when a player hits the opposing team's goalpost with the ball.

    The earliest historical reference to Choctaw stickball was a Jesuit priest's account of a stickball game around 1729. During that period, the Choctaws lived in towns and villages scattered across the area that is now Southern Mississippi. When disputes arose between these communities, stickball provided a peaceful way to settle the issue. These games were hard-fought contests that could involve as few as 20 or as many as 300 players.

    Mississippi Choctaws continue to play stickball. When the first Choctaw Fair was held in 1949, stickball was an important event, but only a handful of teams took part. Today, anywhere from 12 to 14 teams meet during the fair in a single elimination tournament. Stickball has become a popular sport for women and for several years, Choctaw women have their own tournament consisting of 10-12 teams vying for the title of Women's Stickball Champion

    The championship game closes out the fair, with fans filling the Choctaw Central High School football stadium to cheer on their teams.

    The schedule of nightly events and entertainment for the 64th Annual Choctaw Indian Fair is as follows:

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