Grayhawk Perkins, a member of the United Houma Nation, has been a performer, storyteller and curator of Native American programming for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival for more than 20 years, but he still lists dispelling stereotypes among the things he's doing with some of the features of the 2013 festival's Native American Cultural Pavilion.
The center of the Native American performances, displays and activities will be on the lawn between Food Area II and the Congo Square marketplace. The area will include a performance tent, a fry bread demonstration and food service booth, craft vendors and three types of homes.
"The chickee is used by Southeastern Indians," Perkins says. "There's a cedar house from the northeast and a teepee — those are used by Plains Indians. But we could have had 20 different types of houses."
Jazz Fest's Native American programming typically focuses on Louisiana tribes. The Louisiana Folklife Village, near the Fais Do-Do stage, has regularly featured music and dance as well as craftspeople. There will be some Native American crafts in the area this year, but Native American culture will extend into many areas of the festival including the kids' tent and kids' activities, on music stages and in a photography exhibit and art installation in the grandstand. There also are panel discussions on Native American culture.
Many of the visiting musicians combine Native American traditions with contemporary musical genres. Martha Redbone is a blues and soul vocalist from Kentucky who has Cherokee, Choctaw, Shawnee and African-American ancestry.
Redbone's most recent project is an album of William Blake's poetry put to music. She'll perform with her group, Martha Redbone Roots Project (Fais Do-Do stage, 1:30 p.m. Sunday) as well as in the Native American pavilion performance tent.
A Tribe Called Red is a Canadian electronic music group that combines traditional pow wow vocals and electronic beats. The trio of DJs performs on the Gentilly Stage (12:50 p.m. Saturday) and Saturday and Sunday in the pavilion performance tent.
The second weekend of Jazz Fest features Robert Mirabal (Congo Square Stage, 2:10 p.m. Saturday, May 4), Bill Miller (Fais Do-Do stage, 1:30 p.m. Friday, May 3) and Pura Fe (Blues Tent, 2:55 p.m. Thursday, May 2) and all also perform more intimate shows in the pavilion performance tent. Mirabal plays clarinet, saxophone and piano but is best known for his flute playing — and he makes his own instruments. He collaborated with other Native American musicians on the Grammy-winning Sacred Ground: A Tribute to Mother Earth, and he often performs in multicultural bands, incorporating different genres and cultures. Singer/songwriter Miller grew up in the Midwest and is of Mohican heritage. He has toured with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Richie Havens and Arlo Guthrie and has written songs for many mainstream artists. Pura Fe is a descendent of the Tuscarora nation and is best known for founding the renowned female Native American a cappella group Ulali.
The Native American Pavilion hosts dancers from different regions as well. The Oneida Longhouse Dancers are from Wisconsin, and the Yellow Bird Indian Dancers are from Arizona, and they wear traditional garb when performing dances from their heritage.
Native American Cultural Exchange Pavilion Schedule