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DNA Nine-Month Schedule Released

Special Guest Rita Coolidge

By Peter B. Gallagher

ST. PETERSBURG - A nine month schedule of events has been released by Eckerd College - the gameplan for the Seminole Tribe of Florida's ambitious Discover Native America (DNA) project. Lectures, films, concerts - including a $10,000 pow wow scheduled for Feb. 27-28 and special guest appearances by singer Rita Coolidge and author N. Scott Momaday - will all take place in or near the Eckerd College campus on the shore of Boca Ciega Bay here in southernmost Pinellas County.

A special three-month Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum display (Survival and Success: Florida's Unconquered Seminoles) will open Feb. 19 at the St. Petersburg Historical Museum, as part of the DNA activity schedule. Coordinated by Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki curator David Blackard and executive director Billy Cypress, this is the first major traveling exhibit of Tribal treasures to open since the Tribal museum was created.

Co-sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of The American Indian, Discover Native America will officially begin Feb. 14 with a lecture by Eckerd College professor Gregory Padgett ("African Americans and Seminoles") and end November 7 with a talk by the Smithsonian's legendary Dr. William Sturtevant "Seminole History and Tradition" at the St. Petersburg Museum of History. This will be the third year the Seminoles have brought the DNA spectacular to St. Petersburg; in the past it was a weekend powwow event. Co-titled "Florida's Indians: Memory and Cultural Renewal," this year's expanded DNA has already gained much attention in academic circles around the United States, according to Dr. Catherine Griggs the Eckerd professor who is spearheading the DNA film festival: "We are already getting a lot of calls asking if this is going to be an annual project. The fact The Museum of The American Indian is associated with us is very important." The film festival will take place during the week of Feb. 21-28 and will include presentations by Seminole Broadcasting Director Danny Jumper, and independent filmmakers Leslie Gaines and Tribal member Karen Tommie as well as famed native filmmakers Randy Redroad, Beverly Singer and Terry Macy. Smithsonian experts Dr. Charlotte Heth and Elizabeth Weatherford will also be on hand to give presentations.

Rita Coolidge will spend the day at the DNA Powwow, Feb. 27, as special guest of Seminole Chairman James Billie, then introduce her much-acclaimed film "Singing Our Stories" at Eckerd's Dendy Auditorium that evening. A scheduled appearance by native author M. Scott Momaday that same evening was still being negotiated at presstime.

Large crowds are expected to pack the Eckerd campus for the actual DNA festival and powwow Feb. 27-28. In addition to the Powwow (under the direction of Otto Masecki and the Lords of The Plains) the DNA show will include an extensive American Indian-oriented Shana Banana's Children's Village, large American Indian crafts and food marketplace and a performing stage. At presstime, Seminole Chairman James Billie and crew were constructing chickees on the Eckerd campus for a "living" Seminole Village display.

Chief Jim Billie, Ojibwe bluesman Keith Secola and the Wild Indian Band, flautist Sonny Nevaquaya, Mohawk comedian Buddy Big Mountain and the elaborate dance shows of Peru's Inca Son and the Aztec Fire Dancers will headline the performing stage. Secola and his band will also play at Tampa's Skipper's Smokehouse (with the Cigar Store Indians) on Friday evening, Feb. 26 in the DNA festival's official kick-off event. At presstime, an American Indian music jam was being planned for Saturday evening, Feb. 27, in downtown St. Petersburg. "My phone has been ringing off the hook. Everyone is just finding out about this and I think we are going to have a lot of dancers and drums," says Masecki, who will supervise the powwow; it begins with grand entries each day at noon and runs until dark. Each night at dark, Seminole medicine man Bobby Henry will conduct a special bonfire "Stomp Dance."

Tribal Anthropology and Genealogy Director Dr. Patricia Wickman, author Patsy West and professors Harry Kersey, Robert Humphrey, James Goetsch, and Ray Arsenault are also among the distinguished DNA presenters.

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