Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival

The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is brought to life during the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival, when more than 1,000 American Indian dancers and visual artists gather to celebrate their renowned art and culture.

Oklahoman John Keel, a member of the Comanche tribe, concentrates as he prepares to compete in the Traditional Dance competition at the Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival.
Photo Credit: Eric Oesch

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The Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival, a two-day cultural event that reverberates with the beat of Native American drums, song and dance, takes place at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City during the first weekend in June. Celebrated as a unique and sacred event, as well as a cornerstone festival on the Oklahoma event calendar, visitors to Red Earth are rewarded with a heart-stopping glance into the world of deeply held American Indian traditions and the collective spirit of celebration.

Join thousands of visitors to Red Earth to witness dancers of all ages and nations gathering in the main arena waiting to showcase the originality and skill associated with each tribe’s style of dance. Take a seat and take in the view: women are garbed in everything from apron dresses with beaded collars to intricate bell dresses, while men’s attire varies from basic loincloths to colorful outerwear complete with feather headdresses and bustles. As impressive as the clothing is, the sound made from each individual strand of bells, beads and shells carries itself effortlessly throughout the area.

As soon as the competitions begin, the feeling of witnessing a sacred event becomes increasingly palpable. Cries of raw emotion and a booming drum beat akin to the pulsing of the earth echo off the walls as hundreds of dancers from countless Native American tribes pour into the venue during Red Earth Festival’s Grand Entry. Each dancer strives to be named the ultimate in power and grace in various dance styles including Jingle Dress, Fancy Shawl, Northern Fancy and Southern Buckskin. The spiritual threads woven through the music and dance are impossible to miss as dancers spin, stomp and twist their way around the arena, all the while vibrating with color and movement. The dance competition at Red Earth is one of the rare occasions when dancers from America's Northern and Southern tribes gather together in one venue.

In addition to the masters of dance presenting art in motion, over 200 masters in basketry, beadwork, jewelry, fiber works, pottery, sculpture and two-dimensional art will be spread throughout Liichokoshkomo’, the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum's interactive outdoor learning space featuring an intertribal village. Visitors to Red Earth are invited to browse rows upon rows of artwork created or inspired by Native Americans including paintings, animal hides and unique home decorations.

There’s no place better to celebrate Native American heritage than Oklahoma’s Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival. The event’s popularity has led to many imitators, but none has approached Red Earth’s exalted reputation or its breadth of events. The festival is presented by the Red Earth Art Center, which has been promoting the rich traditions of American Indian arts and cultures in Oklahoma since 1978.

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