The Junco hyemalis is a small gray bird also sometimes called the dark-eyed junco. But it has another colloquial name, having to do with the bird’s appearance in winter. What is this little bird’s third name?
The Junco hyemalis is also given the charming appellation of “Snowbird,” because it is one of those small birds that is particularly noticeable during wintertime when there is snow on the ground. The Fading Voices Festival takes place in a Cherokee community named after this bird, perhaps because the little fowl can be seen fluttering around the area during winter.
The Snowbird community was originally founded by fugitives fleeing the American soldiers come to force them upon the Trail of Tears. Today, Snowbird serves as one of the state’s major strongholds for the preservation of Cherokee traditions and the Cherokee language.
The Fading Voices Festival, featured in Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina, was created to help maintain that stronghold by educating Cherokee youth about national traditions. The event has grown with time, and today everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of race. The festival is a chance to experience Cherokee music and dance, both the traditional Cherokee songs, performed with a rattle, a drum, and dancing accompaniment; and the fascinating Cherokee shape-note hymn singing. Many of these hymns were introduced by Europeans originally, but over time they were adapted and translated into Cherokee.
There are a number of other interesting things to see and do: You can find handmade Cherokee crafts sold by the artists themselves and watch demonstrations of how such pieces are created; you can sample traditional foods and witness a blowgun shooting demonstration; you can observe (or, if you are brave, take part in) a skillet-throwing contest, stickball, and the full-contact Fish Game.
Hannah Allen is a contributing writer for the North Carolina Arts Council blog, NCArtsEveryday, and social media pages. A native of North Carolina, Ms. Allen is a 2011 graduate of Meredith College and has worked as a professional dancer, English teacher, and Russian teacher. She has lived abroad in Moscow and St. Petersburg.