This Mother’s Day weekend, Rolling Thunder Enterprises and nonprofit organization INDIO Trail host the thirty-third Annual Cherokee County Mother’s Day Powwow and Indian Festival in Canton’s Boling Park.

A Celebration of Mothers

The Mother’s Day Powwow and Indian Festival intertwines the universal celebration of mothers with the rich tapestry of Native American culture and community. The event serves as a vibrant tribute to the strength, nurturing, and leadership of mothers in our communities and a powerful reminder of the role women play in the preservation and transmission of traditions.

The drum beats and dances at the powwow resonate with gratitude and reverence for all mothers, deeply connecting them to their roots and to one another.

Cherokee County Mother’s Day Powwow and Indian Festival Photo Courtesy of Ruby Wolfe

A drumming circle is the heartbeat of the annual powwow. Pictured in the drum circle are Cody Boettner, David Weathers, Adam Wright, Otter Oliver, Adam Bell, Seven Oshkabewisens, Charles Mesteth, and Francisco Zamora. (Photo Courtesy of Ruby Wolfe)

Ruby Wolfe, the woman behind the scenes of Rolling Thunder Enterprises, shares how she and her family have made an impact by sharing their rich culture and educating the community.

Where does the name ‘Rolling Thunder’ originate?

“It comes from where I am from, which is South Dakota. Rolling Thunder is what our people, the Lakota, would call this sound, ‘rolling thunder’ like a herd of buffalo would make as it’s running across the plains,” festival organizer Ruby Wolfe explains. She mentions that Georgia had woodland buffalo many years ago, but they did not sound like the running buffaloes in South Dakota. She continues, “that’s where our business got its name.”

The Legacy Begins

When the annual event began in 1990, it was spearheaded by Ruby and her husband, Chipa Wolfe. Ruby shares that until his passing in 2016, she and Chipa were a tag team. Chipa would be out, “running around, doing the physical setup [while] I did a lot of the beforehand work, which is what it takes, so it was both of us, but as people saw it, he was the face of the event.” She says when people came to the event, Chipa “was out there, and people would look for him and see him. He really was the face of the business. I was always keeping the business running, keeping the farm up [so] he could be doing the physical part of the business, like running our school and business programs. It’s a family event and it is a family business. Now it’s my daughter [Cecilia] and me, and she is out doing what her dad used to do: it is a family business for a family event.”

When asked why the organization holds events on Mother’s Day weekend, and if it was fate, Ruby smiles and explains, “You could call it that. We are a matriarchal culture. The women are the heads of the families, and they make the decisions. However, that’s not why we picked the date. It was an open date on the calendar, and we went with that. [The date] also did tie in with the fact that mothers are very important, not just in our culture, but everywhere, really, and everybody’s family is important, so we went for Mother’s Day.”

Indigenous singer-songwriter Ryan LittleEagle notes the importance of events like the annual powwow. “Unfortunately Georgia tends to act like native history ended with the Indian Removal Act, so having events like this powwow is important, as it shows that Indigenous people are still around in the here and now, and that there is a Native community in the greater Atlanta area.” Ryan says attending the annual festival feels like a family reunion.

What to Expect

“This year,” Ruby says, “instead of having a dance competition, we are having a dance exhibition. Instead of just being a competition [and] watching the dancers just dance, they’re going to explain each of the dances and then do an exhibition of each of the dances. People will learn where the dances originated and what [the dances] mean. There is meaning behind each of the dances.” She adds, “There will also be a lot more audience participation this year with the dancing.”

Cherokee County Mother’s Day Powwow and Indian Festival Photo Courtesy of Ruby Wolfe

Festival organizer Ruby Wolfe says the 2024 Powwow will feature more educational dance exhibitions. Pictured here is women’s traditional dancer Nadia. (Photo Courtesy of Ruby Wolfe)

Along with a variety of encampments, educational demonstrators will show attendees how to cook over rocks, live off the land, and make arrowheads through a process called flintknapping.

Jim Sawgrass, of Muscogee Creek (Mvskoke) descent and living historian of the southeastern tribes of Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, is the presenter of the 2024 Creek encampment that will feature a historical display on native people in Georgia. Jim explains, “My display will show how life would have been before Europeans came. I’ll demonstrate weaponry and tools and skills from that era. It’s a very educational program.” His exhibition will include hunting, fishing, farming, pottery, basketry and weaving, children’s games and toys, musical instruments, and a chikee, a Native American house originally built from palm leaves in a south Georgia swamp.

Regarding Native American festivals in general, Jim says the Cherokee County powwow is “definitely one of the top. It’s a chance for people to see that where they live today, native people lived for thousands of years. They had their own cities, like Etowah and Ocmulgee and Kolomoki. Those are all cities from way back in the times when the native people were the only ones here. It’s a great experience for the public to see that native people are still here after all the atrocities that were done to them. They can see what life would have been like [then], and they can see how it is today.”

33rd Annual Cherokee County Mother’s Day Powwow and Indian Festival

Saturday, May 11, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, May 12, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Boling Park 1200 Marietta Highway, Canton

Event is rain or shine. Admission for ages 13 and up is $15; admission for children ages 6 to 12 is $5; admission for children 5 years and younger is free. Parking is free. General parking is at Cherokee High School. Handicapped parking is in front of Boling Park.



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