Thousands of years before it became a popular site for county recreation, Riverbend Park in Great Falls was home to American Indians.
It was an important trading site because of its proximity to the Potomac River, said park manager Marty Smith.
“Having villages and sites at Riverbend was probably strategic, as well as profitable,” he said.
The history and culture of native Virginians will be on display at the 16th annual Virginia Indian Festival at the park Saturday.
Smith originally launched the festival to try and teach people more about the history of local tribes and to highlight the history of the park, which has about 100 archaeological sites, most of them American Indian and some dating back more than 10,000 years.
“The public, so much of what they think of when they think of are western Indians,” Smith said. There is a lot of misinformation about the local tribes, he said.
There are still thousands of Virginia Indians living in the area today, said Rose Powhatan, whose parents are from the Tauxenent and Pamunkey tribes. Powhatan, a former teacher, will be offering storytelling and displaying totem poles at the festival.
Powhatan’s ancestors on her father’s side, the Tauxenent, lived in the Great Falls area.
“It’s like a homecoming for me,” she said of the festival.
In addition to Powhatan’s presentations, festival attendees can watch traditional dance from Rappahannock dancers, listen to music, learn how to carve a dug-out canoe and help construct a longhouse, the traditional home of the forest-dwelling tribes of the mid-Atlantic region. Food and crafts will be available for purchase.
Exhibits about the American Indian history of Riverbend Park are on display in the park’s visitor’s center.
The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is $5. The park is located at 8700 Potomac Hills St. in Great Falls.