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Green Corn Dance with Piqua Shawnee Tribe at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

July 30, 2012

The setting is the Wilderness Road Campground in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. A soft breeze blows through the stately pines. It is joined by the flute like call of the wood thrush, described by naturalist Henry David Thoreau as the most beautiful sound in nature. “The thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Whenever a man hears it, he is young, and Nature is in her spring. It is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him.” The spicy fragrance of the Cinnamon fern dances in the air. Soon, the breeze, the thrush’s call and nature’sfragrance will be joined by jubilant song and thanks, for aon Saturday, July 28th, the Piqua Shawnee will perform the Green Corn Dance. It is a day on which park neighbors and visitors are invited to participate in religious ceremony, thanks and celebration, a day of forgiveness and pardon, a day of peace and friendship. It is a day which Park Superintendent Mark Woods fondly explains park staff eagerly awaits.

“Our friendship with the Piqua Shawnee began in November 2006 during the park’s ‘Lewis and Clark Coming Home’ heritage event. Members of the Piqua Shawnee nation presented Lewis and Clark re-enactors and the national park with beaded wampum as a sign of friendship.” “Lewis and Clark came into contact with at least 50 Indian tribes on their journey,” Woods further details. “They were directed to be friendly by President Thomas Jefferson, and these ‘gifting ceremonies’ were common between the explorers and the tribes. Since 2006, our relationship with the Piqua Shawnee has grown from friendship to family. We reunited in November 2010 when an outside exhibit on Lewis and Clark was unveiled at the campground entrance. Now, in the height of summer, during nature’s renewal, we’ll reconfirm our family bond.”

Principal Chief Gary Hunt, of Indian, describes the national park campground as a perfect venue for the religious ceremony and dance. “In the shadow of the Cumberland Gap, we are one with our fore fathers who traveled this historic passageway in warfare and trade. Sharing the Green Corn Dance with Cumberland Gap park staff and visitors helps us preserve our unique heritage.” In 1991 the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky recognized the Piqua Sept of Ohio Shawnee as an Indian tribe. On July 10, 2001 the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission under the authority of the Davis-Strong Act recognized the  Piqua Sept of Ohio Shawnee Tribe as an Indian tribe in the state of Alabama, thus making the Piqua Sept the first petitioning group to be recognied in 17 years.

The Green Corn Dance was chronicled by an Indian agent in his 1915 memoir:

The Principal festival is celebrated in the month of August; the precise time is fixed by the head chief and the counselors of the town and takes place sooner or later as the state of the affairs of the town, or the forwardness of the corn will admit. It is called the green corn dance,; or, more properly speaking, “the ceremony of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the earth.” It lasts from four to twelve days, and in some places resembles a large camp meeting. The Indians attend from all quarters with their families, their tents and provisions, encamping around the council worshiping house. The animals killed for the sacrifice are cleaned, the heads horns and entrails are suspended on a large white pole with a forked top, which extends over the roof of the house.

The women having prepared the new corn and provisions for the feast, the men take first some of the new corn, rub it between their hands then on their faces and breasts, and they feast, the great chief having first addressed the crowd, thanking the Almighty for the return of the season and giving such moral instruction to the people as may be proper for the time. On these occasions the Indians are dressed in their best manner and the whole nation attend, from the greatest to the smallest. The quantity  of provisions collected is immense, everyone bringing in proportion to his ability. The whole is cast into one pile, and distributed during the continuance of the feast among the multitude by leaders appointed for the purpose. In former times, the festival was held in the highest veneration and was a general amnesty which not only absolved the Indians from all punishments for crimes, murder only excepted, but seemed to bury quilt itself in oblivion.

Barbara Lehmann, Senior Advisor to the Principal Chief and Tribal Historian “invites all to participate in the 1:00 p.m. ceremony and dance. Additionally, on Saturday evening, dressed in regal regalia, we will walk in the footsteps of our ancestors along Athawominee, the Path of the Armed Ones, into the historic Cumberland Gap.”

Visitors are reminded that photographs will not be allowed during the Green Corn Dance ceremony. Ample photo opportunities will be provided afterwards. Visitors joining the one mile round trip hike into the historic Cumberland Gap should meet in the Thomas Walker parking area, located at the intersection of the Pinnacle Road and Hwy 988 (Sugar Run Road), at 6:00 p.m.

For additional information, park neighbors and friends can call the park visitor center at 606-248-2817, extension 1075.


Hensley Settlement Information

July 19, 2012

Visit historic Hensley Settlement for a nostalgic look into early 20th century Appalachia. Meander down fence lined lanes, peek into the blacksmith’s shop, look into the springhouse or sit in the one room school. In 1904, Sherman Hensley and Willie Gibbons joined forces to establish a homestead on the mountaintop. Using hand tools to split chestnut logs, the settlers began to build homes. Fences surrounded the cleared land, creating pastures and garden plots. A thriving community soon emerged. The land, suitable for raising sheep and growing crops for liquid spirits, supported the community of twelve farmsteads for more than forty years.


Reservations are recommended and can be made up to one month in advance of the trip date. All tours depart from the park visitor center.


Visitors must be able to walk one mile through the settlement; comfortable clothing and walking shoes are a must. Bring a light snack and drink for the 3 1/2 hour tour. 


Adults- $10.00

Seniors with Interagency Senior Pass- $5.00

Children twelve and under -$5.00


May 29 – October 31

  • Daily at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Gap Cave Information

July 18, 2012

A two- hour adventure awaits as you explore Gap Cave with its majestic stalagmites, striking stalactites and shimmering flowstone. Step into the music room and listen for the whispers of a Civil War soldier. Catch a glimpse of a little brown bat or a cave salamander.

Reservations are recommended and can be made up to one month in advance of the trip date. All tours meet at the Daniel Boone parking area.

This tour involves a 1.5 mile walk; 183 steps must be negotiated within the cave. For the saftey of all, no children under the age of five are permitted on the cave tour. Wearing of sandals or crocs in the cave is not allowed.

Adults- $8.00

Seniors with Interagency Senior Pass- $4.00

Children five through twelve- $4.00


January 1 – March 31

  • Weekends only at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

April 1 – May 26

  • Weekdays at 10:00 a.m.
  • Weekends at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

May 27 – September 1

  • Daily at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

September 2 – November 24

  • Weekdays at 10:00 a.m.
  • Weekends at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

November 25 – December 31

  • Weekends only at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Programs for children

July 18, 2012

Ranger Scott and his captivated audience at Middlesboro Public Library.

Tell us about your experience!

June 27, 2012

Rachael Mason is a volunteer at the park through her internship at Berea College. In this internship, she is responsible for getting an understanding of the tourist charisma, the business aspects of national parks, and how social media can be a great marketing tool. After working at the front desk of the Visitor Center for a few hours per week, she began to wonder… what do people really think of the things we send them to do? After they view the pinnacle, many visitors leave immediately towards their destination. Are they satisfied with our service?

Please Note: all the interviewed visitors were asked on the spot to answer these questions. They have no affiliation with the park, other than being great friends for agreeing to speak on video!

If you have opinions regarding the Pinnacle Overlook, feel free to follow this blog and join in the conversation! Your comments are important!

Gap Cave: An Underworld Cathedral

June 20, 2012

When one thinks of caves, often thoughts of claustrophobia, evil creatures, and darkness prevail in discouraging the typical tourist or curious explorer from entering. Gap Cave, in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park however, is nothing of the sort! Sure, there is a place where you have a four foot clearance to duck under, and yes there are bats, and utter darkness, but the trip is well worth it to see the incredible beauty this cave holds.

The tour starts with a short .5 mile walk to the cave, with strong experienced rangers in the lead. These guys know their caves and make the whole experience tons of fun!


With flashlights in hand (provided by the park), you descend into the unknown, and before you know it, you ascend into rooms full of stalagmites and stalactites that appear to have been placed by gods. I have often seen first time visitors enter the music room and gasp with mouths gaping open at the shear beauty of flow stone, pillars, soda straws, cave bacon, and cave popcorn, among other cool features .

Aside from the view, the rangers also know an incredible amount of knowledge about cave geology and bats. It is your responsibility as a visitor to pick their brains! Make them think on the job! It is also your responsibility to help prevent the spread of geomyces destructans, also known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS) which has killed hundreds of thousands of bats already. Gap Cave does not have WNS yet, so please let the rangers know if any of your gear/clothes has been in another cave in the last five years so they can disinfect them for you.

Ranger Bowling and visitors checking out the Grand Ballroom

Even if you aren’t much into science (like me!), the history of this cave is extremely cool! I would insert pictures here of the names of CIVIL WAR SOLDIERS, written sometime between 1861 and 1865, but that would ruin it for you! Make a reservation today by calling 606-248-2817 and check out what the tri-state region has to offer. You won’t regret it!

Ranger Dotson explaining “gurgling” soda straws

On Daniel Boone:

June 19, 2012

I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks. -Daniel Boone

Pacific Island National Parks

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