Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival celebrates 30 years 


The 30th Red Earth Festival, Oklahoma City’s annual celebration of Native American culture, is June 10-12 at Cox Convention Center.

The award-winning event brings many of the nation’s leading artists, dancers and craftsmen together and has set the standard for Native art shows. In 2015, it was named one of the top art festivals in the nation by a USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice poll.

Red Earth was created in 1987 to replace the economic hole left when the National Finals Rodeo moved from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas, and it has been highly successful. Last year, the event helped fill more than 1,000 hotel rooms and had a $5.6 million local economic impact, said Eric Oesch, Red Earth, Inc. deputy director and director of communications.

Oesch said the festival was designed to showcase what makes Oklahoma unique, which is the state’s concentration of Native American tribes.

“We have a real simple mission to provide an outlet for Native Americans to sell their artwork to the public,” Oesch said. “What we do is share cultures.”

The festival launches with the Red Earth Parade 10 a.m. June 10 at Myriad Botanical Gardens, 301 W. Reno Ave. It also signals the grand entry of dancers at the festival, located inside Cox Convention Center, 1 Myriad Gardens. It all takes place as the juried, indoor Red Earth Festival Art Market, which features around 125 artists, opens.

“We have artists that come from all across the country, but we have a lot of Oklahoma artists displaying and selling their art at Red Earth, too,” Oesch said. “We’ll have jewelry, pottery, painting, beadwork, basketry, photography, cultural items like clothing attire or even banjos.”

click to enlarge The free Red Earth Parade launches the annual festival 10 a.m. June 10 at Myriad Botanical Gardens. | Photo provided
  • The free Red Earth Parade launches the annual festival 10 a.m. June 10 at Myriad Botanical Gardens. | Photo provided

Festival highlights

Red Earth dance presentations feature dancers from Tiny Tot to Golden Age categories.

“This year, we are going to do a lot of special shows featuring different styles of Indian dance, including social or friendship dances, where people from the audience are invited to join in,” Oesch said. “I think that’s what it is all about, the sharing of cultures. We have a large non-Indian audience that attends Red Earth as well, so it’s a great sharing experience.”

The Sunrise Breakfast — 8:30 a.m. June 11 at Cox Convention Center — kicks off the second day, which features guest speakers sharing information on jewelry.

“For anyone interested in silver, turquoise, coral and beadwork, we’ll have experts,” Oesch said.

Then the art market opens at 10 a.m.

For guests who want to learn more about Native American pieces in their own collections, in the tradition of Antiques Roadshow, Red Earth offers an Ask the Expert session 10 a.m.-1 p.m. June 12 at the convention center.

“We have people calling us at the Red Earth Art Center who just inherited, or just found in a garage sale, or just found in an attic an item and they don’t know if it is real or not,” Oesch said. “We are going to have experts on Sunday in jewelry, painting, beadwork, basketry and sculpture.”

The free Red Earth Parade launches the annual festival 10 a.m. June 10 at Myriad Botanical Gardens. | Photo provided
  • The free Red Earth Parade launches the annual festival 10 a.m. June 10 at Myriad Botanical Gardens. | Photo provided

Red Earth guests can bring up to three items each for expert evaluation of their authenticity. However, Oesch said experts will be unable to appraise pieces for estimated dollar value. The evaluations are free with paid festival admission.

“They can have their piece evaluated and see if it is authentic or if it came from a travel stop on I-40,” Oesch said, “if it was made in Japan or if it was made on the Navajo reservation — it’s a big difference.”

Also at the festival, Native Exchange sections feature booths for Native American organizations to share information on a variety of issues.

“They can talk about their museums or their tourism product, health care, education, and the tribes share information too,” Oesch said.

Red Earth also brings in eagles from a sanctuary that takes in the injured birds. Many cannot be rereleased into the wild.

“They have an educational experience,” Oesch said. “They are going to bring their eagles and give presentations on their significance in Native culture, and you can see a live eagle with a 12-foot wingspan.”

Oesch said the organization was thrilled to earn a top-10 spot in USA Today.

“We were up against competition in large cities: Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York and New Orleans,” he said. “That was a big coup for us.”

To learn more about Red Earth and the festival, visit

Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival

10 a.m.-7 p.m. June 10-12

Cox Convention Center

1 Myriad Gardens



Red Earth Parade

10 a.m. June 10

Myriad Botanical Gardens

301 W. Reno Ave.


Print headline: Influential tradition, The long-running Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival returns June 10-12 at Cox Convention Center.

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