The University of Alabama

German Volunteers at UA Festival Indulge Fascination with Native Americans, Cultivate English Language

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – German natives Albrecht and Lucia Ihlenfeld are among those anticipating this year’s Moundville Native American Festival, coming to The University of Alabama’s Moundville Archaeological Park, Oct. 2-5, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

The festival offers the Ihlenfelds a chance to interact with Americans and study the English language, and this German couple plans their vacations to the United States to participate in this festival that celebrates America’s Southeastern Indians.

“When we plan our trips, we take the Moundville Native American Festival dates into consideration to ensure we can participate,” said Albrecht Ihlenfeld from Wicker, a small wine village in central Germany.

The Ihlenfelds first visited the United States in 1991 with their oldest son to pick a college and while visiting another son, Mathias, at UA in 1999, they extended their stay to take English classes at UA’s English Language Institute.

“One day on campus, we bumped into some archaeologists digging around the Gorgas House,” Ihlenfeld remembers, “and became interested in what they were doing.”

Ihlenfeld declares a longtime interest in German movies about the American “Wild” West, inspired by Karl May (1842-1912), the most published author in the German language whose fiction on the American West and the American Indian inspired much of the German image of America.

Ihlenfeld explains, “He certainly made an impact regarding Native Americans in Germany. His writings and books are very well known among most Germans — we even have had Karl May festivals in certain German cities throughout the year.”

“With increasing interest, one thing came to another and we became closer to the archaeologists we met and visited them in Moundville,” said Ihlenfeld.

Once in Moundville, the Ihlenfelds became involved with archaeology work and met other people living and working there. Their stay overlapped the 1999 Moundville Native American Festival where they first volunteered, teaching Native American games to children.

“Volunteering for the Moundville Native American Festival is a win-win situation,” said Ihlenfeld. “My wife and I can support the festival while we take the opportunity to learn the [English] language better by interacting with other people.”

The festival attracts more than 16,000 visitors each year to the UA’s Moundville Archaeological Park where Native American performing artists, craftspeople, and musicians of Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole descent return to celebrate their rich culture and traditions where their ancestors once lived-the site of the largest civilization north of Mexico 800 years ago.

“We really enjoy the opportunity to interact with Native Americans, and the festivities related to the Moundville Native American Festival,” Ihlenfeld continued, “and we have met so many great and friendly and hospitable people in these events.”

Festival admission is $6 for adults and $4 for children, students and groups of 10 or more. Telephone 205/371-2572 or 205/371- 2234 to register your group or for more information, and visit the web site moundville.ua.edu.

Now in its 14th year, festival attractions will include:

  • Archaeology in Action: see an archaeological excavation and discover how scientists continually learn new information about Moundville and Southeastern Indians
  • Children’s Area: join Native American games, craft projects, and “make and take” hands-on activities
  • Flintknapper’s Corner: watch some of the country’s finest stone craftsmen demonstrating this ancient Indian technique for chipping stone into tools and weapons to make arrowheads, spear points, and other stone tools
  • Performing Arts Stage: enjoy a full schedule of acclaimed Native American dancers, storytellers, and musicians, such as the acclaimed acappella trio Ulali
  • Demonstration Square: visit each station featuring basketry, beadwork, silversmithing, stone pipe carving, fingerweaving and clothing manufacture, pottery making and firing, repose copper working, primitive skills, and bow manufacturing
  • Southeastern Indian Living History Camp: witness life in the early 1800s through the sites, sounds, and smells of a Creek hunting camp; learn about the fur trade, hide tanning, weapon making, cooking, and hear an elder describe his journeys through the wilderness as enactors recount daily activities and events with historical accuracy
  • Native American foods: taste Indian fry bread and shuck roasted corn, or hot dogs, nachos, and other festival concessions

Occupied during the Mississippian Period (A.D. 1000 to 1500), Moundville was the capital city of one of the largest and most powerful prehistoric Indian communities in the Southeast. The city mysteriously collapsed before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. The site’s earthen mounds, once topped by temples, council houses, and homes of nobility, are remnants of a ceremonial and economic center whose trade routes extended across the entire lower Mississippi River Valley.

Today the Moundville site is a 320-acre National Historic Landmark containing more than 20 preserved prehistoric Indian mounds, a campground, picnic areas, a boardwalk nature trail, a theater, a conference center, and the Jones Archaeological Museum that houses some of the finest Mississippian-era artifacts ever found in North America. The Moundville Park is also home of the only earthlodge council house ever discovered in Alabama-one of only a few found in the nation.

Moundville Archaeological Park is located on the Black Warrior River 14 miles south of Tuscaloosa. The park is open daily, 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. The museum is open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Both the park and museum are closed for major holidays.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Kristi Wheeler-Griffin, UA Museum Marketing Director, 205/348-2041
  • SOURCE: Albrecht Ihlenfeld, 205/266-7321 (after Sept. 25) at the mobile phone of son, Mathias Ihlenfeld (fluent in English)