As a first time attendee to a Native American Powwow, I was not quite sure what to expect. I thought I would see some beautiful costumes and dances but I was pleasantly surprised at the array of adventures I had in store.
The 13th Annual Clarksville Area Intertribal Powwow, sponsored by the Native Cultural Circle (NCC), was held Saturday and Sunday in the next to Port Royal State Park. A Powwow is a gathering of Native Americans and friends to celebrate the culture and traditions of the Native Peoples of the Americas.
The variety of experiences was almost unlimited. Wonderful music was played and sung almost every minute of the day. Serious ceremonies were held commemorating the suffering of Native Americans who were forced along the Trail of Tears; veterans were honored for giving service so that others could live; a Grand Entry was held each day around noon.
One of the first of the new things I was to learn is that the Native American Dancer’s clothing is called regalia.
Vendors sold beautiful handmade jewelry, clothing, pottery, and other items at extremely reasonable prices. The array of offerings ranged from very inexpensive beads to expensive art items.
Native American foods and storytelling was available. A book signing was going on in one location. A silent auction took place in a tent behind where the musicians were playing and singing.
Many Native Americans were wearing authentic Regalia with buckskin, feathers, beads, bells, and other ornaments gracing the beautiful clothing. These people not only danced but mingled with the crowds to relate their experiences. The weather turned very hot by mid-afternoon so it was indeed a sacrifice to be clothed in some of these heavy garments.
Tipi (Teepees) were set up next to modern tents and food caravans. The circle was almost complete with a small area of entry.
In the very center was the dance circle. Different members of various tribes entered to dance as each special dance was called by the Master of Ceremonies, Faron Weeks. The White Horse Singers were the host drums with Southern Echo as the guest drums. The Head Man was Jonathan Byrnes and the Head Lady, Jill Smith. The Arena Director was Ronnie Johnson. Head Veterans were Clyde Mayes and Charles Page. The 2009-10 Powwow Princes was Krista Koontz with the 2007-08 Princess, Shay Koontz.
Across the road from the Powwow grounds, park rangers from the Port Royal State Park conducted interpretive talks and tours from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 pm. These tours focused on historic connections to the Indian Removals.
The minimal entry fees to the Powwow raised money to purchase of books by Deborah Duvall, a nationally known Cherokee story teller, and Murv Jacob, an internationally known Cherokee artist, to donate to the Clarksville Montgomery County School System. These books are known as the Grandmother Stories and relate Native American tales like How Rabbit Lost His Tail, The Great Ballgame of the Birds and Animals, Rabbit and the Wolves, Rabbit Goes Duck Hunting, The Opossum’s Tale, and How Medicine Came to the People. All 21 of the elementary school libraries in addition to the library at St. Mary’s have received copies of these books.
Each participant in the Powwow was given a program that explained various dances, the mission and history of the Native Cultural Circle, and gave the agenda for each day. Also included was even a recipe for Bean Bread (Tsu-Y-Ga). The booklet also explained how anyone seriously interested in learning about Native American culture can become a member of NCC.
The rules of this Powwow were pure common sense:
- Listen to the Master of Ceremonies, your guide for the day.
- Men must remove their hats and everyone must stand for ceremonies like the Grand Entry, Flag Songs, Invocation, Memorial, Veterans Songs and Closing Song.
- No children should enter the dance circle unless invited to do so.
- No pictures should be taken without explicit permission and that does not include memorial dances.
- No one should touch any dance Regalia without permission.
- No alcoholic beverages, illicit drugs or firearms are permitted on the grounds. Violators will be asked to leave.
- All trash must be put in appropriate receptacles. Respect Mother Earth.
- Come with an open mind and try new foods. Buy from vendors and celebrate the day.
After having the interesting and educational experience I had at this year’s Powwow, I cannot wait for next year’s event. We are all indebted to Native American peoples for their contributions to our society and can learn much from their traditions and culture.
It is good to celebrate the respect for our planet held by Native Americans and to extend our hands in friendship whenever the opportunity arises.