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Native Americans Plan Celebration

by Janet Nesler

 

 

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A Pow Wow is not for show or a performance, it's a celebration. A time to renew the old ways, a time to connect with families, to meet with old friends, and make new ones. First and foremost it keeps the culture alive." These are the words of Cheryl Collins, Executive Director of Ho-Wa-Ne-Ba-Ke-Che in Portsmouth and coordinator of The First Annual Shawnee Homecoming Pow-Wow to be held at Spartan Stadium in Portsmouth June 1 & 2.

The Pow©wow is a public event, and is an opportunity for Native American people to share their culture and heritage with others. Most first-time pow-wow visitors are taken with the visual beauty they encounter. Native American dancers of all ages dance in their colorful regalia made of beads and feathers.

By Shawnee historic division, Native Americans from different parts of the country will come together at this pow©wow. Some of them will travel for days to get here. Probably this area will never see the likes of it again.

Arena Director will be Kenneth Irwin, Sr. from Columbus, Ohio from the Arikara tribe, Ft. Benhold Reservation. Irwin is CEO/Director of Ohio Center for Native American Affairs,
President of Ohio council for Native American Burial Rights, President of the Ohio Chapter of American Indian Movement (AIM). Crayton Moore, Loyal Shawnee, Wichita, Kansas will be the Master of Ceremonies. The Host Drum will be "Southern Plains Singers" Shawnee, Wichita, Kansas and "Black Swamp Singers," International Tribe, Celina, Ohio, Celina Indian Center will be the Invited Drum. Head Man will be Shawn King, Eastern Shawnee, Seneca,
Missouri and Head Lady will be Jenna Yellow Sky Eagle, Absentee Shawnee, Norman, Oklahoma.

"The regalia are not costumes," said Collins, "Costumes are something you put on to be come something you're not. The regalia expresses not only the Indian style of dance but their
tribal traditions and family history. Bits and pieces of their regalia came from ancestors and are handed down. Some of the feathered bussels that the men wear are sometimes one hundred and fifty to two hundred years old. Some of the things they wear are gifts that were given to them to honor them."

Jenna Yellow Sky Eagle, Head Lady dancer has three colors. Each child in her family has a predominant color. Jenna is the eldest daughter and her color is yellow. Her regalia is all hand made and she has a specific pattern that is hers alone. Yellow, red and black are all in her bead work and she will hand that down to her daughter and give her permission to dance in the regalia. She will inherit the traditional colors.

The pow©wows of today are very much different. They are a mixture of the old and the new. The Native American walks in two worlds today. They have to function in a 20th century world and still hold on to the old traditions. The very young and the very old will dance, and every age in©between. They believe the dance is very healing both spiritually and emotionally. A way of
bringing people together.

The pow-wow is a feast for the senses with the tasting of Native American food and watching the crafters and artists at work. All their work will be on display and for sale, while the vibrantly dressed dancers are moving to the magnetic beat of the drums.

The drums are more significant at a pow©wow than to just provide music. The drum to Native Americans is sacred. It is the heart beat of the people and is the oldest thing they remember. Like the aged, it is to be looked upon with respect and dignity. The drum is a healing instrument that keeps their people healthy. So to be a drum keeper is a very serious responsibility. One of
which is to hold a twenty©four hour vigilance over the sacred instrument. They know where it is at all times. It is their whole life.

The singers are chosen for their knowledge of the song and it's traditional form. They use "vocables" to replace the words of the old songs. When many different tribes were coming together they didn't speak the same languages so with vocables they could sing together. These songs are reminders to Indian people of their traditional ways and rich heritage.

"There are three styles of dancing for the women and the regalia describes each type," said Collins. "One of these is the Women's Traditional, which is a very straight dance and the feet never leave the ground. A fringed shawl is folded over one arm and in the other hand is a feather fan. The purpose is to honor mother earth, which is the life giver. It is very straight and
dignified and a very beautiful dance."

Another woman's dance is The Fancy Shawl Dance. Younger women do this in bright satins and a shawl is draped around the shoulders. They do high stepping movements, bouncing and twisting as they emulate the butterfly in movement and color. The butterfly represents the renewal of life. "Jingle Dress Dancers" is another women's category. It has become very popular at pow wows. The young women wear dresses adorned with hundreds of tin cone jingles. Their high©stepping movements keep rhythm with the drum. The Tin Cone Jingle Dance
is considered healing and is rythmicly breathtaking.

The men have a "Traditional Dance" with feather bussels and a staff that has fur or feathers. Another is "Grass Dancing," and their regalia has long fringe and when they dance they simulate
the grass flowing in the wind. They are the first ones to come in at Grand Entry. On their backs or their heads are antennas to honor the grasshopper. The third, The Fancy Dancers, display a
double bussel of feathers upon their backs with high stepping movements. It is a strong influence of modern day dancing.

Honor Dances are done for someone who has done something very special. Such as a veteran or something heroic. "When you are gifted with an honor dance," said Collins, "It's something you never forget in your whole life. They are very traditional and cannot be photographed."

All if this takes place in a dance arena and this can be any open ground large enough to comfortably accommodate the participants and observers. At this pow©wow it will be the Spartan Stadium Complex. The dance arena is a large circle and will be marked off. This area is consecrated for the duration of the pow-wow and organized activities only are conducted there, such as dancing, giveaways and specials. Observers are asked to please honor the arena by remaining outside its boundaries.

In the Spartan Stadium bleachers will be provided for observers, however some may want to bring lawn chairs or a blanket to sit on the ground.

Some of the special rules at pow-wows are to remember that when you enter the pow©wow grounds you are entering into Indian Country and certain cultural protocol presides there. The
visitors are welcomed with traditional Indian courtesy and hospitality. Five things stand out as examples of behavior common to inexperienced, non-Native pow-wow visitors.

The first and often most offensive is incorrect dress. Halters, tight shorts and other revealing clothing are not appropriate for the pow©wow. Casual clothes such as blue jeans and t-shirts, or sundresses are fine. Second, if you bring your own chair, it is best to ask where to put it. Visitors should sit behind participants or to one side unless asked to join them. Third is
to always ask permission to take a photograph when in doubt. Usually Indian people are happy to have their picture taken and cooperate eagerly. However, asking is the polite thing to do.
Fourth common mistake is pointing the index finger. When you want to indicate someone to another person, it is best to indicate with the nod of the head. Pointing is considered very
rude. Finally, remember that tents and tepees are people's homes while they are at the pow©wow. Peering into people's windows and doors is just as rude as it is in your neighborhood.

Ho-Wa-Ne-Ba-Ke-Che is a nonprofit corporation intended exclusively to serve Loyal Shawnee interests within Ohio. It is located at 623 Market Street in Portsmouth and the upstairs of the building houses Native American students that attend Shawnee State University on Scholarships. The corporation acts as a support system for the students so they will be in touch with their culture as they attend college. There were two students this college quarter and they are going back to finish their college in Oklahoma. In the fall two new students will come.
Ho-Wa-Ne-Ba-Ke-Che is directed by a board of Governors consisting of individuals appointed directly by the Tribal Council of the Loyal Shawnee to manage its affairs."The public is invited to attend the pow©wow," said Collins, "This is the Native American way of sharing Indian culture. Outsiders are what makes the pow-wow happen. If people don't come and share, the Indian people go away feeling badly because this is their way of having people learn about Native Americans from the people themselves instead of on TV or in a book."

The gates at Spartan Stadium will open at 10:00am and Grand Entry will be at 1:00pm and 7:00pm on Saturday and noon on Sunday. There will be a charge of $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for seniors and children ages 6©12. Youth age 5 and under are admitted free.

 

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