Sunday, September 27, 2015

Powwow! "They Danced Here Before Us"

With Elissa, Philip and Chase at Seven Eagles' Powwow. 
The Woodland Indians of Northwest Ohio along the great Maumee River, which includes over 200 different tribes, a few sadly extinct but most thankfully still very much with us, celebrated their annual POWWOW at Seven Eagles Park in Grand Rapids, Ohio, this weekend.  And we were there! Philip, Chase, Gran E, and me.  It was a gorgeous fall day.

We celebrated our Native American past, present and future through song, dance, drumming, and heartfelt comaraderie. I especially loved the flute music of award-winning musician Douglas Blue Feather, of Cherokee heritage. I read in the program afterwards that he is a retired Dayton Police Officer, now doing full time what he loves most, "playing music and sharing the spirit."

The powwow is sponsored by the Black Swamp InterTribal Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Native American cultures and increasing awareness of their richness and persistence into the present.  We shared bison burgers and pumpkin spice bread, lively and colorful dancing with dancers in beautiful regalia (which I learned not to call costumes), and great arts and crafts. Exhibitors and vendors included Bear Tracks, Arrow Trading, Black Stone Drums, Mayan Treasures, Native Creations, Tribal Expressions Catering, the Seven Eagles Historical Center and the Woodland Indian Education Center.

It  was great to see Martin Nagy, former art teacher at Maumee Valley Country Day School, where my daughter Elissa went to school and had Martin for art. He is now director of the Seven Eagles Historical Education Center, which organized the Powwow.  Martin channels the spirits of our Native American past and is known for his enduring commitment to multi-culturalism in all its forms.

I was also happy to see my friend Elizabeth Balint, the awesome program director of the Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development (GLC), who does such good work in international exchanges.   Of course she brought visitors from Hungary to the powwow!

I learned that the dancers' clothing, or regalia, is usually handmade, beautifully designed, covered with feathers, bells and traditional symbols. There are lots of different dances that are performed by dancers across different tribal cultures : Men's Traditional, the dance of warriors and hunters; the Women's Traditional dance, honoring the dignity and central role of women; Women's Fancy dance, performed by women in colorful shawls dancing like butterflies; the Women's Jingle dance, which hails from the Great Lakes and is known for the metal cone jingles that adorn the dancers' regalia; and Men's Fancy, known for turns, twists, spins and jumps, the dancers in clothing that features multi-colored feather bustles, worn at the neck and back and decorated with beautiful beadwork and clothwork.

Boys in their new t-shirts.
Chase is down for the count.
What a great day! We left the Powwow in high spirits. Well Elissa and I did. The boys were kind of dragging.  When Chase lay down on the ground as if to say I'm ready for a nap, and don't tell me again not to touch things, we decided it was time to go!

We reminded each other that one day the kids would understand the meaning of our little educational adventures. They might say to their own kids, "I remember going to a POWWOW with my grandma," or "Now I see why Nana dragged me to these things!"

"I hope the kids learned something about the American indians," I said to Elissa. "Well, mom, it might take a few more years for that to sink in, but we can keep at it." Here's to another Powwow! 
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