By Sally Wagoner
The 20th annual Purple Heart Powwow will be held in White Cloud on Saturday and Sunday, August 4th and 5th. Families are welcomed to this kid friendly, drug and alcohol free event which is sponsored by the Military Order of the Purple Heart.
On Saturday, an 11 a.m. VFW Flag Raising Ceremony and Fly Over will take place to honor all Veterans. The public and all Veterans are urged to attend this special ceremony.
“Grand Entry” will open the Powwow at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, and at 12 noon on Sunday. The public is encouraged to be there for Grand Entry to experience the first sounds of the Big Drum, singing, honoring the many tribal staffs and military flags, and dozens of dancers in beautiful regalia. Vendors selling Native American foods, crafts and art will be present for the public to enjoy as well.
“A Powwow is a celebration, not only of Native American heritage but a celebration for all people,” said Gene Reid, a member of the Mohawk tribe and a Purple Heart Viet Nam Combat Veteran. Mr. Reid has been the coordinator of the event for the past 20 years. “People of many tribal nations from across the country and Canada will be here to share their cultures and have a good time.”
“You don’t have to be Native American to join in at the Pow Wow,” added Gene. “Everyone is welcomed to learn and participate. People in beaded regalia will be dancing traditional steps around the circle to the beat of drums. The M.C. will explain to people what the different kinds of dances mean, and when everyone can enter the circle to dance together in an ‘Inter-Tribal Dance. ’ ”
Today’s powwow may have been the outcome of several origins. The Algonquian term “pau-wau” or “pauau” referred to a gathering of medicine people or spiritual leaders, and may have been the source of today’s word “powwow.” What may have began as a warrior or healing ceremony among the southern Tribes spread north and east in the 1800’s during a time when traditional Indian dances were illegal under the Bureau of Indian Affairs. As U.S. expansion and colonization took place, Indigenous people’s ways of life were decimated as they were forced to live on isolated reservations and any expression of traditional ceremony, prayer or gathering was punishable by law. In 1921 the Office of Indian Affairs issued a policy statement to its agents which stated: “….all other similar dances and so called religious ceremonies are considered ‘Indian offenses’ under existing regulations, and corrective penalties are provided. I regard such restrictions as applicable to any (religious) dance…..”
The need to pray, dance, celebrate and gather together among individual Tribes as well as among many Tribes together continued in spite of these laws. In the 1950s urbanization and the continued expansion of contact between and among Indian communities on and off reservations helped the growth of these gatherings, as it became a common meeting ground for Indians of all tribal affiliations (Iverson 1998:136, www.powwow-power.com/powwow-history/). Still outlawed, these gatherings became more “acceptable” in some areas as apparent social events by the dominant society, yet they secreted many of the spiritual aspects of the songs, dances, clothing and practices of the hundreds of Tribes that participated. It wasn’t until 1978 when the “American Indian Religious Freedom Act” was signed by President Carter that expression of religion and spiritual beliefs through any means by Native Americans, including dance, was made “lawful”. Today a powwow can occur for a social get together, for a contest dance or to honor a person, family or belief, such as an “Honor Our Mother Earth Powwow” or an “Honoring Our Elders Powwow.”
“The White Cloud Purple Heart Powwow honors all Veterans, welcomes all families and brings people of all walks of life together,” explained Gene Reid. “It is about unity. We hope to see hundreds of people and many new faces at this year’s celebration.”
Admission to the Pow Wow is $4.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors and children ages 6 to 12, with kids 5 and under free. The address is 286 Baseline Road, White Cloud. From the center of White Cloud take Wilcox Avenue west past the school to Sycamore Avenue and turn right. Follow that to Baseline Road as it curves left. The Pow Wow grounds will be on the left with parking in a field on the right. No dogs except registered Service Dogs are allowed on the grounds and participants are encouraged to bring lawn chairs.
The Pow Wow is supported by the admission fee, donations and a generous gift from the Fremont Area Community Foundation
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