By Naeisha Rose
Native Americans from North America representing 40 different tribes celebrated their culture for three days during the Thunderbirds’ 39th Annual Grand Mid-Summer Pow Wow at Queens County Farm Museum last weekend.
Throughout the event, Native Americans wore the traditional regalia of tribes from Canada, Panama and the Caribbean, as well as the South, the Midwest and Northeastern regions of the United States.
Hundreds of people from all different backgrounds showed up to listen and watch the traditional Gourd singing, dancing and drumming as they sat around in a circle on haystacks in an orchard.
Food truck vendors dished out Native American tacos and sweets, like baked bread with honey and cinnamon. Toddlers and adults competed in different dance competitions, which had a $500 prize for the winner.
Dennis Zotigh of the Kiowa Dakotas and the Pueblo tribes came from Washington, D.C. to provide narration about the history of the indigenous people of the Americas. He spoke about the purpose of the pow wow.
“A pow wow is intertribal dancing where tribes from different areas come together to dance to a common drum beat,” said Zotigh, who works at the National Museum of the American Indian branch of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington as a cultural specialist. “A pow wow itself is a celebration of being American Indian, with dancing and singing as its focal point.”
The indigenous people of North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean spoke over 250 languages and dialects, according to Zotigh.
Hoop dancer Marie McKinney Ponce, of the Key West Conch, Taino and Cherokee tribes, got emotional when speaking about her heritage.
“We kept our land in North Carolina,” said Ponce, who is also of European and African descent. “They fought the powers that were. They had legal battles that they won for their land. To do the Gourd dance is an affirmation of that history and that legacy.”
Monica Lopez, a St. Albans resident, brought her 7-year-old twins to the festivities to embrace their Cherokee culture.
“When you have children, it is good for them to know where they come from,” Lopez said.
Little Blue Storm, her daughter, was in the fancy shawl competition, while Lone Fox, her son, participated in the men’s traditional dance portion of the event.
The proceeds of the event will be split between the Thunderbirds organizers and the farm. The Queens County Farm will use its part of the earnings from the event for educational programs.
The Thunderbirds will use their portion to provide college scholarships to Native American youths.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose