Pow Wow gives peek into the past

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 30, 2004

The 16th Annual Meherrin Pow Wow kicked off last Friday with gates opening at 10 a.m. for Student Day.

The students learn by lecture, demonstration and hands-on the history, culture, and day-to-day life of the American Indian.

First, the students gathered at the sacred circle to learn basic drum-dance steps.

David Perry of Tuscaroran decent says, &uot;I’m tickled and enjoyed the speed in which the children were drumming and dancing to the beat.&uot;

Rock painting was hands-on with other things getting painted in the process.

Native Americans left painted rocks along trails to relay information much like road signs today.

Then it was on to beading.

Feathers, furs and beadwork put finishing touches to moccasins, buck skins, knife sheathing, quivers, amulets and head dresses.

Regalia is not complete without necklaces and bracelets which the students strung some for themselves.

The fascinated students listened and watched in awe as Frankie Red Hawk Conner, also of Tuscaroran descent, knapped points, put a hand hoe to practical use and told the Iroquois story of the Three Sisters – the corn, bean and squash.

&uot;The sisters were planted together with a fish in a heap,&uot; says Red Hawk.

&uot;The sisters then grow in beneficial harmony with the corn, the squash and bean’s pole, the bean, the corn and bean’s nitrogen provider and the squash, the corn and bean’s ground cover.&uot;

The students asked questions about this symbiotic relationship to get this straight. These indigenous plants’ seeds were traded to the colonists who adopted the planting method.

This method is still seen in family gardens today.

The students were shown wildlife specimens used for food, clothing and decoration, such as the raccoon, bird, squirrel, turtle, deer and bear.

The animals’ sacredness and use of the entire animal is stressed.

Several groups offered their face painting skills to the students.

Along with head dresses and other Indian-made items, such as spears and bow and arrows bought from the vendors, many students went native.

Perry, Maria Hollands Fiquerroa, Dillon Smith, Sarah David and Tina Turlington with The Indian Recovery Program demonstrated day-to-day life stretching and scraping deer hide, fire starting and cooking a spitted venison roast.

Corn was ground with mortar and pestle, mixed with water and fried over the coals beside a clay pot filled with an already simmering stew.

The students enjoyed setting and standing around the campfire and being involved in this part of the Indians’ daily life.

Inside the palisade, students visited the Meherrin &uot;longhouse.&uot;

Diane Byrd, a Meherrin native, showed the students gourds and pumpkins, both squash family members, and told of their various usage.

She showed them a fox hide and reiterates total animal usage including claws.

Baskets were made by weaving grasses like bear grass, pine straw, and other native materials. Muddy clay was molded into vessels, decorated and dried.

Animal skins and bladders were also used to make containers.

These vessels were used to transport and store water, seeds, dried meats and fruits and cook in.

Students weaved and got their hands muddy molding clay.

With paint all other them and muddy hands, the children became a mother’s nightmare.

The museum, updated with additional artifacts, displays, Indian crafts, educational information, etc. is a must see. The day is not complete without munching down on such Indian fare as the Indian taco.

&uot;Student Day was a total success with 773 students attending from local and schools as far away as Williamston, Chesapeake and the Carolina’s Outer Banks,&uot; says Dorothy Lee, a Meherrin.

&uot;We appreciate the students and others who come and make our Pow Wow a smashing success.&uot;

Gates reopened on Friday at 6 p.m. with Grand Entry.

The Meherrin Tribal Grounds came alive with drumming, singing and dancing.

The regalia, composed of all the colors of the rainbow and more, took on a golden hue as the sun sets.

After darkness set in, a bonfire is lit adding yet another different hue to the regalia.

The Closing Ceremony is done early to allow needed rest for Saturday’s festivities.

Saturday’s festivities begin with noon’s Grand Entry.

The POW, MIA, servicemen and veterans are recognized and thanked for their service and sacrifice.

Today’s Native American Braves continue to serve and help protect our great nation, it’s values and freedoms.

In and around the arbor, six drum groups – Southern Sun, Stoney Creek, Muddy Water, Eastern Bull, Red Oak and Black Bear – were set up to provide the day’s drumming, singing and chanting.

Indians enter the circle for a group Intertribal Dance.

Anyone, including spectators, could participate in the Friendship Dance.

The children are encouraged to learn and participate in the various dances.

You’ll often see infants carried by parents in the circle.

Tiny tots, children, teenagers and adults participate in various age and gender specific dance competitions.

The sun’s light changing from bright white to various shades in the red and gold spectrum continually change the Indian’s colorful regalia as dancing and the day progressed.

Everyone enjoyed visiting the vendor stands, looking at and buying various Indian-made crafts, eating, and meeting and talking with one another.

The day ended as another bonfire died down.

The Pow Wow is an old tradition.

Originally called a Pau Wau, it set a certain place-time where tribes could gather to fellowship, feast, dance and trade.

The Blackwater, Nottoway, Meherrin and Chowan Rivers, creeks and tributaries along with Indian and game trails made travel easy.

Today people still travel the old Indian trails, two being

Hwy 13 & 158,

to Pow Wow with the Meherrins.

Indians travel great distances like Canada, Mexico, Florida and Texas to be here.

Various local tribes including the Haliwa-Saponi and Tuscarora made grand appearances.

This is homecoming for Meherrin families such as the Hall, Chavis, Lewis, Butler, Pierce, Archer, Reid and others.

Acting Chief, Thomas Two Feathers Lewis points toward the last known Meherrin Indian town site shown on The Collet Map of 1770, located in the present day &uot;Little California/Pleasant Plains&uot; along and around Potecasi Creek.

The 49-acre Meherrin Tribal Land is a part of this ancient town.

Two Feathers says, &uot;Our short term goal is payment in full of our tribal land debt.

Our long term is Federal recognition.&uot;

The tribal ground acquisition shows the Meherrin based importance in their ancestors, roots and who they are.

What better place to Pow Wow and have a homecoming than on lands once lived on by one’s ancestors.

Sunday’s rainy mist didn’t dampen spirits as people gathered under and around the arbor to drum, sing, dance, chant and be together.

The Stoney Creek Drummers closed the 2004 Meherrin Pow Wow with a final piece.

One leaves the Pow Wow and tribal grounds with a sense of peace, pride and kindredness. Seeing the pumpkin reminds one of the first Thanksgiving – the Pilgrims and Indians feasting and giving thanks for the New World’s freedoms and bounty.

Native pride, pride in your roots and self, American pride and willingness to fight for its freedom show the founding fathers’ &uot;One Nation under God&uot; and &uot;We the people of the United States&uot; is alive and well.