Drum to the Pow Wow

SunWatch Indian Village Hosts “Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow”

By Kevin J. Gray

On Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24, members of the Miami Valley Council for Native Americans (MVCNA) will transform the grounds of SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park to present the 24th Annual Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow. The Pow Wow will feature Native American drumming, singing, and dancing, with performers in full regalia.

Pow Wows are events based on fellowship. The MVCNA notes that “[a] Pow Wow is many different things to different people. It is a time, and a place, where family and friends get together.  It is where strangers become friends and where people from different tribes can share an important part of themselves and their culture. It is an event associated with dancing, singing, and celebrating.” It is also an event that allows Native Americans to share their culture with others. Andy Sawyer, Site Manager/Site Anthropologist at SunWatch, states that while  “[t]he traditions of a Pow Wow may not be familiar to many, . . . the elements of music and dance – along with the opportunity to socialize and catch up with old friends – is something that translates across cultures.”

The Pow Wow takes place under an arbor specially constructed at the site. During the event, the Dance Arbor, adorned in willow branches, will serve as a backdrop for the event’s traditional drumming, singing, and dancing. Drumming is essential to Native American culture, and each year, one group is selected as the host drum for this event. This year’s host drum will be the Lakeside Singers from Wakpala, South Dakota. Grass Eagle, Red Circle Singers, and Southern Singers are other drum groups invited to attend.

Pow Wows are aural treats, but they are also visual feasts. Performers decked out in full traditional regalia will carry out traditional men’s and women’s dances throughout the weekend, led by the Head Man, Wolf Grass Irwin, and Head Woman, Monica Picotte. Look for brightly colored garments adorned with feathers, beads, and animal skins. Notable dances include the men’s grass dance (which features regalia with long fringe that resembles grass blowing in the wind), and the women’s shawl dance (which features dancers wearing brilliant colors and a long fringed shawl, and consists of many elaborate steps). In addition to the live entertainment, guests can browse the wares of Native artisans and vendors throughout the weekend. Traditional fare such as fry bread will be available for purchase.

The planned schedule of events for the weekend is as follows:

Saturday June 23, 2012

9:00 a.m.  Flag Raising

10:00 a.m.  Grounds open to the public

11:00 a.m.  Live Entertainment

Noon.  Grand Entry – Posting of the Staff and colors

12:30 p.m.  Welcoming Address: Andrew Sawyer, Site Manager, SunWatch Indian Village and Guy W. Jones, President, Miami Valley Council for Native Americans

12:40-4:30 p.m.  Live Entertainment

4:45 p.m.  Retreat of Staff and Colors

5:00 p.m.  Dinner Break: Entertainment TBA

6:00 p.m.  Grand Entry – Posting of the Staffs and Colors

6:30-8:30 p.m.  Live Entertainment

8:30 p.m.  Retreat of Staffs and Colors

Sunday June 24, 2012

9:00 a.m.  Flag Raising

10:00 a.m.  Grounds open to the public

11:00 a.m.  Live Entertainment

Noon.  Grand Entry – Posting of the Staff and Colors

12:40-4:30 p.m.  Live Entertainment

4:45 p.m.  Retreat of Staff and Colors

In addition to the Pow Wow specific activities, visitors also are encouraged to explore the prehistoric site itself. For those unfamiliar with SunWatch, the area showcases a partially reconstructed Fort Ancient-era Native American village that dates back to about 1200 AD. Using archaeological evidence uncovered at the site, scientists have rebuilt and recreated elements of the 800-year-old village, including the woven branch stockades used to protect the site, several of the mud-walled and thatch-roofed dwellings and common buildings, and the central plaza, whose towering cedar poles were believed to have been used as an early calendar to mark the winter solstice and the harvest season. In the village, scientists have unearthed burial sites and abandoned food storage and trash pits, which have contributed greatly to their understanding of the peoples who lived at this site. The site also features a “three sisters” garden. The garden supports corn, beans, and squash (the three sisters), as well as sunflowers and gourds–all staples of the original inhabitants’ diets.

SunWatch was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1990 because of its archaeological and historical significance. Today, the site is run by the Dayton Society of Natural History, which manages both the SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park and The Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

Admission to the Keeping the Tradition Pow Wow is $6.00 for adults, $3.00 for seniors (60+) and students.  Children under 6 are admitted free.  For questions, call (937) 268-8199, or visit: www.SunWatch.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com

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