Powwow brings glimpse of American Indian culture Goal of three-day event is education

July 16, 1993|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

The term "Authentic American," usually reserved for selling items from cologne to movies, will take on a different meaning during the next three days of American Indian culture at the Howard County Fairgrounds.

Here's where the indigenous is exotic.

The American Indian Pow-Wow/Festival, a first for Howard County, will include dancers and drummers along with craft and food vendors that will provide local residents with a casual immersion in the continent's earlier culture.

The overarching purpose of the gathering is to educate.

"You'd be surprised what people know absolutely nothing about Indian culture. It's just tepees and John Wayne," said Barry Richardson, creator and coordinator of Pow-Wow, the event's sponsor, which organizes festivals in states from North Carolina to Pennsylvania.

Mr. Richardson, 38, who is executive director of the Baltimore American Indian Center in Fells Point, created Pow-Wow three years ago. He and his wife, Brenda, finance the business and say they have submitted it for nonprofit status.

A native of Warren County in North Carolina, Mr. Richardson belongs to the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. He and his wife moved to Maryland in 1980 and live in Catonsville.

Pow-Wow has held similar gatherings this year in Raleigh, N.C., Richmond and Fredericksburg, Va. and Salisbury. Another is planned for next weekend at Virginia Beach, Va. Baltimore's Festival Hall will hold a Pow-Wow Aug. 27-29.

talked with a lot of people who live in Howard County. They asked, 'Why don't you do something near Columbia?' " Mr. Richardson said. "They've never ventured downtown for the Pow-Wow at Festival Hall. People [in Howard County] are open to new ideas and new people. We've got a good response."

The tapestry of more than 30 North American tribes will be represented this weekend. Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, Chickahominy, Oneida, Apache, Mohawk, Blackfeet and Piscataway tribes will all have members attending.

The Piscataway is one tribe with Maryland roots deeper than those of the first European settlers at St. Clement's Island in 1634. It has about 5,000 members in Maryland. The Lumbee-Cheraw tribe has about 4,000 members in the state.

200 tribes represented

About 200 tribes are represented in Maryland. The high number of tribes can be partly attributed to people who work at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington and reside in Maryland.

Mr. Richardson said that the 1990 Census listed 12,000 Native Americans in Maryland. In 1980, however, 90,000 Marylanders claimed to have some American Indian blood in their lineage. Today, more than 35 percent of American Indians live on the East Coast.

Patrons of this weekend's powwow will find that much of the education comes through entertainment or eating.

More than 75 dancers will compete for prize money. Dances are traditional and include grass dancing, which imitates people putting out a fire. The grass dance began in the 1930s, about four decades after historian Frederick Jackson declared the frontier closed.

Arnold Richardson, a distant cousin of Barry Richardson, will be the dance judge.

Evolving culture

"People don't realize that American Indian culture is an evolving culture," Barry Richardson said.

Vendors will sell Indian food such as buffalo stew, Navajo tacos and Indian corn soup. Other traditional American fare, such as hot dogs and soft drinks, will also be on sale.

"We try to keep it as traditional as possible, but we are in the '90s." Mr. Richardson said.

Indian artisans will sell crafts including pictures, pottery and bead work.

Mr. Richardson stressed that the event is designed as "nonthreatening" and inclusive.

"It's just a small activity set up to educate people about native Americans. Nothing heavy, really," he said.

The American Indian Pow-Wow/Festival will take place from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. today, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children and senior citizens. For more information, call Brenda Richardson at 788-0254.

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