Indian powwow promotes culture

Gathering: Native Americans come to Havre de Grace to display their crafts and traditional dances, and to plant a peace tree.

November 09, 2003|By Amanda Angel | Amanda Angel,SUN STAFF

A small white pine now stands on the grounds of the Susquehanna Lockhouse Museum, perched along the river with a sign that says, "May peace prevail on earth."

It is the same species of tree under which Native Americans buried their weapons to form the Iroquois Nation.

The Rev. Amy B. Paul, who had cared for the tree for five years, recited a prayer for peace and placed that pine in the ground to begin the first Four Bay Winds Gathering last weekend in Havre de Grace.

"I want to make sure that this culture doesn't die," said Paul, who is part Cherokee and Tuscaloosa. She had planned the event for the past two years.

While similar to a powwow, the gathering offered a more educational setting, explaining the traditional dances as they were performed, according to Louis Eagle Warrior, the arena director and flute player.

However, the gathering included many of the mainstays of a powwow: There were vendors selling Native American crafts and books, stands to buy buffalo burgers and fry bread, and, of course, drumming and dancing.

Paul, also called Blessing Bird, said 500 people came through the gates Saturday and 300 on Sunday. With admission charges, vendor fees and two raffles, Paul said, she was able to raise $800 for the Four Bay Winds - enough to open the organization's first bank account.

Paul said money raised at the event will help to fund a building for a Native American Library and Museum and to continue to offer educational classes in Native American philosophy.

The unseasonably warm weather and the scenic location at the mouth of the Susquehanna River helped Paul and the vendors, who said this summer's rainy weather has hurt their income.

"I told her, `You got Indian summer on the first weekend of November, you did good," said Edward Elk Moon, a vendor and musician from Hawk Mountain, Pa.

Elk Moon travels around the Middle Atlantic states 20 to 30 weekends each year to sell handmade instruments, knives and buckskin clothing at powwows and craft fairs from his Little Long House tent.

He said that Paul had invited him to the powwow earlier this year to participate in the dances.

The grounds - still muddy from a storm - caused minor inconveniences.

The drum accompanying the dances had to be dried out next to a fire of lumber and white sage, and the drummers and onlookers sitting in chairs would sink into the grass. Otherwise the events ran close to Paul's schedule.

Dave and Kate Walsh-Little from Baltimore sat on one of the dry patches of grass watching the intertribal dances with their two daughters. Grace, 2, was squirming on her father's lap, while Maya, 4, played with two plastic Native American dolls in blue and pink buckskin dresses.

"We want to expose our kids to Native American culture," Dave Walsh-Little said.

While the white pine will remain at the Lockhouse, it is not certain whether Four Bay Winds will.

Paul, who plans to make the gathering an annual event on the third weekend in October, said she would like to hold the gathering at the Lockhouse but not if it means signing a contract.

Anytime Indians signed a contract with the white man, the Indians got the short end of it, she said.

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