Singing, dancing and exploring roots

Wakichipi American Indian Powwow moves to W.Va.

Wakichipi American Indian Powwow moves to W.Va.

October 09, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

In the Saponi language, "Wakichipi" means "good dance."

And that's just some of what visitors will enjoy at this weekend's Wakichipi American Indian Powwow at the Martinsburg Youth Fairgrounds. The event - which will be held Friday, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 12 - moves to Berkeley County, W.Va., after 10 years in Hagerstown.

Powwows are social gatherings of hundreds of American Indians who follow traditional dances started centuries ago by their ancestors. Decked out in Indian regalia, representatives from about 30 tribes in the United States, Canada and Mexico - including Aztecs, Iroquois, Lumbee, Navajo, Sioux, Cherokee, Rappahannock, Chickahominy, Piscataway and Haliwa-Saponi - will compete for more than $8,000 in dance prize money.

"It's really an international event," says event organizer Barry Richardson, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe of North Carolina.

Powwows serve to unite Indians, many communities of which were divided by the federal government's adverse Indian policy years ago. Tribal members from three countries will march together during the Grand Entry, a procession of all the dancers into the dance arena to kick off the cultural celebration on Saturday and Sunday. As the head male and female dancers, Tuscarora-Lumbee Keith Colston of Baltimore and Haliwa-Saponi Melissa S. Richardson of Warrenton, N.C., will lead the march of nations, Barry Richardson says.


In addition to uniting Indian tribes, powwows help dispel public stereotypes by giving non-natives an opportunity to experience American Indian cultures and traditions, Richardson says.

Friday's festivities will focus on raising awareness about the diversity of American Indian culture through a buffalo educational program, craft demonstrations, storytelling and dance performances. It also will be an excellent chance for individuals interested in exploring their American Indian roots to speak with tribal delegates, Richardson says.

Many people don't realize that there are more than 550 tribes - and close to 1 million Indians on the East Coast alone - in the United States, and that cultural aspects such as dress, food, ceremonies and government differ from tribe to tribe, he says.

"You can't put us all into a basket and say, 'Indians do this and Indians do that.' It's not that simple," he says. "And you can't judge people just by the color of their skin."

Haliwa-Saponi Arnold Richardson of Hollister, N.C., will serve as master of ceremonies throughout the weekend. In addition to his work as a cultural educator, Richardson is an accomplished flutist, pianist, painter and carver. Another powwow star - the 1,000-pound buffalo, Tecumseh - also will be on hand to help teach people about the American Indian culture.

Tecumseh's unlucky brethren will be served up in burgers and stew.

"To me, buffalo tastes a little better than beef," Barry Richardson says. "It's a little sweet."

Other American Indian dishes will include Indian corn soup and fried bread. Richardson says there also will be more traditional festival fare, such as barbecue, chicken and pork for less adventurous palates.

Between 25 and 30 arts and crafts vendors will sell wares such as turquoise jewelry, dreamcatchers, moccasins, beadwork, rugs, books and paintings.

"They'll probably have anything you want if it has to do with Native Americans," Richardson says.

The powwow will be held rain or shine.

If you go...

Wakichipi American Indian Powwow

Friday, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 12

Martinsburg (W.Va.) Youth Fairgrounds

Friday admission is $7. Admission for Saturday and Sunday is $4 per day for children ages 3 to 12; $7 for ages 12 and up.

For more information, call 1-304-264-8845.

-- Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Buffalo education program, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Craft demonstrations, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Face painting, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

American Indian storytelling, 9:30 to 9:40 a.m.

American Indian and Aztec dancers, alternating performances 9:40 a.m. to noon.

-- Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Grand Entry, parade of Native American dancers, noon.

American Indian flute music, 1:45 to 2:15 p.m.

Aztec dancers, 2:15 to 3:15 p.m.

American Indian dancers, 3:15 to 5 p.m.

American Indian flute music, 5 to 5:30 p.m.

Aztec dancers, 5:30 to 6 p.m.

-- Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Grand Entry, parade of American Indian dancers, noon.

American Indian dancers, noon to 1:30 p.m.

American Indian flute music, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

American Indian dancers, 2:30 to 4 p.m.

American Indian flute music, 4 to 4:30 p.m.

American Indian dancers, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Winners announced, 5:30 to 6 p.m.

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