Culture on display at powwow

October 03, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - With a bison in a temporary corral and several people dressed in bright, multicolored Native American regalia dancing to the beat of a drum, the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds already looked like another world.

It felt like another world for Brenda Silva as she danced, dressed in a red satin dress adorned with hundreds of beads in the middle of a makeshift arena, listening to the steady drumbeat.

"It's an awesome feeling," said Silva, 42, of Greensboro, N.C. "When I dance, I dance for the ones that can't dance."


People dressed in casual clothing sat in a horseshoe of folding chairs around the arena photographing, videotaping or staring mesmerized at Silva as she did a slow traditional healing dance Saturday during the second annual Wakichipi American Indian Powwow and Show.

With her feet close together, Silva shuffled a side step with her left hand on her hip and her right hand holding a fan of feathers as she danced to the beat of a drum.

The six rows of approximately 500 tin cones on Silva's jingle dance dress ching, ching, chinged as she took each step in her beaded moccasins.

"Very good," was how Terrance Boys, 61, of Plymouth, England, described Silva's dance, which he videotaped. Boys was on holiday visiting the Episcopal Sisters of Charity nuns, an organization for which he is a property manager in England.

Sister Mary Martha, 66, with the Sisters on Swan Pond Road, said she enjoyed the beat of the drummers and the consistency of the music.

"The arena is a spiritual alter to the natives so when you dance, you offer to the Great Spirit," said Arisane Underwood, 53, of Shepherdstown, W.Va. "The dancing is a prayer to the God or Great Spirit. The music the same way."

When observers were invited to dance with those in regalia, Underwood joined them while holding her 10-month-old grandson, Cameron Talbert.

Underwood said she would dance today dressed in her regalia.

Organizer Barry Richardson of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe in North Carolina said he thinks the weather or the weather forecast kept many people from visiting the powwow.

Richardson estimated approximately 700 people attended Saturday's activities. He had hoped for at least 2,000.

"The people that came out had a great time," Richardson said.

They also got to see a live, though occasionally sleeping, bison.

Freddie Perkins brought Tecumseh, an almost 4-year-old male bison weighing approximately 1,650 pounds, to educate people about how important bison were to native people and early pioneers.

Bison were the "Wal-Mart of the Indian," said Perkins, 56, of Ohio.

A handout Perkins had showed the myriad ways people used bison - before Wal-Mart and modern civilization.

Uses included meat, clothing, weapons, toys, fuel, thread, glue, containers and ornaments.

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