SIDNEY — The community is invited to join in honoring veterans and first responders at the 5th annual Native American Pow Wow at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Aug. 20 and 21.
Admission to the weekend-long event is free of charge and will have plenty of “food, fun and dancing for all ages.” Gates open at 10 a.m. and close at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and 5 p.m. on Sunday. The grand entrance begins at noon on both days.
Apache, Cherokee, Shawnee, Woodland and various other tribes will be traveling from across the U.S. to dance, sing, play music, socialize and camp for the weekend.
It was the Native American artifact collection of the late Vietnam Veteran Martin “Tallhorse” Chambers’ that originally began as an exhibit loaned to the Shelby County Historical Society during Sidney’s former Apple Festival that transformed into the annual gathering of an expected 350 participating Native Americans this year.
“The veteran that started this event never got to see it become such a success. He died before the first one started and now it’s in its 5th year,” the committee said in its Pow Wow donation request sheet.
“It’s like having a big family reunion,” said Martin’s wife, committee member Mary Chambers, on seeing many of the same people each year.
Chambers said there will be over 16 vendors selling authentic Native American apparel and jewelry, turquoise, pottery, dream catchers, and “all different kinds of native stuff.” Authentic Native American food from an Arizona food vendor will be available, as well as typical festival food — “like hot dogs,” for those not interested in native food. They also will be selling 50-50 raffle tickets. Participants will enjoy free admission, parking and camping (there will be a $10 fee for electricity).
“My husband always wanted people to know the Native people aren’t like what’s on TV. We didn’t scalp people. They were taught how to scalp by the English when they came over. Because when they came over, we were peaceful. We opened up our places for them and everything; taught them how to grow their plants,” said Chambers, who also goes by her Cherokee name, “Good Spirit Woman.”
Chambers said it is important to honor the veterans, and that a lot of “Indians” also served in the military so they deserve to be remembered and honored. She said her husband, who inspired the Pow Wow’s inception, served three tours in Vietnam and then later joined the Navy. This year they also intend to honor law enforcement, firefighters, and any first responders.
On both days, the grand entrance will commence with a representative entering the roped-off circle carrying the Eagle Staff, followed by the American flag, POW/MIA flag, and any veterans’ flags — in that order. According to IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork.com, the Eagle Staff resembles a shepard’s staff, but is wrapped in an otter or buffalo’s shin that is attached with mainly an eagle’s tail feathers. The staff “represents the stature and honor of a particular tribe or tribes.”
Once the flags are brought in, veterans and first responders will be invited into the circle to be honored and personally thanked by all attendees present. After the honoring ceremony, anyone interested will be invited into the circle to dance and celebrate with the dancers.
According to Chambers, the Pow Wow provides tribes the opportunity to connect with each other by dancing to the beat of several drums to ritual dances. The dances performed will include the men’s and women’s traditional dance, a grass dance, a jingle dance, fancy or shawl dances, a blanket dance, and a candy dance performed by girls for attending children to pick up candy tossed out.
Chambers said people are welcome to stay as long as they want after closing time as long as they abide by the rules. The committee suggests bringing a lawn chair, and reminds the public that no firearms, alcohol, drugs or politics are welcome.
“Whenever the drum decides it’s tired, it will stop,” said Chambers of how late in the evening dancing lasts. “It’s definitely going to be a good time and a lot of fun.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.