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Seneca Pow Wow 2012 This Weekend


Seneca Pow Wow 2012 This Weekend
by Mary Fox

The 23rd annual Seneca Pow Wow will be coming to Veterans Memorial Park in Salamanca this weekend, bringing together dancers, singers and craft vendors from indigenous nations from across the U.S. and Canada.

The pow wow takes place on Saturday, July 21 and Sunday, July 22, but the weekend will kick off with contemporary music and sales vendors on Friday evening beginning at 5 p.m. For a complete schedule of events, go to www.senecapowwow.org.

Admission for Saturday and Sunday events are $10 per day for adults, $5 per day for elders 60 years and older, $5 per day for children ages 5-17, and free for children 4 years and under. Veterans and active service members receive free admission with appropriate identification. The Friday event is free. Everyone is welcome at this family-friendly, drug- and alcohol-free event.

“A pow wow is a social gathering of tribal cultures in which we share our customs and traditions, allowing people to see and know who we are as a people,”said Chairperson Pamela Bowen.

The pow wow committee extends a hearty welcome to everyone to attend and experience the opportunity to learn about the rich culture of the indigenous peoples of North America.

A pow wow gives the indigenous Nations an opportunity to come together socially, while friendly dance and drum competitions celebrate the uniqueness of each Native American Nation. This year $65,000 in prize money will be awarded in eight dance categories as well as a drum competition.

There is no dancing without the drums. This year’s host drums are champion quality. Blackfoot Crossing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, sing northern style and the Southern Boyz from Lawton, Okla., will sing southern style.

Styles of dances and drum music are unique to each Nation but most all dances are intertribal and done within the pow wow circle. The circle follows the clockwise pattern of the sun, representing the circle of unity in the cycle of life.

Dances are recognized by the regalia worn. The dancer’s regalia (never referred to as “costume”) and ornaments, including beadwork and feathers, signify special events or honors in a person’s life. Some are symbols rooted in legend.

Many cherished handmade outfits are highly valued and often made by a respected family member. Frequently, they are a delicate heirloom. The feathers in particular are sacred and highly valued. Visitors are welcome to take pictures of individual dancers, but please ask for permission and do not touch their regalia.

Competitions are generally divided by male or female by age categories. Even children under the age of five dress in their native tribe’s regalia and they are encouraged to participate in order to instill in them a respect for the pow wow traditions.

Women’s competition dances include:

The Fancy Shawl Dance features women wearing brilliant colors and a long, fringed and appliqued shawl performing rapid spins and elaborate dance steps. Some call them butterfly dancers and after you see this style you will know why.

The Jingle Dress Dance is a healing dance in which women wear a dress with hundreds of small tin cones that make noise as the dancers move with light footwork.

Men’s competition dances include:

The Fancy Dance or Fancy Feather Dance features colorful regalia with dramatic movement featuring spins, leaps and an occasional somersault.

The Grass Dance features regalia with long, flowing fringe and the dance steps are reminiscent of stomping on the prairie.

Every weekend of the year there are pow wows held across North America. Many of the participants you will see at the Seneca Pow Wow this weekend are champion dancers and singers.

“While pow wows are not a part of our culture historically, my understanding is that early organizers began holding them on our territories as a way to extend our hand in friendship to our neighbors and other Nations from across the country. It is a borrowed custom but we try to infuse the pow wow with our own unique Seneca culture by showcasing our Iroquois dance styles,” said Bowen. The Seneca Nation is one of six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.

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