Thursday, October 3, 2013

Chickahominy 2013

On Saturday I drove down to Providence Forge and met with a couple of friends for breakfast before we headed over to the Chickahominy Pow Wow. I've always had an interest in Native Americans, growing up watching cowboy and indian movies, and loving those colorful outfits and especially the feathered headgear. Living here in the States I've not really come across too many of these folks and even an eagerly anticipated trip to the Native American Museum in DC was disappointing as I didn't see a single authentic feathered headdress. I was excited to finally see this intriguing race up close and personal.
The Chickahominy tribe were the original inhabitants of Virginia but were forced off their land by the settlers. Even when they were later given land to occupy they were then forced off of that too due to the whites needing more land. They moved further south and managed to settle, and even though their lives were dramatically altered by the settlers and they were treated unfairly, they remain a gracious tribe who now welcome all to learn about their history and take part in their pow wows. This event was their 62nd pow wow and they announced a larger number of folks attending than in previous years.
They started the event with a welcome dance, I uploaded a video here.
The outfits were amazing, there were so many colors and styles that I didn't know who to look at first. A closer look showed that all this clothing was handmade. Some of the make up I found a little scary, reminding me of those old westerns I watched as a kid with the war mongering Indians . After the welcome dance, the men walked out into the arena followed by the women and children. This was called the Flag Song and we weren't allowed to take photos which was fine, we all respected that and lowered our lenses.
Then the MC asked that all those who had taken a part in defending this country to enter the ring while the rest of us stood and applauded them. It was quite emotional to see veteran soldiers walking out and shaking hands with the Native Americans,  many of whom themselves had fought for the United States. We all clapped and the MC said if we were tired of clapping then think of those who had kept fighting despite their fatigue, and so we all clapped harder. Once they had left the ring, more dances began in the arena with the MC explaining the moves.
A few of the men wore these stunning back pieces, or bustles, made of eagle feathers, if earned, or turkey and hawk feathers.
Had to post a photo of this guy. He's so spanking gawgeous that I was sure everyone must have heard my tongue hit the ground as my jaw fell open. Oh Yum!!! He was like a Native American version of a young David Essex.
The women performed dances too. Some danced with bells, no mean feat as with 365 bells, their outfits weighed 20 - 40lbs. Some of the traditional women performed a slower, dignified and more graceful dance which I really admired. They stood apart from everyone.
Oh there he is again!Another yum!
There were so many amazing outfits here and all of these gentle folks behaved with so much dignity and nobility. They seemed to calm everyone around them, I noticed there was no rowdiness or loud behavior from anyone, and it rubbed off onto us non Native American spectators. I had been hoping to see some warbonnets, click here, but none were to be found, but there were many different head decorations.
The different headwear all had meanings, click here for a really interesting article on their headdresses.
The Hoop Dance was performed by 2 dancers, the hoops representing the never ending circle of life. They danced with a number of these hoops, jumping them or weaving them or bending them about their bodies, making animal and bird shapes.
While all the dancing was going on, under tent canopies were the Native Americans responsible for the music and chants. There were a few groups of them, each sitting around a drum, each group is called a drum. It was very hypnotic standing and watching these guys. A short video is here.
Unfortunately I never got to sample any of the Indian food which I had been told was delicious, I was simply too stuffed still from breakfast, but I did have a stroll around the many vendors at the back of the field. Some were genuine artisans, selling beautiful hand worked goods but there were a few whose goods looked mass produced. I managed to get a beautiful quiver for my arrows, made of horsehide and decorated with buffalo horn, hawk feathers and beads.
The day went quickly and I was sad to leave, the atmosphere had mellowed me out so all I really wanted to do was stay amongst these friendly natives, watching and listening to their performances in a timeless world. But I had to return to the 21st century and the stress and bustle. I'd quickly seen that these people had a quiet almost reverent way about them. All treated each other in a gentle respectful way and it was obvious that they were peaceful and very unified. I'll be looking out for the next pow wow so I can return to that world again.

1 comment:

Heideldy Deideldy said...

My first powwow I went to - I was so impressed also. I was with a friend that told me what the different dances meant, etc. Not that I remember now. I definitely enjoyed it though! Glad you got to see one!