Friday, November 6, 2015

Harvest Gathering

On Sunday Bill and Donna joined me to visit Berryville where Native Americans were holding their Harvest Gathering. The event had been on since Friday and we were arriving after noon, meaning that there weren't too many folks around. I had a look in the main hall where vendors and displays were showing off carved gourds and selling tools and decorations for people to have a go themselves.
This Gathering is to celebrate the gourd and its harvest, and to bring about people from all walks of life. The website is here.
I walked around the vendors outside before going to the arena but I wasn't drawn to anything in particular. But I did spot Lewis Campbell walking through and quickly pulled out my camera.
He graciously stopped and allowed me and another photographer to take some photos. The first time I'd seen him was at the Chickahominy Pow Wow a couple of years ago.
The photo above was from then but today he wasn't wearing his distinctive face paint. I wondered if he was giving his skin a break from it after maybe wearing it for the past 2 days and resolved that next year I would come on the first day. I heard later that there had been a lot more people attending on Friday and Saturday. But he still looked impressive and it was wonderful to see him close up.
But today, this chap, for me, was the star of the show. The largest turkey I've ever seen and the vainest. He was completely tame and actually enjoyed all the attention he was getting. I crouched down and started chatting to him, upon which he immediately came over and started posing. As he saw me lift my camera, he turned as though he was showing his best side and gave every impression of being very excited about all the fuss he was getting. I remembered a turkey back in England who had also been very attentive and had let me kneel down beside him and give him a big cuddle while he gobbled and grunted under my chin. Today strengthened my resolve to not eat turkey at Thanksgiving and instead spend it with them at an animal sanctuary not too far from home.
I reluctantly left my feathered friend and walked over to the arena where I could hear a voice addressing the crowds. The dancing was about to begin.
There weren't as many dancers today as there had been at Chickahominy but the colors of their outfits were still vibrant and beautiful to watch as their swirled and stomped their way around the grass. We were asked to stand for various dances and I was mortified when after taking some photos I sat down on the grass to shoot from below, and an elder came up to me and asked me to stand. With profuse apologies, I leaped to my feet, feeling my cheeks burning.
After a few dances, an elderly Master of the Ceremony started talking about their history and then about his war experiences. One topic led to another and I noticed that after about 30 minutes people were drifting away. He continued talking and I sat, resolute, not wanting to appear rude by leaving. Looking at the bleachers I saw a few others also sitting firmly on their seats and patiently waiting for the next dance, but still he continued with his reminiscences. After a good 45 minutes, another elder spoke on a different microphone to announce 2 ladies who walked up to our speaker with a couple of taco laden plates, and he was gently led away to have some lunch. What a tender action, and done so graciously so that he didn't feel embarrassed at having spoken for so long. We can certainly learn from these people. And as he walked away to enjoy a well earned meal the dancers returned to the arena for the final turn on the grass, inviting everyone to join and copy their movements in a respectful manner if they wished.
A truck parked on the grass to remind us of those lost during wars. At one point during the afternoon, the Master of the Ceremony invited all those who had served or were serving to join them on the grass, each one telling us how they had served and for how long.
I really enjoy these events, and each time I've come away, feeling very respectful of these people. They show no grudges or violence towards those who stole their land, and have always behaved in a manner that I feel we should learn from. Their children and elderly are cherished, as are their traditions and beliefs, and once again as I walked away to head home, I left feeling peaceful, yet with a twinge of regret that I didn't live in a culture as well behaved as theirs.

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