Plumley Armory on the Campus of Norwich University came alive with the sound of Native American drums last Saturday. Hundreds of Native Americans representing over thirty different tribes from North and Central America all came together for a traditional Indian gathering on the huge main floor of the Armory to perform Native American dances and song in the First Warrior Spirit Pow Wow.
“Historically the Pow Wow is a gathering of Native Americans meeting for some specific purpose. That purpose may be to celebrate a harvest or hunting or to talk about peace or maybe to just celebrate making it for another year. It is part celebration and part social occasion.
Our purpose here is twofold,” said Cherylanne Linares, the Director of the Pow Wow. “We wanted to honor our Veterans and we wanted to show the students here what a Pow Wow is,” Ms. Linares said.
Ms. Linares has a connection to both entities. She is a Native American who has an affiliation with the Blackfeet Tribe (Mont.) and she is a student with a double major in the Nursing and Psychology programs at Norwich. She is also the founder of 1st Nations NASANU (Native American Students at Norwich University).
To the Non-Native Americans who stopped in to observe things may have seemed a bit chaotic but to the Native Americans present every dance move, song and drum beat had significant meaning.
The first and most obvious thing that got noticed was the beauty and variety of the various dancers regalia. (The word costume is not to be used- that implies acting or just playing, and the dancing is a serious undertaking.) There were dozens of different sets of regalia- far too many to describe in this articlebut three caught the eye of this reporter. Ben Linares, an Azteca Dancer from Mexico was resplendent in gold regalia that featured a headdress that featured a gold eagle head & beak and plumes of pheasant feathers that seemed to stretch to the sky. He also carried a gold shield trimmed in red feathers. It was a very impressive display of Native American artwork.
A young couple from North Carolina, Fred and Valerie Pedro, displayed the regalia of their respective tribal affiliations. Fred wore the very impressive blue, white and black robe, white moccasins and feathered headdress of a Grass Dancer of the Lumbee (N.C.) tribe while Valerie was wearing a striking red dress of the Waccamaw Siouan tribe (N.C.) that featured a breastplate that was beaded with thousands of beads. To top off her regalia she had a single Eagle feather in her beaded headdress. They made their own regalia. “It took about three months,” Valerie said. “He sews. I bead,” she laughed.
The Pow Wow opened at 11:00 a.m. with a tribute to Billy Walkabout , a highly decorated Native American Vietnam Veteran and featured a Grand Entry Veterans Tribute at noon. The afternoon’s events featured lots of dancing and drums and the ceremony closed at 8 p.m. It is difficult to tell exactly how many people attended because of the fluid nature of the event but Plumley Armory was indeed a very busy place for nine hours last Saturday.