GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Preserving heritage and promoting history are the themes of the 2019 All Creations Intertribal Powwow.
The powwow arrives at the Clay County Fairgrounds Nov. 28-30. It features Native American food, drums, dances and vendors showcasing trades such as dreamcatchers, beadwork and flint arrows.
In the late 1990s, a powwow at Clay County Fairgrounds was rained out. Organizer William “Moon Wolf” said he was expecting more than 2,000 people when the powwow returns.
“With this powwow, it’s about open arms,” he said. “You’re family, that’s how we look at it. That’s how we were raised.”
Tammie “Shadow Woman” Meeks, William Meeks’ mother, is the Head Lady of the powwow. The Head Lady is seen as a role model for proceedings. Tammie Meeks wears a heavy buckskin with tassels and ornate beads.
The Meeks mostly descend from Oglala Lakota and Cherokee. Tammie Meeks said she urges people to trace back their family lines.
She said in Native American culture, they worshipped in the open rather than a building. Tammie Meeks said some powwows in the south were referred to as “Native American flea markets.” The Meeks hoped to get away from that with a lively atmosphere of learning.
“Our powwow is our church,” Tammie Meeks said. “When we dance, we pray as we dance.”
An intertribal powwow is a gathering of several tribes across the country. William Meeks said he’s been contacted by tribes from South Dakota, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Canada.
“We’re taking this and making it a history event, that way we can continue to move forward,” William Meeks said.
Jamie “Silent Dove” Thompson said she had descendants from Iroquois Six Nations, a collection of tribes from the Northeastern U.S. She said new generations of Native Americans must be taught the dances and crafts to keep the traditions alive.
Thompson said it was common for families to hide their Native American ancestry. She said Native American children would get in trouble speaking out in class about the systematic extermination of their people, but things have changed.
“In school, kids didn’t learn the real history,” Thompson said. “Now it’s turning around. Schools invite us to do presentations and tell the stories.”
Steven “Strong Buffalo” Hammond is an adopted Cherokee and a former Marine. Native Americans had a strong military presence in the 20th Century from the Navajo Code Talkers to Ira Hayes, a Marine captured in the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising photo. Some powwow ceremonies have a head veteran and the flags of service branches are displayed with the tribal flags, Hammond said.
“They’re not just fighting for their country they’re fighting for their ancestors. They’re fighting for their family and their tribe,” Hammond said. “When you see the commitment they have, it’s just overwhelming. We’re all brothers.”
More information about the 2019 All Creations Intertribal Powwow is available at acipowwow.com.