Fall is the season for festivals. All over the city we are seeing a plethora of unique celebrations crop up. Anything from the Folk Festival to the Comedy Festival, there are festivals of all kinds fit for anyone’s interest taking place here in the Triad over the next few months. But along with the typical and more well known ones comes festivals for all the different cultures and ethnicities that Greensboro is home to. For the Native Americans that means it’s PowWow season!
And you may have the question, what is a PowWow? Well, according to Oxford Languages a PowWow is “a North American Indian ceremony involving feasting, singing and dancing”. In short, it is a festival of its own to celebrate the Native American cultures and bring all different tribes of North America together with others in their community. While it may seem like an exclusive event, all are welcome to attend and learn about the Native American culture!
A few weeks ago the Guilford Native American Association (GNAA) held its 44th Annual PowWow here in Greensboro. The celebration was held in Guilford Country Park from Friday, September 17th to Sunday, September 19th. Each day was an all day affair, with gates opening at 10 AM and closing at 10 PM. The PowWow location was transformed from a simple empty field to a lively gathering featuring the traditions, crafts, and music of multiple tribes across the country. With a simple eight dollar donation fee, attendees were granted entrance to an undeniably remarkable experience.
The festivities at the PowWow were endless. The celebration included around fifteen vendors featuring crafts and information on Native American resources; among these vendors were Lumbee Outfitters, Guilford County Library, and Guilford County Schools American Indian Education Association. There was also a multitude of different independent crafters and small businesses selling handmade dream catchers, jewelry, and traditional Native American garb. It was truly an amazing experience witnessing the beautiful and intricate crafts made only a few hours prior to the event.
Beyond the vendors, the music and dancing was the real star of the show. Native American dancers and drummers traveled from all over the country – even as far as South Dakota! – to participate in the competitions held at the PowWow. Dozens of dancers dressed in the colorful and abundant garb traditional to their tribes endured the humidity and danced all day long for the chance to win some cash. Dancing events included the Two Step, Hoop Dancing, and even a chance for attendees to join in dancing with their favorite performer. The main entrances of the PowWow took place at noon and 7 PM and included an amazing performance that gave on-lookers a glance into the heart of indegenious culture. The drummers were also given a chance to shine in a drum competition with the winner earning a reward of cash as well. These performances were spectacular and gave attendees a chance to experience the diversity of traditional North American indegenious peoples music. In my opinion, the entire entry fee was worth just being able to experience watching the dancers and drummers for hours.
And, of course, there was food. Mills on Wheels provided a food truck with traditional Native American favorites such as frybread – a flat dough bread, fried that can be served sweet with powdered sugar, honey, or jam or savory with venison or beef – and Navajo or “Indian” nachos – tacos-like dish made with frybread in place of tortillas — along with other typical “American” foods such as burgers, hot dogs, and chicken. Plenty of fuel to keep everyone energized for a humid yet spectacular day.
In short, if you ever have the chance to attend a PowWow, take it! Experiencing the culture of the indegious peoples whose land we inhabit is an amazing opportunity. The native peoples of North America are incredibly interesting and diverse people and open arms to anyone who wants to learn and participate in these celebrations. As the GNAA PowWow poster stated, “Many nations…Building community”.