The Powwow Report . . .
21st ANNUAL CCAIP NATIVE AMERICAN FESTIVAL & POWWOW
The only noticeable changes at this event this year were the location of the MC stage inside the arena and what appeared to be fewer people showing up compared to last year.
This annual event is produced and sponsored by the Cumberland County Association of Indian People. For the past ten or so years it has been held in the Memorial Arena in Fayetteville, N.C.
Ray Littleturtle was MC. Head dancers were Kenneth Dwayne Jacobs III and Nina Pearl Maiden. Southern Eagle of Maxton, N.C. was host drum. Other drums present were Southern Suns, Edisto River Singers, and Thunder Boys. The latter group is a new N.C. drum consisting of several dancers and members of the Guilford Native American Association in Greensboro. Two or three members of Red Wolf from the Hollister, N.C. area sang with them at this event.
Running Elk, also out of Maxton, showed up after the supper break and remained until closing. Running Elk did not compete in the drum competition. “We just came up to sing and have some fun,” one of the members told us.
We counted 91 dancers at the 12:30 p.m. Saturday grand entry. We counted 81 dancers at the evening grand entry. Both counts included tiny tots. Carol Goins of CCAIP said the final total she received was 103 registered dancers. Two years ago, we counted 125 dancers during grand entry at this event.
A brief look around the vendor booth area revealed about the same number as last year, 15, and mostly the same faces. One food booth provided chicken and rice, Indian tacos, and collard greens.
An Apache man who lives in Fayetteville took his baby son or maybe grandson into the circle for the first time and danced in the circle with the child on his shoulder. The man had come to the powwow as a spectator. The toddler wore a red, white, and blue bandana on his head and light blue jump suite-type pajamas. The spontaneity and joy of the man caught our attention..
Ordinarily, we are reluctant to include names when writing about someone’s competition dancing, but we feel we must give credit where credit is due.
Jingle dress dancer Brenda Sexton of Greensboro was stunning during the contest portion of this powwow. We have watched Brenda for a number of years now and have seen her progress as a dancer. Her dancing at this event showed just how far she has come. She was awarded second place in the contest, but her footwork was outstanding, and in our opinion, better than the other winners. She maintained a high level of energy throughout the dance while appearing to float above the dance floor. A very fine effort by a lady nearly twice the age of her competitors at this event. You have done well, Mrs. Sexton, and it was noticed by numerous people.
And, we want to commend Consuela Richardson, fancy dancer, for her very fine dancing at this event. Miss Richardson wins quite a few first places at contest powwows, but, frankly, right now she IS the person to beat when it comes to women’s fancy dancing in North Carolina, and probably will be for some time.
THE DOWN SIDE:
The overall downside to this powwow is it seems to continue to go downhill in number of dancers and spectators each year. Yes, Saturday afternoon and early Saturday night saw a good bit of rain there, but the event is held inside. Yes, Ft. Bragg and Pope Air Force Base were still on alert, but military Natives have never turned out in large numbers at this event. The only other nearby powwows were the Occaneechi Homecoming north of Mebane and Hillsborough and a new fall powwow at the Tuscarora Nation of N.C. at Maxton. However, we have attended the OBSN Homecoming in the past and it did not draw large crowds of dancers or spectators. The powwow at Maxton was an outside event and from the looks of the weather map, it was fairly wet down there. Therefore, we do not feel these things can be used as overwhelming reasons for the low attendance at the Fayetteville event. We couldn’t get any solid numbers, but CCAIP officials told us attendance “was kinda down” from last year.
So, what’s causing the noticeable decline? We’re not sure, but we have three ideas about it. People we know, who live in Fayetteville, say the event wasn’t heavily advertised locally. If this is the case, that is unfortunate. There are several hundred Native Americans stationed at Ft. Bragg and many of them might enjoy getting out to a powwow while stationed there. We even know military Natives who have their dance regalia with them.
Another possible reason for the decline is the “same-old same-old” syndrome. Same old MCs, same old drum groups, same old dance contest winners, etc. We acknowledge that there was a “new” drum present this year. But, as stated above, this group is composed of very familiar N.C. dancer faces and is not the Thunder Boys of central Ohio.
A third possible reason for the decline in dancer participation and consequential family and friends attendance may be the contest judging and the predictable outcomes of many of the contests, from year to year. We know of at least one dancing family that was not at the event this year because of an incident regarding dance competition that occurred last year. The word “boycott” was used in describing their absence. This is unfortunate, but hardly unexpected. As with the Lumbee Spring Powwow last May, judging in some of the dance categories at Fayetteville was poor, if judging actually existed at all. We are even close to calling some of the results a joke, but it’s not a joking matter to serious contest dancers.
It’s our contention that if you are going to have a contest powwow, then spend time and effort, prior to the powwow, to line up a large number of qualified judges and assign them to categories where they don’t have relatives or best friends or fellow drum singers/dancers to judge. Yes, this does take time and effort, but it prevents having the same handful of people judging every year and at similar powwows. It may prevent having the same winners every year. We know that the usual winners probably won’t appreciate that, but other good dancers might.
Pretty much the same-old same-old. We were hoping for better, but didn’t find it. We feel the CCAIP powwow committee needs to advertise this event earlier and more aggressively in the local and surrounding area. Emphasis should be placed on inviting those Natives stationed at Ft. Bragg. We think the CCAIP needs to expand their MC choices beyond the usual two that work this powwow. If this is going to continue to be a contest powwow, we feel the CCAIP would do well to promote it as such, advertise the prize money in the various categories, and secure new judges and more judges to work the contests. (We have seen some powwows, no bigger than this one, have up to 24 different judges.) The city of Fayetteville has many permanent Native residents, from all across the country, but we don’t see them, or hear of them, being included or involved in the preparations for this powwow. There is quite a bit of varied Native talent and help out there if someone in CCAIP will just look for it. After all, the name of the organization is Cumberland County Association of Indian People. Naturally, we assume this includes all Indian people.
ADULT DANCE CONTESTS RESULTS
Men’s Traditional: 1st - Osceola Red Shirt, 2nd - Otera Mills, 3rd - Timothy Jacobs.
Men’s Grass: 1st - Frank Lowry, 2nd - Rob Jacobs, 3rd - John Oxendine.
Men’s Fancy: 1st - Waya Dimalante, 2nd - John Hedgepeth, 3rd - Bobby Hurt.
Women’s Traditional: 1st - April Whittemore, 2nd - Sharon Harris, 3rd - Dora Old Elk.
Women’s Jingle: 1st – Meredith Hedgepeth, 2nd - Brenda Sexton, 3rd - Ashley Mitchell.
Women’s Fancy: 1st - Consuela Richardson, 2nd - Marie Richardson, 3rd - Alexandra Copeland.
Drum Group: 1st - Thunder Boys, 2nd - Southern Sun, 3rd - Edisto River Singers.