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The Powwow Report . . .

LRDA LUMBEE SPRING POWWOW – LUMBERTON, NC - MAY 11-12, 2001

"Here’s an idea. Why don’t we get together and throw ourselves a powwow and give a bunch of prize money to each other? And, if we have some non-Lumbee, “Indian-friend-of-the –month”, we can let him or her have some of the prize money, too! And, we can do this at the spring and fall powwows and at Metrolina and Guilford Native and Cumberland County and Triangle Native because we really run those powwows, too."

We know we will catch hell for the above statement, but the evidence points to that as being the way it is in Lumbee powwow country.

We looked hard to find good things to report about the annual Lumbee Spring Powwow, but found only a few. We are referring to it as the “LRDA Lumbee Spring Powwow” because it is primarily produced and sponsored by the Lumbee Regional Development Association, not the new Lumbee tribal government. The event was held at the Southeast Agricultural Center / Farmers Market near Lumberton rather than at the Robeson County Fairgrounds.

This was a competition powwow for dancers and drums, but we saw no indication of the prize money amounts; just “thousands of dollars awarded.” And, like the Lumbee Fall Powwow last fall in Pembroke, there was very poor judging, or tabulation of points, at this event, if actual “judging” occurred at all.

We counted 73 dancers with registration numbers during the 1:00 p.m. Grand Entry on Saturday. Powwow officials were quoted in The Robesonian newspaper as saying there were 88 dancers present Friday night.

No host drum was designated. Advertisements said the first three drums would receive $100 each. It was an open drum contest. Drums present were the usual Stoney Creek, Kah-Ta-Noh Jr., Southern Sons, and Southern Eagle.

John “Stickboy” Oxendine and Shelley Strickland, the current Miss Lumbee, were head dancers. (They were also head dancers the previous weekend at the Metrolina Native American Association powwow in Charlotte, NC.)

Ray Littleturtle was MC, sometimes assisted by his son Tony Clark. Kat Littleturtle appeared to be the official storyteller. We didn’t get the name of the arena director.

Nineteen craft vending circled the dance arena. Some spectators and even one LRDA official commented on the fewer number of craft vendors this year. Out of the 19 booths, only four had high quantities of locally handmade, Native arts and craft items. The majority of items in the majority of the booths were manufactured. We have many excellent, local Native American artists and crafts people here in North Carolina, but they were not present at this powwow for whatever reasons. The N.C. Indian Cultural Center had a booth in which they were selling raffle tickets for a 2001 Ford Mustang. LRDA had a booth in which tribal members could order The Lumbee Ring. Four food booths and one beverage trailer provided food and beverages. The quality and variety of the food offerings was good: hotdogs, hamburgers, Indian tacos, sausage dogs, chicken & rice, collard plates, chicken kabobs, turkey legs, fry bread, funnel cakes, and slices of homemade cakes. The best deal in the food section was the grilled whole turkey legs at $3.00. They were huge and delicious.

The powwow provided supper Saturday for dancers and drum singers. They were served pizza, chocolate fudge squares, and a drink.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Unfortunately, this part is going to be difficult. First, it did not rain much and it rained for only a few minutes beginning at 4:15 p.m. The rain helped to settle the dust, but only for a short while. A fairly steady breeze helped keep the mid-80s temperatures bearable.

An honoring was held for Lynwood Watson recognizing his graduation from the East Carolina University medical school. Watson has sung with Southern Sons for several years.

John Oxendine and Shelley Strickland did a fine job of serving as head dancers. It is obvious that Oxendine, a grass dancer, loves to dance and it is a pleasure watching him in the circle.

All tiny tot dancers were presented with trophies for their participation.

A fly-in and car show was being held at the Robeson County Airport and we enjoyed watching some of the aircraft fly over the powwow area.

THE DOWN SIDE:

Spectator numbers appeared to be down from previous Lumbee Spring Powwows we have attended. The afternoon attendance, not including dancer and drum families, was small. By 9:00 p.m. the spectator numbers had increased but the majority of them were high schoolers and youngsters meeting friends and socializing at the powwow.

Long on breaks and honorings, short on dancing. A five to 10-minute rain shower occurred at 4:15 p.m. and the MC announced the powwow would resume at 7:00 p.m. Thus, a two hour and 45 minute break in the dancing action.

Apparently, no color guard had been selected for the powwow because the MC had to ask someone to get the staff and flag and form up into a color guard for the 1:00 p.m. grand entry. Then the announced 7:00 p.m. grand entry and opening ceremonies never happened. An intertribal dance started the powwow again at 7:00 p.m. and dance competition resumed after that. We realize that nothing is written in stone in Indian Country, but when the LRDA spends so much time defining what is proper and Indian in North Carolina and who can legitimately dance at their powwows and who cannot, we find the above mentioned incidences rather slip-shod.

With 73 dancers present, we wondered where were the contestants in several dance categories? Women’s traditional had only three contestants. Women’s jingle had only three contestants. Men’s fancy had only two contestants. Men’s grass had five contestants. Junior men’s fancy had only two contestants and one of those was a 9- or 10-year-old boy who rightfully belonged in the boys’ division, which had only two or three contestants.

Junior men’s fancy dance category was the worst mismatch in dancing competition we’ve ever seen at a powwow and the above mentioned little kid beat a 16-year-old consistent first-place winner. One spectator commented this was “the worst case of sucking up to powwow officials” he had ever seen. We have to agree. This is one of the reasons we don’t like “competition” powwows as we stated up front at the beginning of the powwow report series.

PARTIAL CONTESTS RESULTS:

Men’s Traditional: First Place – Osceola Red Shirt, Second Place – Bo Goins, Third Place – Ray Silva.

Women’s Traditional: First Place – April Whittemore, Second Place – Sharon Harris, Third Place - Stacy Mills.

Women’s Jingle: First Place – Meredith Hedgepeth, Second Place – Jenny Red Shirt, Third Place – Brenda Sexton.

Drum Contest: First Place - Stoney Creek, Second Place - Kah-Ta-Noh Jr., Third Place - Southern Sons.

CONCLUSION:

We have attended this powwow for numerous years. We are sad to have to report that it has gone downhill from what it has been in the past. We hope that LRDA and Lumbee tribal officials will do something to refresh and revitalize this event and make it more than just a carbon copy of the “same old, same old” we are seeing at many of the state-recognized tribal and association powwows.


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