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The Powwow Report . . .

CRAVEN COUNTY INTERTRIBAL POWWOW – NEW BERN, NC - MAY 4-6, 2001

Seventy-three dancers are a lot of dancers for a relatively new powwow in North Carolina. That’s how many were present and dancing Saturday at the Craven County Intertribal Powwow in New Bern.

Thirty-eight dancers registered Friday night. Thirty-five additional dancers registered Saturday for the three-year-old event.

This was a non-competition powwow with day money divided equally among all dancers each day. A drum contest was scheduled, but only two guest drums showed up and the rules required three drums other than the host drum before a contest could be held. Blanket dances were held for the two drums and the powwow committee presented them with an honorarium to help with expenses.

Host drum was Eastern Bull Singers from Greenville, N.C. Yesah (pronounced EE-SAHW) (People’s Drum) from Virginia and Drowning Creek Singers from Maxton, N.C. were the two visiting drums. Drowning Creek Singers consisted of five members of Running Elk Drum of Maxton.

DeVane Burnette, Sr. and Marion James were head dancers. John Blackfeather Jeffries was MC and Tyrone Grayhorse was arena director.

Fourteen craft vending booths and one early American living demonstration booth were set up circling the dance arena. One large food booth and one shaved ice vendor provided food and beverages. The quality of the craft booths was very good overall.

The powwow committee provided suppers each evening for all dancers and drum singers. Neither dancers nor drums were charged registration fees and both had free admission to the event.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Coastal weather is fickle. The weather was hot Friday and Saturday, and almost chilly Sunday with a stiff breeze, but no rain fell on the event.

Just prior to the Friday evening grand entry, Arena Director Tyrone Grayhorse was asked to “dance the grass down” and thus symbolically prepare the circle for the powwow. We thought that was a nice beginning to the event.

The Saturday supper provided for the dancers and drum singers consisted of roast deer meat, bear meat, and beef. Boiled potatoes and green beans rounded out the meal.

Brothers Jeremy Jones and Charlie Mesteth introduced the Shield Dance to their fellow male traditional dancers Saturday afternoon during a special exhibition. The two youngsters invited all men and junior traditional dancers to join them in the dance Saturday night and again Sunday afternoon.

A very intense round of dancing occurred after a Northern Cheyenne/Arapaho dancer blew his eagle bone whistle and then “feathered” the drum, as some call it, during a Saturday afternoon intertribal.

Attendance at this year’s powwow grew from last year and vendors we spoke to said they hoped to be invited back to the May, 2002 event.

THE DOWN SIDE:

Powwow Director Deborah Wayne said all 20 vendor spaces had been filled, but she received one cancellation by phone Thursday and three other vendors failed to show. < p>

Saturday’s high temperature hovered in the 85 to 87 degree range. That’s hot for dancers and elderly spectators. We think the powwow committee should have provided several awning-type tents around the circle for the elderly and mothers with small babies and children. The three-tent arbor for MC and drums was designated for shade for the elderly, but we counted more young people than elderly there.

We were moved and inspired by the dancing during the first “feathering” or brushing of the drum, but we felt less inspired by the second occurrence during which an eagle feather sprung from an young man’s roach and made a speedy dive to the ground thus stopping the dancing and the event. Things like that make us pause and wonder sometimes.

CONCLUSION:

This was our third year at this powwow. We have watched it grow from a three-day rain-soaked fiasco to a rather hot, sunny, and better-organized powwow. We have watched the number of dancers grow from a total of 30 that first year to 75 this year. (The two head dancers were not registered nor counted among the registered dancers.)

This powwow appears to be strong on dancers and vendors and a little weak on spectators and drum groups. The three drums that were there all worked hard and covered the event adequately, but we think this powwow is now ready for more than three drums.

The grounds and facilities are excellent for a powwow, with the exception of the noticeable lack of shade. But, the location, size of the grounds, and facilities certainly lend themselves to several thousand people per day. Powwow organizers there need to work harder to make the event a household word in New Bern and Craven County.

The overall feeling of the event was one of being relaxed and enjoyable. We could tell the dancers were having fun by the smiles and laughter on their faces. The food was good and there was plenty of dancing and singing. We hope to go back next year and enjoy it again.


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