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The Powwow Report . . .


We are pleased to announce this event was not the fiasco that it reportedly was last year. We had four separate individuals tell us the 1999 Poplar Grove Plantation powwow was "the most unorganized powwow" they had ever attended. Basically, we did not find that to be the case this past weekend.

Poplar Grove Plantation and Mario Hernandez sponsored and produced this powwow. The event was billed as the "5th Annual Share The Spirit 2000 Native American Fall Festival," but by all intents and purposes it was a dance and drum group contest powwow from Friday night through Sunday afternoon. Dancers were charged a $5.00 registration fee.

Lowery Begay served as MC. DeVane Burnette, Sr. and Tess Bladen were head dancers and Little Hawk Soap was arena director. Southern Eagle of Maxton, NC was host drum and Young Spirit of Charleston, SC and Running Elk, also of Maxton, provided songs.

We counted 30 craft vending booths and four food booths.

The Aztec Dancers provided entertainment twice Saturday and once Sunday.

A five-member Color Guard led 61 dancers into the circle during the Saturday noon Grand Entry. We counted 66 dancers at the 6:00 p.m. Grand Entry and 69 dancers at the Sunday 1:00 p.m. Grand Entry.

The Saturday afternoon and evening audience appeared to number approximately 1,500 to 2,000. Sunday attendance appeared to be about the same. Mr. Hernandez was quoted in the Wilmington Star newspaper as saying approximately 14,000 people would attend the three-day event. Hernandez could have been including the several thousand school students that attended the School Days on Thursday and Friday.

Lowery Begay performed well as MC. His friendly, infectious personality grabbed the audience's attention. He kept events, social dancing and competition dancing moving well in the circle.

Dancers and spectators we talked with said they were enjoying the event and the dancers had obviously come to win dance competition.


The men's traditional dance competition was certainly one of the highlights of the event. Eleven dancers competed. We think the group should have been split into two groups to make the judging a little easier on the judges, but we feel the judges did a good job anyway.

We commend the head judge and powwow officials for creating a separate contest category for the four men straight dancers present. We feel straight dancers should not have to compete with regular, bustled traditional dancers.

The audience was treated to not one, but four hoop dancers. Lowery Begay, his nephew Ben Sanchez, Julian Hunter and Lamar Drye performed the hoop dance simultaneously during the Sunday afternoon session.

Saturday, in honor of Veterans Day, the powwow presented free 50th Anniversary caps to all Korean War veterans present.

One women's traditional dancer, an Oglala Lakota, chose to dance Northern Style during the competition. (In Northern Style, the dancer remains in her starting place and does not dance around the circle.) We were please to see the judges had some understanding of this style and awarded the lady with second place in the competition. This style is not seen often here in the Southeast.

Dancers and drums were fed each evening by the powwow.


There was some apparent confusion and poor organization involved in the dance competition portion of the event, but Lumbee dancer Becky Goins volunteered to serve as head judge and seemed to lend some logic and order to the competition. Dancers were asked to re-register Saturday afternoon.

Dance competition judges were apparently chosen at random mostly from dancers present. Some judges had to disqualify themselves from judging certain categories because they had relatives in those categories. Some pre-powwow planning could have prevented this problem. Under the circumstances, we felt the judging was fair and impartial in virtually all the categories.

We continue to disapprove of head dancers and host drums being allowed to compete in competitions. Usually, head dancers and host drums here in the Southeast are paid or offered a stipend and provided motel accommodations for their services. Other dancers and drums take their chances on being awarded any expense or traveling money. We feel the "walk-in" dancers and drums should have their chances bettered by not having head dancers and host drums compete.

We could have enjoyed the powwow a little more without the frequent announcements encouraging spectators to spend money in one manner or another. Begay hawked raffle tickets for some of his artwork, Share the Spirit 2000 T-shirts were advertised often, and an auction of vendor donated crafts and artwork was held near the end of the event on Sunday. Spectators were told by the auctioneer that the money would "go to help pay for feeding the dancers and drums," etc. With 14,000 people at $5.00 per person (all ages), we feel Poplar Grove Plantation and Mr. Hernandez shouldn't have to be too concerned about paying the bills. (First place in the adult dance categories was only $150.00, so this cannot be considered a "big money" powwow.)


Taken as a whole, we enjoyed this event. Dancers, drums, spectators and powwow principals seemed to enjoy it and have fun. The powwow portion of the event moved at a good pace and kept the audience's attention. Dance competitions were vigorous and without serious flaws. We feel that with better pre-powwow planning and more effort put into organizing the event, this can be an outstanding North Carolina powwow.

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