NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 20, 2013

Drumming, dancing highlight Summer Moon Pow-Wow

People talk about Native Americans as if they only lived in history.

“Ninety-five percent of reports about Native Americans on the three major news channels are about the past,” said Claudia Fox Tree, a member of the Arawak tribe. “What a powwow does is show you we’re present, a contemporary people with traditional ways.”

For anyone curious about Native American culture — past, present and future — the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness is hosting its annual Summer Moon Pow-Wow today and tomorrow at Endicott Park in Danvers.

Food and crafts will be featured, along with drumming and singing by the Iron River Singers of southeastern Massachusetts and Urban Thunder of Greater Boston, among others.

“The first song out is always given to the veterans,” Fox Tree said. “Then, the dancing begins.”

The Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers of Cape Cod will perform regional dances, including a blanket dance, stomp dance and duck dance.

“Powwows are a social event; they do social dances,” Fox Tree said. “You don’t have to be native to do them.”

But at the same time, these performances often include a spiritual element.

“As singers sing words into the spirit world, dancers dance on the back of the Mother Earth,” Fox Tree said. “So they’re massaging the prayers into the Earth, and the drum is beating those wishes into the world — the drum is the heartbeat of the Earth, and it connects all of our hearts.”

A master of ceremonies will translate song lyrics and narrate dances and let people know when programs and activities are beginning. He will also describe the regalia and identify the tribal membership of Native Americans as they arrive at the powwow in a “grand entry.”

“There’s no way to know, but powwows can have thousands of people over a weekend,” Fox Tree said, and they can feature tribes from all over the country.

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