Crowds celebrate heritage at Powwow

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 25, 2001

Crowds of participants and spectators from throughout the South and West have gathered this weekend at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians for the 13th annual Natchez Powwow.

Native American dance competitions and exhibitions were held at 1 p.m. Saturday, although some performances had to be canceled due to rain. Performances scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday had to be held at Trinity Episcopal Day School.

More exhibitions are scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the Grand Village. Dance contest winners will be announced at 4 p.m.

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Kevin Todd of Jackson brought his daughter, Destiny Cheyenne, and other relatives to the Natchez Powwow for the first time Saturday. He explained that most sides of his family have Native American ancestry.

&uot;By coming to things like this, we make a connection with our family, where we came from,&uot; Todd said. &uot;It’s important to pass these things down to our kids, so it can carry on.

&uot;Without that, it would die,&uot; he said as his daughter sat transfixed by the rise and fall of the voices of native singers. &uot;And by coming here, we show respect and support of what (the performers)&160;are doing.&uot;

Early Saturday afternoon, Todd’s family and other spectators gathered around the circular arena, watching intently as performers danced to the singing and thundering drum beats of Native American performers in the center of the ring.

Then the crowds stood as traditional dancers, in brightly colored native dress decorated with beads and feathers, danced into the ring and around the circle. They stomped and spun in time with the drums, the bells jingling on clothing.

People also browsed more than 20 booths that sold Native American crafts, jewelry and clothing or stood in line for treats like funnel cakes and snow cones.

The event attracts about 5,000 people each year, according to Powwow Committee Chairman Chuck Borum, who has been an admirer and student of Native American culture since his days as a Boy Scout in Natchez.

Among those who plan to attend both days of the event is Dennis McDowell, who traveled from Little Rock with his family to attend for the fifth year.

&uot;My uncle was a member of the Arkansas Indian Council, so that’s how I got involved,&uot; said McDowell, whose family attends powwows throughout the West and South.

&uot;The highlight, for me, is the head man dancer,&uot; he said, referring to the man appointed to lead the dancing each year.