Powwow offers relaxed atmosphere

Published 12:23 am Sunday, March 27, 2011

ERIC J. SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — William Madden participates in an Inter-Tribal Ceremonial Dance during the 23rd Annual Natchez Powwow celebration at the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians on Saturday.

NATCHEZ — People of all of ages, colors and tribes toted lawn chairs and trekked in and out of the Grand Village all day Saturday, soaking up the sun, spectacle and Native American culture at the Natchez Powow.

Melany Shawnee, of the Quapaw tribe, came from Oklahoma for the event to watch her daughter, the Quapaw tribal princess, perform.

Shawnee sat in a folding chair under the shade of a tent, stringing a beaded necklace for her daughter’s performance.

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While many powwows are structured as a competition, Shawnee said the Natchez Powwow is all about being together, celebrating tradition and having fun.

“There’s no pressure,” she said.

Shawnee’s daughter, Malori, 17, wore tribal garb and hand-beaded accessories as she danced.

Malori, who first dressed for a powwow at 3-months-old, said the Natchez Powwow is her favorite.

“I connect with so many different people; its always a new experience,” Malori said.

Some locals with no Native American roots have made the traditional tribal event a family tradition.

Natchez resident Corlis Chatman said her mother used to bring as many as 20 of the family’s grandchildren to the powwow as far back as it started 23 years ago.

Chatman, who found shade under a magnolia tree, said she had not been back to the powwow in years, but she was reminded of the event when she attended the 11th Moon Storytelling recently at the Grand Village.

“It reminded me that I’m not following the tradition my mother started,” Chatman said.

So she and her two sisters, one who came from Shreveport, La., made sure to take their own grandchildren.

Chatman’s favorite part is seeing the costumes, and the children’s favorite part is the face painting and souvenirs.

Chatman’s sister Christa Kelly said they brought a whole tribe of grand children.

“(The children) are enjoying themselves, running around. I haven’t seen them since we got here,” Kelly said.

Ed “E.P.” Grondine, a former reporter, sat, spread out on a blanket at the powwow to sell his books, be with the people and perhaps learn something.

His book, “Man and Impact in Americas,” includes the perspective and history of the Natchez Indians.

Grondine, who traveled from Illinois, said he is also one-eighth Shawnee and always learns more about Native American history at powwows by exchanging stories and information with other Native Americans around a camp fire.

He also soaks up the atmosphere and traditional singing, dancing and beating of the drums.

“It’s the heartbeat of mother earth,” Grondine said.

Aside from dancing and singing, Saturday also included the Natchez Powwow’s first stick-ball game.

Today’s activities will begin at noon with booths and dancing.