‘An event not to be missed’: Natchez Powwow returns to two-day tradition

Published 7:56 am Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The 2023 Natchez Powwow is returning to its two-day weekend tradition. This year’s event will be held on Saturday and Sunday, March 25 and 26, on the north end of the Natchez Bluff near North Broadway and High streets, announced Dr. Charles Borum, who chairs the event. The cultural festival is free and open to the public.

Last year’s powwow, a single-day event, was held for the first time on the Bluff. It proved to be surprisingly successful, drawing about 1,500 visitors, according to Borum. He said the extra day this year will allow for greater attendance. Traders, food vendors, and the dancers prefer two days, he said, adding the two-day time frame is what attendees are used to having.

“Everything went well last year, and everybody had a good time,” Borum said. “We wanted to play it safe by starting with one day. But when it was over, we found that we had better attendance than we had expected.”

Email newsletter signup

Longtime powwow participant Lance Harris was not surprised by the attendance or by Borum’s dedication. “Chuck Borum has been bringing some of the finest American Indian powwow singing and dancing to the Miss Lou area for over 30 years,” he said. “The Natchez Powwow is an event not to be missed.”

Fun for whole family

The Natchez Powwow is an annual event that celebrates the culture of Native Americans. In addition to dance and music, it includes Native American food, arts, and crafts. The Natchez Powwow was started by Borum in 1988. In 2018, the Natchez Powwow was listed as one of the top 20 events of that year by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Borum said the powwow is a wholesome, fun-filled experience for the entire family. “It’s something you have to see and experience in order to fully appreciate what it’s all about. You just have to be there.”

Visitors will hear songs that are up to 300 years old. They’ll also hear the sound of 20 men hitting the drum. The colorful, cultural regalia, which can cost over $1,000, is a popular feature. Borum said a lot of the outfits are specialized. A pair of beaded moccasins will cost from $700 to $1,000, he said. However, some of the clothes are passed down from grandparents.

Reflecting on last year’s powwow, Borum said one of the things that stood out to him was the stick ball game. Students from Adams County Christian School, who played soccer, played a game of stick ball against a Choctaw team from Philadelphia, Miss.

“That was a neat little exchange,” he said. “The students were excited to play.”

Finding his Osage family

Borum has also been encouraged by the participation of his friend, David Kelley of Natchez. Kelley is a member of the Osage Nation. About two years ago, he contacted Borum for assistance in learning more about his Native American culture.

“He was Osage, but he did not know about the Osage ways,” Borum recalled. “Since then, he’s gotten connected with the Osage family, and this year, Osage relatives plan to come and be with him at this dance. In May, he’s going to Oklahoma where he and his family will be given Osage names.”

Kelley said he is now all into this journey. Growing up, he and his family had their Osage membership, but “no one handed down the culture.” As he got older, he started wondering, “What is out there?”

“I reached out to Chuck because I had a desire to touch base with my Osage family,” Kelley said. “I didn’t know how to go about it. He has a lot of connections and lot of understanding of Native American culture.

“I offered to help with powwow in exchange for him assisting me. I was surprised that he took me under his wings and showed me things to help me with my dance regalia. He blessed me tremendously. He put me in touch with the leadership in Osage Nation. I am so grateful to him.”

While attending Lone Star War Dance in Granbury, Texas, Borum introduced Kelley to Otto Hamilton, a legislator in the Osage congress, and he in turn helped connect Kelley with his relative, Jodie Revard, who is also a legislator with the Osage legislature.

Kelley said that he and his family are looking forward to being given their Native American names. Having the names will give them a place of honor in the nation, he said. “I’m happy and excited about this. It’s on my mind all the time. My family is super excited, and they want to build their regalia.”

As for the dance, Kelley said it’s hard to explain. Once he got the timing of the drums with his feet, and he experienced the movement of the dance, he found there’s something spiritual about it.

“You feel it deep inside and it gives you a rush,” he said. “I feel connected with the people and the drums. It makes me feel happy and exhilarated. It’s more than just a dance, it’s a connection to something deeper … like your ancestors.”

This year’s program

This year’s program will feature Tim Tallchief, Osage Nation of Jones, Okla., who will serve as the master of ceremonies, and Darsh DeSilva of Round Rock, Texas, who will serve as arena director. The late Mike Shawnee, Quapaw Nation of Owasso, Okla., is listed on the program as “head singer southern drum” following a request by his friends, according to Borum. “His friends asked us to leave his name on the program,” Borum said. “They will honor him at the drum by fulfilling his obligation as head singer.”

Other participants include Stan Smith, Ponca nation of Muskogee, Okla., as head man dancer; Kristal Glass, Quapaw Nation of Stillwater, Okla., as head lady dancer; and Jeffrey “Dude” Blalock, Absentee Shawnee-Peoria of Miami, Okla., as head gourd dancer.

Visitors are asked to bring their own lawn chairs. Alcoholic beverages will be prohibited in the powwow area, as well as the trader and food vending areas.

Saturday’s schedule

9 a.m. — Food and Craft and Farmer Market Vendors open

11 a.m. — Traditional Stickball Game

1 p.m. — Gourd Dance

2 :30 a.m. — Grand Entry and Intertribal Dancing

4 p.m. — Camp Feed for Singers and Dancers and family/friends

6 p.m. — Gourd Dance

7 p.m. — Grand Entry and Intertribal Dancing

9 p.m. — Closing

Sunday’s schedule

9 a.m. — Food and Craft Vendors open

1 p.m. — Gourd Dance

2:30 p.m. — Grand Entry and Intertribal Dancing

For more information, visit https://www.natchezpowwow.com, or send email to Powwow Chairman Dr. Chuck Borum at cborum@hotmail.com.