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Hundreds gather to celebrate Native American culture at Pow-wow

Head Dancers for the 42nd Annual Labor Day Pow-wow in Sanbornton were Josh Knight and Casandra Jones. The pair had the honor of leading groups of dancers around the Arbor for the daily Grand Entry processions and other dancing throughout the weekend. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2012
SANBORNTON — The woods of the Dulac Land Trust on Osgood Road in Sanbornton were alive with the sound of drums over the weekend, when the 42nd annual Labor Day Pow-wow drew hundreds of people, both participants and visitors, to a celebration of Native American culture and tradition.

Organized each year by the Laconia Indian Historical Association, the weekend is filled with dancing, crafts for children, food and vendors of Native American crafts and products. People flocked to the tents where they could purchase jewelry, leather goods, hand woven blankets, books, and so much more.

"Everything has been going very well, and it looks like a record crowd this year," said LIHA president Brian Sulesky on Saturday.

While many people visited for just the day, others opted to camp out for the entire weekend, and everything from modern day campers and nylon tents to tipis and round houses filled the 90-acre tract of forest.

"I've been coming here since I was little. This is my escape, where I can get 'centered' again," said Angela, who grew up in Sanbornton, and now brings her daughter along to enjoy the weekend, too. "I only missed it once, when I was pregnant with her."

Nine-year-old Olivia was another regular at the event, saying her family has brought her to Sanbornton for the pow-wows since she was just three months old.

For anyone who sought a little time to reflect and honor those who are deceased, there was a beautiful water fountain and Memorial Garden beside Stillwaters Pond. Benches along the pond's edge allowed people the opportunity to enjoy a few quiet moments before rejoining the festivities.

At midday on Saturday and Sunday, the focus turned to the Arbor, where crowds awaited the Grand Entry. Master of Ceremonies Ed Berman announced beforehand that no photos were allowed during the entry however. He also asked everyone to rise and remain standing as the group entered the Arbor to the music of the drumming groups Eastern Medicine Singers and Mountain Spirit.

For the first time in several years, head dancers were named for the weekend, and Josh Knight and Casandra Jones proudly led everyone as they made their way around the circle. Joining them were veterans who are also honored in each Grand Entry out of gratitude and respect for their service.

"This second song is for you, the veterans, and your families," said Berman after the initial dance. "Please come forward so we may honor you."

Holding feathered wings, the men and women who have served the nation in all branches of the military then danced on their own to the beat of the drums. Following the Entry ceremonies, everyone was invited to join in the dancing for the remainder of the afternoon.

The musicians, such as Eastern Medicine Singers, are dedicated groups who perform the intricate and often sacred songs of their Native American ancestors. Seated together in a circle around a large drum, they all sing and chant to their rhythmic beat.

Artie, also known as Red Medicine, said his group was using one of their smaller drums for the weekend, which was 33 inches in diameter, but they also have another that is 49 inches across. The drums are handmade of oak, moose sinew and buffalo hide and have a deep, resonating tone.

Eastern Medicine Singers is comprised of more than a dozen members who come together from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts to practice twice a week for pow-wows and other events.

"I missed my own Pow-wow (in Rhode Island) so I could be at this one, but I'll join them on Monday," Artie said, adding he was pleased with the reception the group received while in Sanbornton.

Evening hours generally find more dancers in full regalia when temperatures are cooler, but even during the day, there was much to see and enjoy. Several of the men, women and children were still draped in furs, shawls, beadwork, and other Native American clothing from several tribes as they moved to the rhythm of the drums.

LIHA, based in Laconia, is a nonprofit group who hold several events throughout the year, including a Learners Weekend in June at the Dulac Land Trust and the Sugar Run Pow-wow held in April at Memorial Middle School in Laconia. For more information on the organization, please visit www.lihanh.org.

Garnett Hill
Salmon Press
Parker Village
Martin Lord Osman
Northern Human Services
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