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Native traditions thrive at LIHA Pow Wow

At last weekend's Labor Day Pow Wow in Sanbornton, a group of women dressed in their Native American regalia prepared for a special ceremony in the Arbor to honor and remember the many indigenous women who have been abused, kidnapped and even murdered in a rash of violence against them and their culture. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2019
SANBORNTON – Tradition is all-important among Native Americans and their descendants, and for the 49th year, the Laconia Indian Historical Association invited the public to join them for their traditional Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow at the Dulac Land Trust on Osgood Road in Sanbornton, where people could enjoy some of their centuries-old music and dance and learn about their culture.

Sue Lynn Thyng, who has been a part of the organization for 46 years, is the new president of LIHA, and brings with her skills and organizational experience from her job in the corporate world. Having just taken over the reins in January, she worked hard to help the organization revive this year's Pow Wow special in just a short amount of time.

"We'd been struggling with some organizational issues for a while but things are looking much better now and this weekend has been great," she said.

As always, there were campsites available and many traditional tipis were set up for the weekend by some of the Native American campers who attended. There were also lots of vendors along the wooded road to the central Arbor offering beautiful Native American crafts, jewelry, literature, art and regalia for purchase.

A children's craft center was available in the morning hours for young ones from toddlers to teens. Anita Creager is the organizational force behind the crafts and volunteer Cheryl Silveira said there is always plenty for boys and girls to do at the Pow Wow.

Some of this year's crafts included dream catchers, tooled leather or metal armbands, and beaded necklaces and chokers, along with sacred bags, leg bells and dance sticks suitable for dance sessions. There were also kits available for children who wanted to create miniature tipis and canoes.

"These are all Native American-inspired. Most of the kids really enjoy coming by to make things they can use for dancing in the Arbor," said Silveira.

Events for the weekend got underway on Friday evening with a Mourner's Feast followed by a Candle Light ceremony in the Arbor at 9 p.m., which was a Memorial to All Lost.

On Saturday morning, there was food, crafts, archery and tomahawk events, all leading up to the Grand Entry at noon. This year there were four groups providing music in the Arbor, led by the Host Drums of Heavy Rain. They were joined throughout the weekend by the drums of Humble Spirit, the Black Hawk Singers, and the music of After the Corner, a one-man performer who played guitar between dance sessions.

During Saturday's Grand Entry, 14 women took part in a special ceremony to honor the thousands of indigenous women who have been abused, kidnaped, and even murdered by people outside the Native American culture. Entering the Arbor with red fags to symbolize those who have endured such violence, they were led by Kristy Montry whose niece was one of the innocent victims. Men looking on were encouraged to raise their fists high and pledge to never condone such acts of violence against women, who are highly respected in the Native American culture. The flags were then placed around the Arbor and any woman who had ever suffered abuse or violence at the hand of a man was invited to tie a red ribbon in the center of the Arbor so they could be remembered and prayed for over the weekend.

Saturday evening brought another Grand Entry, honoring Native American veterans and law enforcement members, too.

Before each Grand Entry everyone in attendance was invited to have themselves smudged. Cree Indian Leandre (Lee) Berard performed the smudging ritual Saturday afternoon and explained it is part of a cleansing ritual. Smudging, he said, is a tradition that involves the feathered fanning of smoke over a person's body, using four natural ingredients- tobacco, cedar, sage and sweet grass. Each of those four plants were chosen for the belief that they help bring truth, health, strength and wisdom to those who are smudged.

"It gets us ready for the ceremonies; it gets rid of negative energy and brings out the positive energy in people," Berard said.

On Sunday, many of the activities were repeated once more but included the "Biggest Feast in the East" at 5 p.m., then the presentation of long-standing honorary awards to members of LIHA.

Thyng said she is already formulating ideas for next year's 50th Anniversary of the Labor Day Weekend Pow Wow. She will be bringing back the traditional turkey feast, absent over the past few years, and much more.

"Next year is going to be phenomenal. I can't wait," she said.

LIHA is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that always welcomes new members of any background. Besides the Labor Day Pow Wow, they host other events throughout the year, including a Learners Weekend early each summer. They also have several outreach programs, training seminars and social activities throughout the year and work with Belknap County schools and scouting programs to teach the culture of Native Americans. For more information on LIHA, please visit them online at facebook.com/LIHANH.org.

Town of Brookfield
Martin Lord Osman
Town of Brookfield
Varney Smith
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