NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – A local museum is reving up for a big get together today. The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center will be honoring our veterans today with a powwow. Chris Newell and Albert Zamora from the Pequot museum to talk about today’s events…and give us a little sneak peak and what you can see today.
What are the history and traditions of powwows?
While the history of the word powwow has meaning that originates here in this part of the country, the modern day celebration we now call powwow has its origins among tribes from out west. These days powwows are inter-tribal celebrations held all over the country and can include varying traditions depending on where the powwow is hosted and by what tribe. They’re a celebration of life, culture, music and dance that brings together tribes from all over to celebrate with one another. Powwows are held for various reasons. Sometimes they are held annually or are modern day representation of past cultural events and occasionally to celebrate specific events or holidays. The powwow we’re hosting today at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum is a celebration of our veterans. All veterans, whether they’re Native or not.
Do powwows always honor veterans?
Yes, absolutely. Part of the protocol of any modern day powwow includes songs sung in honor of veterans. The American flag is brought in as part of the grand entry and we pay honor to the sacrifice of our veterans by showing reverance and singing a flag song, which isn’t unlike the American custom of singing the National Anthem. That song would then be followed by a veterans song usually composed specifically for veterans often retelling acts of valor and bravery or maybe the hardships endured in battle. The event at the museum is specifically in honor of these brave men and women. It’s a celebration of those that have returned to us and a chance to honor their sacrifice.
What can visitors expect to experience? Visitors can expect to see a modern day Native American celebration. Many of the dancers where brightly colored outfits, these days adorned with beautiful beadwork and eagle feathers. You’ll see many styles of dance represented from all over Indian country. Local dances such as the Eastern Blanket dance will go hand in hand with plains-style dances such as the grass dance and the fancy dance. You’ll also see traditional dances from this region and from others and hopefully through your experience learn a little about Native cultures. Music will fill our Gathering Space from some of the well known local drum groups: Storm Boyz, Red Hawk Singers, and the Silver Cloud Singers. The event is open to the public and we invite you to come down and share with us as we dance and sing in honor of Veteran’s day weekend.
What time and where does the event take place? The museum is open to the public at 9 am and visitors can arrive and expect to see Native vendors selling Native American made arts and crafts amongst other things. The event is included with the regular price of admission. The powwow itself begins with a grand entry scheduled at 11 am and continues throughout the day until the museum closes at 5 pm.
Can you share with us a little of what we’ll see? I’ve brought along my real good friend and brother Albert Zamora from the Mashantucket Pequot Nation to demonstrate one of the more popular powwow dances, the grass dance. The grass dance originates on the plains of Indian country. Before there was a dance, societies of dancers would prepare the grounds by dancing with moves designed to stomp or lay down the high grasses common to the plains. Modern day grass dancers pay homage to the origins of grass dance by wearing yarn or ribbon to resemble the grass that the original grass dancers would tie to their outfits. Although the dance has evolved over time and has become somewhat more athletic with fancier moves, it still pays attention to its roots. The outfits have also become more colorful and brighter, often with elaborate beadwork as you can see him wearing. Albert is a well-known grass dancer in this part of the country and his entire family engages in the powwow tradition.
Honoring Veterans Powwow
November 8th 10am – 4pm