The sounds of drums and cheers could be heard almost a mile away at the 5th annual All Nations Benefit Pow Wow this weekend.
The Pow Wow is put on and hosted by The Belize Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing Native American culture, while supporting Native Americans in the Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey regions.
Marlene Iris, Executive VP of Belise Fund, said “My husband is Native American, he’s Cherokee and Powhatan. To honor his heritage, we do the Pow Wow. It’s an annual event every year.”
The Pow Wow is a Native American cultural festival featuring dancing, singing, and feasting.. But it’s much more than that.
Chris Mourningdove Clair, a Lead Dancer for the Pow Wow, said “It strengthens our community. It strengthens our culture. We use it to teach our little ones, our young ones who are coming up into it. A family gathering.. We can come together and encourage each other and support each other.”
Matt Whiteeagle Clair, another Lead Dancer for the Pow Wow, said “This is what true Native music sounds like and it’s the actual heart beat of our people so we have to keep alive, we have to keep this drum constantly singing.”
Mourningdove added “For us, dancing is praying, it’s the same thing as praying. Many of our dances are medicine dances. They’re meant to encourage not only your physical health, but your mental well-being as well.”
The dancing and music are just part of the performance, however. The regalia that they wear is just as important as the moves they make or the sounds they produce.
Chelsea Smith, Jingle Dress Dancer, explained “When we dance in this dress, we are praying for people. We are trying to help alleviate some medical ailments they have. We’re trying to help heal people.”
Smith continues “There’s a big, long story about how an elderly person in the tribe got sick and he had this dream of his daughter a dress that made this noise and they had a big ceremony where she wore this dress, after she had made it, and she danced and danced until he started to get better and better and he eventually was healed and that’s why they call this the medicine dress, or the healing dress.”
The All Nations Benefit Pow Wow is an annual event always held in September, the weekend after Labor Day.
All proceeds for the event go towards the production costs, as well as to the benefit of local Native American families.