A celebration of heritage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 22, 2004

As the area’s Indian population marched into its dance circle Saturday afternoon at Lone Star Lakes Park to open the Nansemond Indian Tribe’s 17th Annual Powwow, they could feel their troubles withering away.

This wasn’t a time to remember hurt feelings or sadness; it was to celebrate the pride that has made Indians the longest-standing ethnic group in North America. It was a chance to show all those in attendance how proud they were of being a part of history.

As they danced, the Indians, from such tribes as the Cherokee, Cheyenne, and, of course, the Nansemond, weren’t only dancing for themselves or those in the crowd. They were remembering those that had passed on years before, and those that have yet to reach their Mother Earth. They thought of those that couldn’t be at Lone Star Lakes today, but that they would hopefully re-visit very soon. Dozens of dancers of all ages and both genders performed the honor, eagle and other types of dances.

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&uot;(My wife and I) go to about 35 powwows a year up and down the East Coast,&uot; said Mike Thunderdancer of Bahama, N.C., a member of the Cherokee and Creek tribes. &uot;It’s like a homecoming or family reunion; you might see someone here that you haven’t seen for four or five events. It’s a very spiritual event.&uot;

The Indian spirituality often comes from within, said Katherine Eagle Bear Roberts, also a Cherokee.

&uot;We pray to our Grandfather, or Great Spirit,&uot; she said. &uot;It covers everything; white society prays to Christ, and other tribes pray to their own Gods.

&uot;We worship our Mother Earth, because she’s the one that supports everything; the sky, the moon, the trees, everything.&uot;

Before the ceremony began, Indian veterans from the wars of the past were honored. Those from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and other conflicts were on hand.

&uot;It’s an honor to be out there with them,&uot; said Thomas Green, a Cheyenne and Desert Storm veteran. &uot;It’s good to be out there with such a fine quality of people.

‘These people are really deep into tradition. A lot of people think that Indians are just read about in history books; they don’t know that some live right around the corner.&uot;

As the celebration continued (it begins again at 10 a.m. today at Lone Star, the final day of the celebration), Chief Barry &uot;Big Buck&uot; Bass of the Nansemond Indian Tribal Council watched his fellow tribesmen celebrate their culture.

&uot;This lets people come out and learn what we’re about,&uot; he said. &uot;We started back in 1988, and evolved into what it is now.

&uot;It’s become an important part of celebrating our heritage and ancestors, and it’s helped us build a special relationship with people in the areas, like Chuckatuck.

&uot;We always have a good turnout, good support and a good time.&uot;