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  • Eastern Powwows or Gatherings

    I have a question that I haven't been able to get a good answer for in person. I have seen a number of "powwows" that have been referred to as Eastern "powwows" or "gatherings". Where did these originate?

    I have noticed that even though they are called "Eastern Gatherings", they have the big drums (Northern & Southern). A few drums call themselves Shawnee but they are still the big drum (I know of one Shawnee drum who is a darn good one, Red Shield, but I know they are Southern drum and learned from some dang good people). Other than Red Shield, the others I've heard sing in a style I've not heard before and they are hard to dance to.

    I know most of you know that powwows originated from the Wild West Shows for the most part and almost ALL of the dances are western in origin (Traditional, Grass, Fancy, Fancy Shawl) and one is Canadian from what I've heard (Jingle). Other than a few Smoke Dances that I've seen I haven't seen anything that really resembles "Eastern" culture except for some regalia. And some it is really well done!

    My experience has been that most Eastern gatherings were longhouse gatherings. My intent is to try and find out where these gatherings came from or if there is legitimate source for these gatherings. My initial thought to these gatherings is that they are created by groups who claim Native heritage (right or wrong, it doesn't matter. I don't want to argue that point. I am just curious) who are trying to establish their own identity. Any thoughts?

  • #2
    fenced in

    I can't say when, where, and how these eastern powwows started, but I can say that some are very good powwows. I came from the West ten years ago, and since then I've dancing at many of these powwows. They have some good sounding drums, both northern and southern. The Lumbees hold a couple well organized powwows every year. One of oldest eastern powwows, the Haliwa-Sapony group of Hollister, NC apparently has been powwowing for over 40 years. Their drum group, "Stoney Creek," is well-known in these parts. The Eastern Band of Cherokees have a group, "Awohali," are northern singers who sound good anywhere. Some southern drums, "Southern Sun" of Durham, NC, "Grand Father Strong Heart" of Aiken, SC area, and "Young Spirit" of Charleston, SC are very good. Apparently it's true that today the eastern Indians can come up with only the "Smoke Dance" as an original at powwows, but I have read about some of their other dances which they did centuries ago: the stump dance, rabbit dance, and bear dance comes to mind. I think many of the powwows in the East are trying to take advantage of the widely spread Plains Indians culture with local events like those of the West. I understand that powwows have spread almost world wide. Even some folks in Europe are powwowing, I understand. I have seen some White organizations hold powwows in the East, and some of their dancers, good ones too, are not Native American. They are scouts (boy, girl) who learned to dance with Indian lore badges. The only "pet peeve" that I have with eastern powwows is that they fence in their arenas with ropes, leaving one opening on the east side. So a dancer can not enter or exit the arena, except through the east entrance. Some arena directors will get upset with dancers who climb over the ropes to enter the circle. It would be easier for many, including myself, tired after days of contest dancing, to enter and exit the arena from anywhere, instead of going to the east entrance all of the time.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Fast Buck View Post
      The only "pet peeve" that I have with eastern powwows is that they fence in their arenas with ropes, leaving one opening on the east side. So a dancer can not enter or exit the arena, except through the east entrance. Some arena directors will get upset with dancers who climb over the ropes to enter the circle. It would be easier for many, including myself, tired after days of contest dancing, to enter and exit the arena from anywhere, instead of going to the east entrance all of the time.

      I've seen that done in many places in Ohio. One explanation I heard was that the rope was to help keep the horses out of the arena in the past. You don't see too many powwows any more that allow the dancers to sit around the circle and enter in anywhere, although there are a few that do. Another practice I've noticed is the facing the center of the circle and backing out with a hand raised as a fist or with a fan. A few other places have had "sacred" fires in the center of the circle. Are these practices that you have seen? Here in Ohio, I know that some of these practices perturb or at least cause sideways glances from people more used to the Western powwows.

      Thanks for a little more info than I had before!

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      • #4
        I think one reason you don't see eastern dances too often is because some dances are not for powwows. Now there are groups that demonstrate the dances like the Warriors of Anikituhwa, a Cherokee group. I've seen Seminoles here demonstrate the stomp dance and in the Northeast, the Calumet(Pipe) dance.

        As far as the rope thing I don't like it either. The east gate is so "sacred" that you must enter and leave from there. Backing out of the arena? It's a FL thing lol. I've even had people stop me and say that I was leaving the arena wrong LOL. But the best ones are the ones who bow and/or make the sign of the cross while you're trying to exit.
        Don't ever stop dancing

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        • #5
          Originally posted by MayChe View Post
          I think one reason you don't see eastern dances too often is because some dances are not for powwows. Now there are groups that demonstrate the dances like the Warriors of Anikituhwa, a Cherokee group. I've seen Seminoles here demonstrate the stomp dance and in the Northeast, the Calumet(Pipe) dance.

          As far as the rope thing I don't like it either. The east gate is so "sacred" that you must enter and leave from there. Backing out of the arena? It's a FL thing lol. I've even had people stop me and say that I was leaving the arena wrong LOL. But the best ones are the ones who bow and/or make the sign of the cross while you're trying to exit.
          MayChe, It is not a FL thing! I've seen and heard people doing that in Ohio, WV, MI, IN, IL, and PA. I've also heard of people being told they were not exiting properly by not backing out and respecting the "Center" of the circle. A good friend was even asked if she had a "permission" to carry a knife on the belt of her regalia. When asked about the "permission", it was supposed to have been given by a Cherokee clan mother. This lady is Cherokee and had never heard of this practice. It is an interesting phenomenon and really perturbs the "Traditional" powwow people of Ohio. I'm just curious but it appears the "Eastern" powwow phenomenon is much more widespread than I originally thought. Very curious. I could go on about other things I have seen but am trying to stay respectful and not judgemental.

          Thank you for your replies!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by beerad View Post
            MayChe, It is not a FL thing! I've seen and heard people doing that in Ohio, WV, MI, IN, IL, and PA. I've also heard of people being told they were not exiting properly by not backing out and respecting the "Center" of the circle. A good friend was even asked if she had a "permission" to carry a knife on the belt of her regalia. When asked about the "permission", it was supposed to have been given by a Cherokee clan mother. This lady is Cherokee and had never heard of this practice. It is an interesting phenomenon and really perturbs the "Traditional" powwow people of Ohio. I'm just curious but it appears the "Eastern" powwow phenomenon is much more widespread than I originally thought. Very curious. I could go on about other things I have seen but am trying to stay respectful and not judgemental.

            Thank you for your replies!
            Wow it's spreading rapidly. Trust me, I have enough stories to create a book about all the happenings here lol.
            Don't ever stop dancing

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            • #7
              .
              Last edited by lbgood; 07-30-2009, 03:24 AM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by beerad View Post
                MayChe, It is not a FL thing! I've seen and heard people doing that in Ohio, WV, MI, IN, IL, and PA. I've also heard of people being told they were not exiting properly by not backing out and respecting the "Center" of the circle. A good friend was even asked if she had a "permission" to carry a knife on the belt of her regalia. When asked about the "permission", it was supposed to have been given by a Cherokee clan mother. This lady is Cherokee and had never heard of this practice. It is an interesting phenomenon and really perturbs the "Traditional" powwow people of Ohio. I'm just curious but it appears the "Eastern" powwow phenomenon is much more widespread than I originally thought. Very curious. I could go on about other things I have seen but am trying to stay respectful and not judgemental.

                Thank you for your replies!

                Actually a while ago this very subject of backing out of the circle was brought up on another thread and as far as anyone could tell it started out in FL and has started to move. I've been seeing that for a while, like about 5 years now. I just shake my head and go on with what I'm doing.LOL I've had people walk up and say this or that, but that's on them. Usually at that point one of my friends or family will come up and stand beside me and the person tends to just leave.LOL

                Yeah, there's some interesting stuff that goes on that's for sure. I've had to call my Uncle a few times and say "Uncle does this sound right to you?" And well I get my answer.LOL My Uncles and family have been dancing for many many years and many are champion dancers, so they know the pow wow's from East to West, so if I'm not sure--I make a phone call.LOL

                I don't go to as many pow wow's as I used to 'cause how they are becoming, but I still have a few that I do go to and will. It's not my place to tell anyone that they are doing anything wrong, I'm not an Elder or their teacher, so unless I'm asked, I keep my mouth shut.LOL But if I'm asked, okay then it's fair game.LOL

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                • #9
                  One reason for the roping off of the circle here in the East is to keep the general public, more particularly kids, from walking or running into the circle, especially if there is a fire in the circle. The spectators here are not like those out west as a large portion of them may not know enough about Powwows to know what they can and can't do, however that is not to say that every spectator is like that.
                  CERN may have discovered the Higgs Boson but...
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Toolbox View Post
                    One reason for the roping off of the circle here in the East is to keep the general public, more particularly kids, from walking or running into the circle, especially if there is a fire in the circle. The spectators here are not like those out west as a large portion of them may not know enough about Powwows to know what they can and can't do, however that is not to say that every spectator is like that.
                    That's interesting. Now, in the circles i've been in, kids are kids and if they run into the circle than they must want to dance. The parents just go in and get them! I think I've only seen one "incident" where a dancer wasn't looking and knocked a kid down. That's where parents are expected to keep an eye are their kids. As far as the general public not knowing enough, that's what the MC's are for. I guess if the committee is is worried about litigation than so be it. I've heard a lot of different reasons for the roping off of the circle but I think it takes away from the old ways. There was a day when the dancers and their families sat IN the circle! They were a part of that circle. When a song was struck up, the dancers got up from where they were sitting and started to dance. When the song was over, they sat down. If they were thirsty or wanted to go greet someone or visit a vendor or go to the bathroom, they got up and did their thing!

                    Of course we could go back to the days of the waterboy and the communal water bucket but I don't think that one will fly today

                    There was a reason for everything that was done and I'm not hearing why things are done the way they are today or the reasons I'm hearing don't make sense to me, hence the question. Things are changing and we just have to go with flow, I guess. I'm just pining for the old days and old ways. I don't mean any disrespect to anyone who does these things today, but sometimes I just gotta chuckle.

                    MayChe, I'm sure we could write VOLUMES on stuff that goes on! My family and I always wonder why we don't invited to some of the "naming" ceremonies that goes on after powwow! LOL

                    timmy tiger, It seems to me to have gone back further than that here in Ohio and Indiana! I seem to recall some powwows back in the mid 90's where some of that was going on, but not nearly like it is today. Any anthropologists or historians out there want to write a thesis?!

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                    • #11
                      I was just putting that out there as a possible reason.
                      CERN may have discovered the Higgs Boson but...
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Toolbox View Post
                        One reason for the roping off of the circle here in the East is to keep the general public, more particularly kids, from walking or running into the circle, especially if there is a fire in the circle. The spectators here are not like those out west as a large portion of them may not know enough about Powwows to know what they can and can't do, however that is not to say that every spectator is like that.
                        Dang It!

                        Let dem lil' monsters in...I'll run over them and collect point towards my dance contest! ayeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
                        To get a true picture of your purpose in life, you only get the whole picture when you listen with your mind, your ears and your heart. This way The Creator has a direct connection with you and only you...no outside interference.

                        When you follow the will of IT that created you, understanding that your purpose is not for you...but for IT and all that IT has created, there can be no wrong except failure to be obedient. Only then do we jeopardize the gifts we are given.

                        Its not the final destination that defines us, rather the journey taken!

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                        • #13
                          Law. I can just imagine a video game display with a point tally scrolling everytime u u hit the right step at the right time and everytime u run over a kid u get extra points. Aye
                          CERN may have discovered the Higgs Boson but...
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by lbgood View Post
                            MayChe - if you ever have an opportunity, you should video tape the madness and post it so the rest of us can see it.
                            lol there's mean and then there's really mean. i try hard not to be really mean.
                            Don't ever stop dancing

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by timmy tiger View Post
                              I don't go to as many pow wow's as I used to 'cause how they are becoming, but I still have a few that I do go to and will. It's not my place to tell anyone that they are doing anything wrong, I'm not an Elder or their teacher, so unless I'm asked, I keep my mouth shut.LOL But if I'm asked, okay then it's fair game.LOL
                              I feel ya. I'm always dying to go to another powwow out of state so I don't have to see this weirdness so much. But I still go to the powwows, just to show that not everyone is weird. The latest weirdness I've heard is that "once a girl come of age, she can no longer fancy shawl and she must do either jingle or traditional".
                              Don't ever stop dancing

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