Every year, the Odawa people--along with members of other Indian nations and their non-Native neighbors--gather to honor their own at the Odawa Homecoming Pow Wow. This year, a new layer of meaning will be added to the celebration as the Odawa pay respects to all veterans and warriors, enhancing the event that brings northern Michigan’s unique cultures closer together.
HISTORY AND HOPE
This year’s theme of “Honoring Our Veterans and Warriors” is “just one way that the Pow Wow Committee hopes to honor all veterans for their service and dedication,” says Festival Chair Annette VanDeCar. A Veterans Dance Special will ask all veterans, Native and non-Native, to participate in the ritual, and a token of appreciation will be given to these brave men and women after the dance.
VanDeCar enjoys the Pow Wow every year and credits this to its role as a strong reaffirmation of the tribe’s rich history. In a country that doesn’t always remember to honor our Native Americans, the Pow Wows are an important reminder of America’s first residents, and how preserving their history is a necessity.
CULTURE AND TRADITIONS
The Pow Wow itself comes from rich 20th century traditions. From the 1930s to the 1960s, Indian Naming Ceremonies and Hiawatha pageants were regular events and served as precursors, of sorts, to the Pow Wow of today, said VanDeCar.
“The Naming Ceremonies were held to honor those who helped Native people and their causes,” she explained. “At these ceremonies, non-Native people were ‘adopted’ into the tribe and given Indian names. After the end of the naming, a yearly production of the play Hiawatha was performed by Native people in the area.”
The events continued to expand into the 90s, and in 1992, the First Annual Odawa was held at the Ottawa Stadium in Harbor Springs. The Pow Wow is now a yearly festival held at the Little Traverse Bay Band Pow Wow Grounds on Pleasantview Road in Harbor Springs. This year, the August 9 and 10 festival provides a continuing opportunity for Native people to preserve and share their culture and traditions with each other and with the community at large.
COLORS AND CUISINE
The Pow Wow is a delicious feast for the senses with brilliant colors, embroidery, feathers, and beading embellishing the Native regalia (the formal term for the dancer’s clothing.) Rich smells of native foods scent the air, and the atmosphere is alive with music, the sound of drumbeats, and the sharing of stories and Native lore. Dance and drum competitions showcase the considerable talent shared by young and old alike and provide a wonderful access point for all visitors.
“Some of the songs sung by the drum groups are very old and are passed down from generation to generation,” VanDeCar said, “and the dance styles have been performed by dancers for centuries.”
VanDeCar points out that anyone can participate in many of the activities, whether they are Native American or just wish to learn more about this vibrant culture.
“I would encourage the public to participate in an intertribal dance,” she suggested. “Intertribal dances are a chance for everyone to dance regardless of whether they are in regalia or not, and anyone can participate, which brings the community together.”
VanDeCar also suggests that the public try some of the Native cuisine for sale at the event.
A typical menu might be fry bread, Indian tacos, blanket dogs, buffalo and hamburgers on fry bread, corn soup and hominy soup, as well as other Native foods.
“What I look forward to is our community getting together to continue our culture, our traditions, and our language,” VanDeCar said. “These are the things that make us unique as Odawa.”
The 23rd Annual Odawa Homecoming Pow Wow will take place August 9-10 at the LTBB Pow Wow Grounds in Harbor Springs. For directions, events, and more info, visit http://odawahomecoming.weebly.com, or call 231-242-1427.