Three-day powwow starts Friday in Tonganoxie
Mike Henre said more than the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds’ logistical advantages of easy access and nearby shopping attracted him and others with the Indian Council of Many Nations four years ago when they were looking for a site for the group’s annual summer powwow.
“All of Tonganoxie at one point was Delaware ground,” the Tonganoxie man said. “When we went to scope out having a powwow, we just got a feeling of inner peace about having it at the fairgrounds.”
The group’s 49th summer powwow will start at 5 p.m. Friday and continue from noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds. It will be a traditional powwow with tobacco, alcohol and firearms forbidden, he said.
“A lot of powwows are going to contests and payouts for everything,” he said “Our powwows are always traditional. We get together for fellowship and to praise the creator.”
The Indian Council, which encompasses a 150-mile radius from the Kansas-Missouri state line at Interstate-70, has representatives from about 20 Native American tribes, Henre said. But he said members of many more tribes could be present because of the presence of Haskell Indian Nations University students.
Although that might make for a diverse group, all will be there to celebrate Native American powwow traditions learned from their elders.
“The singers you’ll see out there on the biggest drums — the majority started learning to do that when they were 2 or 3 years old,” Henre said. “Songs were not written down but taught generation to generation.
“It’s the job of the elders to teach the dances to the younger ones and help them make their regalia. They’re not customs. The jingle dress started as a prayer dress. If a young lady does it right, it will take her a year to make that.”
The spiritual significance of the powwow will start with the opening gourd dance, Henre said.
“It’s like a prayer dance to honor warriors and veterans,” he said. “It’s just a pray time to get the arena ready for the rest of the people to dance.
“Then we do the intertribal. Everybody is invited to come out and dance for fellowship in the dance arena. You don’t have to be dressed out.”
That will be followed with dancers demonstrating the different dances, Henre said.
“It’s like a cultural education deal,” he said. “The purpose of the different dances is explained and you see it with different dancers there.”
All the dances will be performed to the beat to two drum groups.
“We’ll have two host drums,” he said. “One is a southern drum that will have a little bit slower beat, and a northern drum. We’ll invite all the drums in the area to participate.
“I know my grandson and granddaughter can be asleep, but they come wide awake when the drums start. Something about the drum is special to people. We consider it the heartbeat of Mother Earth. It shows we are alive and keeping the heartbeat going.”
The powwow will be in the southeastern section of the fairgrounds and open to all, Henre said. In case of rains, activities will be moved inside.
Vendors will have Native American crafts for sale as well as food such as fry bread, Indian tacos, chili nachos and hot dogs.
“Everybody is invited,” he said. “We encourage everyone to come out and have a good time. Everything is free, parking and camping. The only cost is if you want to buy something from vendors and food. Otherwise, come out and spend all three days and enjoy it without spending a dime.”