The pow wow circuit expanded in 2014, going beyond traditional borders both geographic and cultural. In July, hundreds of Natives gathered in Washington, D.C. at the First Gathering of the National Congress of Black American Indians; and in September, Vanderbilt University hosted its first-ever pow wow.
A few pow wows delivered some surprises (not all of them good), while others celebrated big anniversaries or kicked off some new traditions. Here are some of the big headlines from the year:
Nansemond Tribe Celebrates Land Grant
A 77-acre tract of land was granted to the Nansemond Tribe in February by Suffolk, Virginia, and in August, the tribe held its 26th Annual Nansemond Indian Tribal Powwow, marking the first time they had celebrated the event on their own land. The tribe plans to construct a full-fledged Indian village called Mattanock Town, complete with a tribal center and Nansemond cultural museum. ICTMN reported that the gift of land to the tribe was not free. A stipulation requires that the tribe raise an estimated $5-6 million dollars to complete the village, tribal center and museum within five years. If they meet those deadlines, the land could go back to the city.
For 11 years, John Sanchez coordinated The New Faces of an Ancient People Traditional American Indian Powwow, but he decided 2014 would be the final year for the pow wow. “I just don’t have the time to devote to it and keep my day job,” Sanchez told ICTMN. Sanchez, Apache, is a professor in the College of Communications at Penn State University, where he is the only American Indian faculty member. And although his pow wow is fading out, he is confident he can continue to be a positive force for Native causes. "Penn State was very receptive to the kinds of things I wanted to bring to this university. I just bought burial plots here," he told StateCollege.com. "I see myself here for the rest of my life."
Mile-High Powwow Still Flying High
This year, the Denver March Powwow, which has grown from its modest beginnings to become a major draw throughout Indian country, celebrated its 40th anniversary.
A Shocking Proposal
Headman dancer Johnny Nieto surprised the crowd (and his girlfriend) at the 11th annual Tule River Band of Yokuts pow wow with an announcement. “I want to do something crazy,” he said. “Right in front of my home crowd, my home people. It’s about time – Yendi Juarez, will you marry me?” The crowd erupted with joyous drumming and Native wails of approval. A visibly stunned Juarez, tears in her eyes and hands covering her mouth, nodded yes.
Vanderbilt Steps Up
A newly formed student organization called Native Americans in Tennessee Interacting at Vanderbilt (NATIVe), hosted its inaugural event, called “Nations Within States: Citizenship, Pottery & The Catawba Indian Nation," on September 17. NATIVe’s goal is to increase the public profile of American Indians in Tennessee by bringing them together.
Gathering of Nations Honored
The American Bus Association (ABA) named Gathering of Nations one of the Top 100 Events in America for the fifth consecutive year. It is the world’s largest gathering of Native American and indigenous people and was chosen from hundreds of events nominated by ABA members.
A German Pow wow. Huh?
A wacky Native American pow wow was held in Berlin in February and attended by Red Haircrow and his son. But this wasn’t exactly a pow wow, according to Red Haircrow, Chiricahua Apache/Cherokee. He wrote for ICTMN that the event reminded him more of a Star Trek convention than an authentic pow wow, filled with activities, “based on fantasy worlds and people. Native Americans are real, and have a present and future, not just a past.”
First Gathering of National Congress of Black American Indians
In July, hundreds of black Indians gathered in Washington, D.C. for the First Gathering of the National Congress of Black American Indians (NCBAI). Black Indians have been the subject of books, documentaries and an exhibit at the Smithsonian, but this gathering was the first massive effort to bring the people together.