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Keepers of the Peace Powwow

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WEST POINT, N.Y. – There was a circle, and then another circle, and then another circle as the drummers sang around the drum, the dancers danced around the grassy arena, and the spectators watched in awe, as the beat of the drum echoed upward from Trophy Point overlooking the Hudson River on a sunny day.

The Keepers of the Peace powwow, the first Native American powwow to be held at West Point in its 208-year history had begun on Sunday, May 2. The powwow started with the grand entry of the dancers, entering the dance arena from the east, the direction of the rising sun.

First to enter was the cadet color guard carrying the American, Army, USMA and USCC flags. Next were the veterans carrying the Indian staff and the POW/MIA flag. Then it was the men’s traditional dancers, some with two eagle feathers tied to their hair and eagle feather bustles that followed at their waist, dancing a story of their tradition. Next were the men’s grass dancers with regalia that flowed to and fro in the wind like prairie grass. Next were the men’s fancy dancers who spun around in a whirl of color.

Following the men, came the women’s traditional dancers, some in buckskin, carrying shawls, others in beautiful wool or cloth dress. After that, the women’s jingle dress dancers entered with a dance and a gentle jingling sound that represents a healing prayer. Then came the women’s fancy dancers, who twirled and floated like butterflies. Yellow, green, black, white, red, white, black, yellow; red, blue, orange, pink; everywhere there was a rainbow of color. As the dancers danced, the one-two, one-two, one-two beat of the drum, which represented the heart beat of the earth and the heart beat of the people, could be felt.

The powwow was hosted by the cadet Native American Heritage Forum, and was run by the Redhawk Native American Arts Council. The powwow included a singing of the National Anthem by Cadet Matthew Wilke, Tchin, a Native American flute player and storyteller, and Jennifer Pena, a birds of prey expert who presented a show that described how her owl, falcons, and hawks hunt and capture prey. Native American vendors sold beadwork and turquoise jewelry. There was food and fun for kids and adults of all ages. The cadet Native American club hopes to host the event again next spring.