United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians' Inaugural Pow Wow Celebrates Tribal Culture and Life

In sickness and in health, launching a pow wow is something Carolyn Chumwalooky from the United Keetowah Band of Cherokee Indians has always wanted to do.

“For me, it is a personal thing. Mine is because of my health. I was diagnosed with brain tumor,” said Chumwalooky, who received the bad news last year that her days are counted. “It is time to have a pow wow. I always wanted to have a pow wow.”

The 1st Annual Salina Pow Wow, which began yesterday and carries on today, held at the Salina High School Gymnasium, Salina, Oklahoma, is also a special intertribal event to Doug Simpson, Arapaho and Little Blackfoot, and his family, Cheyenne and Arapaho.

“God made it happen. It is a personal thing for her [Chumwalooky] and a personal thing for me,” said Simpson, who comes from a family of dancers. “It is special to me because it is something that we both wanted.”

Both Chumwalooky and Simpson said they want to educate people about their tribes’ culture. Simpson said it is also beneficial to the kids in small communities like theirs who do not have anything to do. “We want to get kids into dancing rather than drugs,” he said.

“We want people to be aware that we do not worship the drum,” said Chumwalooky. Simpson said through the pow wow they want to teach people to respect their culture. “There is only one God. The same one we pray to.”

Chumwalooky and Simpson belong to the Salina Pow Wow Club—the non-profit organization established to manage the gathering. The Club has teamed up with the Salina Chamber of Commerce to help drum up the inaugural pow wow.

Chumwalooky said she has never launched a pow wow before but has always been involved with them as an artist and a vendor selling Native American jewelry. Simpson, on the other hand, has been to several pow wows as a professional dancer.

“Me and my family are actual dancers. We go every weekend,” he said citing California, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, New Mexico as among the host states he has gone to for pow wows. Simpson is a Straight Dancer, his wife, Karen, is a Buckskin Dancer.

“Everybody has their own thing, their own time,” said Chumwalooky matter-of-factly, as she remains positive in her outlook and in the pow wow. “It is a celebration. People should come and enjoy. Let people enjoy what the tribe does.”

Simpson said the goal is for a couple of thousand visitors to come to the event that is open and free to the public. He said close to a thousand that may actually come.

Aside from the Cherokees, the Cheyennes and Arapahos, Chumwalooky said she expects Navajos, Creeks, Lakotas, Northern Plains and Seminoles, among others, to honor the occasion with them.

The Salina Pow Wow showcases Native American singers, drummers, tribal dancers in full regalia, handmade Native American arts and crafts, food and concessions. About 40 vendors are expected to set up, said Chumwalooky.

Over $7,500 in prize money will be given to winners of the dance competitions, said Simpson.

Today, Gourd Dancing is from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 7 p.m, while the Grand Entry is at 7 p.m. The Adult Men and Women categories contests start at 7 p.m. till 11 p.m.

Event Specials, which are held Saturday afternoon, include Potato Dance, Cake Walk, Two Step, Head or Tails, 50/50 and raffles. Simpson said the audience is invited to dance in the Audience Participation portion of the day.

The key performers are Rogan Noble, Master of Ceremonies; Chuck Bread, Arena Director; Thorpe Sine, Head Man; Courtney Reeder, Head Lady; Tim Washee, Head Singer; Ed Ketcher, Head Gourd; UKB Honor Guard, Color Guard; Emma Washee, Senior Princess; and Jordan Bread, Junior Princess.

“We are now down to the wire,” said Chumwalooky of her inaugural pow wow. “A lot of people know that I am not fit. I am not proud of it but it made me more aware that we are not all here forever.”