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Mohican Pow Wow provides entertainment

Last Saturday afternoon, a group of 30 Wooster students traveled about 30 miles southwest to the Mohican Valley near Loudonville, Ohio.† The bus followed Rt. 3 through the drying golden cornfields and huge grain silos, past the agronomics advertisements along endless fields of corn monocrops.

Regardless of who is managing the land, it remains constant that autumn is Ohio’s shining time. On the way to the Great Mohican Pow Wow, I couldn’t help myself from wondering what this very land looked like before the first Europeans came through in the middle of the 1700s.

This was the Mohican Valley’s 26 annual Pow Wow.† Admission for one adult into the Pow Wow was $8.† The event pamphlet described pow wows as a way for Native Americans to gather in song and dance to renew friendships and preserve their rich cultural heritage.

It explained two theories on the origins of the American Indian pow wow:† The pow wows may have originally† been war dances, or they† could have been dances created for European entertainment after the Native Americans were forced onto reservations.

Regardless, the pow wow began, with the procession of American flags, Prisoner of War and Missing in Action flags and Native American veterans. This was followed by a series of circular group dances where participants wore modernized versions of traditional native clothing.† American Indians sang in their own languages with a style different from any modern American music while they steadily beat the raw primordial drum.

Simultaneously, vendors nearby sold coyote face masks, POW and MIA belt buckles, sage bundled for incense, Kokopelli jewelery, feather hair pieces, frybread tacos, FBI baseball caps, dream catchers, tortoise shells, and rabbit furs.† Attendees wore Cleveland Indians t-shirts and t-shirts picturing four Native American men standing in a line holding old-fashioned guns which read “Homeland Security.”

An anthropologist from Indiana University came with cultural artifacts and prepared food in traditional Native American ways.† She soaked corn, fried beans, and dried squash while she was busy answering questions about history and culture.

She offered the educational experiences of hide tanning, corn grinding and bean tasting.† She talked about the systems of gender, family, community and power.† She explained the ways they dried and stored corn and other foods for the winter months as well as the trade with European settlers.† This was the clearest educational component of the event.

Native Americans practiced what is called the “Three-Sisters” planting technique.† The bulk of their diet consisted of corn, squash and beans.

Each crop acted as a companion to the others.† The corn provided a pole for the beans to grow on.† The squash provided shade, moisture and temperature control for the corn and beans.† The beans provided nitrogen for the soil.

Refreshments were also provided at the event, where delicious fry bread and beautiful jewelry were available.

From the attendees perspective, the event was undeniably geared towards entertainment and the acquisition of materials rather than the understanding of history and culture.

I left without a much deeper understanding about the different Native American communities, their history in the Mohican Valley or the meaning of their song and dance.† I was confused by the number of Native American veterans who fought violently for a people who had so violently oppressed them.

In any case, the event was an honest display of some unique sort of patriotism, Ohio history and Native American ethnic heritage.† In the words of the 92-year- old announcer, Mr. Robert White Eagle, the pow wow was “a lesson to all of us that we must work together as one people.”

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