The Harvest Moon Pow Wow returned to Boonville on Saturday for the first time since a two-year sabbatical brought on by COVID-19.
For many who attend powwows, “the world doesn’t matter, the weather doesn’t matter for a little while; you can take a break and enjoy your family,” said Myrietta Esau, public relations manager for Young Bucks and a member of the Hopi-Nation tribe.
Powwows are global events designed for Native Americans to come together and celebrate their cultures. Typically, at powwows, vendors set up shop to sell jewelry, badges, and food. The musicians often play; the men play drums from the north and the south and the participants dance.
Esau met event coordinator Pam Arth the first year Harvest Moon was held. She said Arth spends most of each year fundraising and organizing the event.
“This event wouldn’t be without her,” Esau said. Arth said she begins preparations for each powwow a year in advance.
More than 100 people were present on Saturday and the festivities will continue on Sunday. Arth’s daughter-in-law, Rhonda Russell, said she thought it was the biggest turnout at the event.
Esau said she felt a strong bond with many participants, regardless of their blood relationship.
“We are not blood, but we are family,” Esau said.
Nicole Miller met her husband, Tex, at a Native American gathering in 2007; they have been married for nine years.
Miller said she enjoys teaching when she attends powwows, especially about how Americans lived in different times.
“It’s our history and part of our heritage,” she said. Miller has cerebral palsy and focuses her teaching on self-advocacy, disabilities, and Native American culture.
Music and dance
A traditional music group, called Crazy Flute Music, performed throughout the day. The band’s music uses a variety of instruments, including native flute, guitars, bass guitar, drums, and keyboards.
Jack Holland founded the group in 2016 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Holland has been attending powwows since he was 12, but this is his sixth year on stage.
“It’s beautiful because there’s a lot of culture here,” Holland said.
The participants also played with drums from the north and the south. Participant Zoe Marion said the northern drums are higher pitched. In contrast, southern drums are more “conversational”.
Southern drummers play what is called gourd music, which involves rattles constructed from natural gourds. The Gourd Dance, a tradition held at most powwows, has four parts.
Marion said the parts are:
1. We ask the spirits to dance for us.
2. Let’s dance together.
Traditionally, only men are allowed to drum during the Gourd Dance. Women are only allowed to dance behind their husbands. However, Marion said, many women are now allowed to dance without men in front of them. She said her military background allowed her to dance on her own.
Certain foods, such as fried bread, are also an integral part of Native American culture. During the powwow, some vendors made and sold fried bread on the spot.
Fried bread was “the biggest staple” of Native American culture, Arth said. “That’s all they had.”
Bread was first created when Native Americans were placed on reservations. The government provided the tribes with few basic commodities, usually including rancid flour. With these ingredients, fried bread was made to prevent starvation. Bread remains a big part of Native American culture, Arth said.
On Saturday evening, those present enjoyed a meal together which included the handmade bread. “We’re having fun,” Arth said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”