Queens Powwow Keeps Colorful Traditions Alive
Members of more than 40 Native American tribes held an annual dance-off Sunday in what's billed as the city's oldest and largest powwow. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
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With so much music in the air, it was almost impossible not to dance. It's a huge part of the annual powwow, with dancers from some 40 tribes taking center stage over three days.
"It was loud but it was nice to see how they did things back in the day," said one onlooker.
Some of the dances date back hundreds of years like the traditional gourd dance, a warrior dance which opened Sunday's festivities.
"It's like blessing the circle. Giving respect to the people who died in battle," said Gourd Dance Coordinator Raymond Blackfeather.
Circling the circle were dozens of booths selling mostly handcrafted items from native peoples across North America and South America. Among the items: Wampum jewelry made on Long Island, plenty of copper and turquoise, dream catchers and Peruvian sweaters, pottery and traditional food like fry bread.
"A flour-based bread. It's been cooked for 1,000 years. It's the basis for any meal that is cooked," said Vendor Frank Ramsey.
The powwow brings plenty of excitement to the grounds of the Queens County Farm Museum but more than entertainment the event is meant to educate.
"When people have questions we can explain the dances and people see that native people aren't just one thing or come from one place," said Hoop Dancer Tom Pearson.
"Tell people yes we are still around. We're not extinct. We're what you call a living history," Blackfeather added.
Native Americans say they intend to preserve their history by passing it down just as its been passed down for hundreds of years.
"Once we lose that we lose a lot. We lose our history which is a rich history," said Vendor George Davis.
Proceeds raised at the annual powwow support both the Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Scholarship fund and the Queens County Farm Museum.