Nanticoke Indian Powwow dancer

A dancer performs at the 2015 Nanticoke Indian Powwow.

The Nanticoke Indian Tribe will present its 44th annual Powwow on Saturday, Sept. 11, and Sunday, Sept. 12, at Hudson Fields in Milton — a new location that offers more space and visibility.

The powwow will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both days. Admission costs are $8 for adults, $5 for those 11 to 17, and free for those 10 or younger.

“We didn’t have a powwow in 2020, but this year we are going to have a powwow. My tribal people are ready to have a powwow. We need to have it. Our culture is important to us. Our traditions are important to us, to share with our future generations. To share with the public at large is important to us,” Chief Natosha Carmine told the Coastal Point this week.

“You don’t just learn by watching a movie or reading about us in books. You learn by observing the dance and hearing the stories of the dance. It all comes together and allows people to see our tradition and culture. It gives them the opportunity to ask questions of us. They can hear the facts while they are enjoying a family day out.

“When you think of diversity and inclusiveness, I think that is what the powwow will bring this year,” she said, adding that the 2021 powwow theme is “Resiliency.”

New this year will be a custom car show on Saturday, pig roast Friday night for vendors and workers, and Aztec dancers and dancers from other tribes, as well as from the Nanticoke tribe.

“We have a lot of ground to work with at the new location, so we’re hoping we will have more vendors and more dancers. Everything is still in the planning process. We aren’t sure what the governor’s restrictions will be concerning the pandemic. The nice thing about Hudson Fields is there will be more visibility from the highway, easier accessibility and room to grow,” the chief said.

The annual powwows were held on wooded acreage near the Nanticoke Indian Museum near Millsboro for many years, before being moved to Milton this year. The powwow attracts up to 15,000 people annually.

“We have faith this will be a great powwow. This is a great time for the Nanticokes and our native brothers and sisters to come together, to renew, to refresh our spirits. Just come. Come out, but still be safe. We can’t police wearing face masks, but we want everybody to feel comfortable wearing a mask. We want everyone to be respectful of what we have. To come through 18 months or so, with a pandemic. Who would have thought we would have ever seen a pandemic?” she said.

Craft and food vendors will sell items including jewelry, crafts, corn on the cob, succotash, fry bread, Indian tacos, hotdogs and hamburgers.

On Sunday at 8:30 a.m., there will be a worship service.

The Great Spirit is held in high esteem by Native Americans, as expressed in this prayer that beseeches, in part, “Great Spirit, whose tepee is the sky and whose hunting ground is the earth; Mighty and fearful are you called. Ruler over storms, over men and birds and beasts: Have your way over all. … And let us not have such troubles as lead us into crooked roads. But keep us from all evil, For yours is all that is.”

The word powwow, from the Narragansett Eastern Algonquian language, means any gathering of native people, but the Nanticokes consider it more of a cultural event featuring group singing and dancing by men, women and children, offering the opportunity for cultural traditions to be passed from generation to generation.

Drummers and singers provide music, and dancers move in celebration of their heritage.

According to the Nanticoke Indian website, powwow songs consist of key phrases that are repeated and might be composed of words or syllables that echo the beat of the drum.

“There are two basic singing styles — Northern or Southern — named for their geographic divisions. In Northern Style, singers maintain a higher pitch, whereas Southern Style singers keep a lower key. Although there are different categories of songs, the largest song category is that of the War Dance. These songs provide a constant drumbeat, but drummers accent certain beats at specific points on the song. These accented beats are called honor beats. Watch how the dancers react to the honor beats of the drum according to their style of dance and regalia.

“In any case, drummers and singers respond to the enthusiasm of the dancers. Powwow music is a vital, artistic part of the powwow celebration. As you leave the powwow grounds, you may hear the beating of the drum for several miles down the road,” the website states.

“Each powwow begins with a Grand Entry or procession of dancers serving as the ‘bringing together of tribes.’ Dancers enter the dance circle by age and style of regalia. They are guided by two lead dancers, a male and a female, who follow the presentation of flags.

“Similar to the National Anthem, the Flag Song is the Native American way of honoring traditional native, state, and American flags. The audience is expected to stand during this time. Patriotism and valor are highly respected in Native American culture. These two songs express this respect in a ceremonial way,” it states.

Staff Reporter

Veteran news reporter Susan Canfora has written for many newspapers and held positions ranging from managing editor to her favorite, news reporter. She joined the Coastal Point in June 2019. She teaches college writing, tutors and professionally edits.