Native Americans from many different tribes showed up in Noxen this past weekend to participate in the 12th Fall Powwow.
Many non-Native Americans also joined in the fun and celebration, as folks danced around the fire on the Noxen Fire Department grounds, to the steady beat of the drums and Native American songs.
It was a colorful celebration, with participants wearing beads, feathers, bells, leather and other items indicative of their heritage. But don’t call what they were wearing costumes. Folks appearing in their Native American clothing insist that what they are wearing is regalia.
“It’s our version of our Sunday best,” explained Natalie Bowersox of Berwick, who organized the event.
Bowersox, who is a Navaho, explained that when a person wears a costume, they are pretending they are someone else. By contrast, regalia is worn by people in recognition of their heritage and celebrating it.
The Powwow is held twice a year in Noxen - in the Fall and on Mother’s Day weekend.
“It’s an intertribal gathering,” Bowersox said. “Anyone can come. White tribes, African-American tribes - we do this to educate the public with dancing and the sound of the drum.”
Powwows have been organized throughout Pennsylvania for about the past 25 years, Bowersox explained. Their purpose is not only to educate, but also to promote fellowship.
“Over the years, we’ve had people come who have felt some kind of kinship with other people here,” she said.
The Powwow in Noxen was started 12 years ago by Bowersox’s uncle, Murph Hislop.
“He is a Vietnam veteran who wanted to help the fire company and honor his fellow vets,” Bowersox explained about why the event was started.
Six years ago, Bowersox took over organizing the Powwow, and the event continues to recognizes veterans for their service to their country, as well as provide financial assistance to the fire department.
In addition, food and clothing are being collected at the event to send to North Dakota to provide assistance to people participating in a pipeline protest, Bowersox said.
Participating in the Powwow event is not difficult. The event is free, and all a person has to do is register. Most of the dancers appear in their regalia, although some people perform in regular street clothes.
Many of the participants also volunteer to help with other functions, Bowersox said. It requires about a week to set everything up, and some will move tables, others will be responsible for trash removal, and some will be pressed into service in the kitchen.
“All work together as one big community to make it happen,” Bowersox said.
“It’s great, it’s one big family event,” said Michael Brandon of Sweet Valley, who is Cherokee. “We all get together.”
Brandon makes an impressive sight, decked out in large feathers on his head and back, and with a breast plate made of rib bones covering his front.
Asked what kind of effort was required to make his regalia, Brandon replied: “Many hours. I spent a lot of nights working on it.”
Teresa Dehlman of Factoryville also appears in full regalia, dancing with her sister, Pearl White of York.
“I know a lot of people who come here,” Dehlman explained. “It’s an opportunity to see friends. It’s also an opportunity to learn about our culture.”
Jim Red Fox of Kerhonkson, N.Y., is a story teller who entertains the crowd with many interesting tales.
“This is the first time I’ve been here, but they’ve asked me to come back,” Red Fox explained.
He explained that following a stroke he suffered in 2004, Red Fox turned to writing and story telling as a means of recovery, which turned into a passion. He has been asked to speak at many major powwows, plus local VA hospitals, and schools.
Robert ‘TurkeyDancer’ Brown of Noxen has his own lodge at the event, a full-sized teepee, which can hold several people. Brown said that he became interested in Native American culture while in the Boy Scouts, and it is a passion that continues to this day. He said he made about 90 percent of his regalia, and has participated in every Noxen Powwow since the beginning.