Ohio Residents Getting Crash Course in Native Heritage Through one Young Man's Efforts

Tish Leizens
9/1/12

After launching his first American Indian gathering in Caesar’s Creek Pioneer Village in Waynesville, Ohio this August, young Philip Smith is already planning next year’s pow wow.

“They were shocked to see a 24-year old do an event like this,’ said Smith, referring to the August 18-19 inaugural event he named First Annual Benefit Wacipi. Wacipi is a Dakota word that means dance.

Next year, he said, with the advice of his elders, he is planning a traditional pow wow.

“It was very successful for the first year. Most first year pow wows don’t make a lot of money,” said Smith, who was born and raised in Ohio by his American Indian parents. His mother is from the Eastern Shawnee Tribe and his father is Cherokee.

Smith, an artist, flutist and general manager of a coffee shop in Wilmington, Ohio, said he has never organized a pow wow or any event of this magnitude. He designated himself as arena director of this gathering.

Based on his experience in attending and dancing at some pow wows, he said, most first-time events do not get a lot of interest from performers and the public. He estimated a crowd of 1,800 for his two-day affair.

Smith said the gathering profited over $2,600 from ticket sales and camp fees, which was donated to non-profit Caesar’s Creek Pioneer Village where he is a member and volunteers his time.

The Caesar’s Creek Pioneer Village, part of the Caesar Creek State Park, in Southwest Ohio, is a living history museum dedicated to preserving and promoting a better understanding of early life.

About 14 house cabins and historical structures can be toured during the day, but the cabins are only open during event weekends. Smith volunteers his time on taking care of Heighway Cabin, a log cabin that dates back to 1792.

Smith said the proceeds are intended for the restoration of the cabins. Caesar’s Creek has several fund-raising events during the year for this purpose. This is the first time a American Indian gathering was held.

“I am a Native American. I want to share my culture with other people,” said Smith, who said the gathering has personal meaning for him.

“For me—I am 24 years old—at a young age—to put out this event is to show my elders that I am listening and helping our Native American community and the Village,” he said. “I am stepping up as a young Native American and keeping the pow wows going.”

“Pow wows are important because they educate the public and keeps our culture alive,” said Smith, adding that it took him one year to plan the gathering. He got advise from his elders and his family helped him raise seed money to jumpstart the gathering.

There were a lot of people he knew who came and others came after they got information from the Internet. Among the guests were tribe members of Seminole, Navajo, Cherokee, Shawnee, Iroquios, Seneca and Ojibwe.

Smith said the event featured 25 dancers in six dance categories, drumming, grand entry, story telling demonstrations, and Native American vendors.

The performers were Justin Kwascigroh, head male dancer; Sue Kunie, female head dancer; George Rider head veteran; Ross Davidson, emcee; Grass Eagle, featuring host drum; and Red Circle Singers, co-host drum.

“It was absolutely beautiful. To me, to see all those people there dancing. That pride of your culture excites you,” said Smith.

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