Deborah West
Women dancers at a previous Louisiana Pow Wow.

Louisiana Pow Wow Celebrates 47 Years During Native Heritage Month

Tish Leizens

The Louisiana Indian Heritage Association (LIHA) is keeping its decades-long tradition alive this weekend, November 23 and 24, with the 47th Annual LIHA Pow Wow.

“We have been hosting this event towards the end of November, long before the government recognized the month of November as the Native American Indian Heritage Month,” said Jack Heriard, pow wow chairman.

LIHA, a non-profit association, was founded in 1967 to promote arts and crafts of American Indians in the southeast Louisiana area. The association provides opportunities for local Native American communities to showcase their culture.

“What we really want to do is to educate the public on our customs and traditions, our dance, clothing—and to have a true understanding of American Indian contemporary culture,” said Heriard, who is affiliated with the Micmac tribe.

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But his concern is that Natives are drawn to high prize money and casino organized gatherings, rather than community pow wows.

“We cannot compete against the casino pow wows,” Heriard said. Those pow wows draw thousands, but Heriard expects at least 500 people to attend this weekend’s events.

In the 1990s, they were more competitive. Those were the days when big movies like Dances With Wolves aroused interest in Native culture.

“Everybody wanted to discover their Native American youth,” said Heriard.

This weekend, the pan-Indian pow wow will feature a variety of dances, including Gourd, Northern Traditional, Jingle, Fancy Shawl and Cloth. A Men’s Traditional contest is one of the highlights, with prize money of $500.

This year’s demonstrations will feature crafts from southeastern Louisiana tribes: traditional basket making, doll making and beadwork.

They are also expecting attendance from the Choctaw, Houma, Kiowa and other tribes.

“It is a way for our visitors to see quality dancing, quality outfits and quality merchandise,” Heriard said.