An Imitation Pow Wow? Controversy Haunts Fort Ancient’s Gathering in Ohio
On its 25th anniversary this June, a gathering in Oregonia, Ohio, hosted by Fort Ancient, is still answering questions about the integrity of their educational and inter-tribal celebration.
The controversy comes from the misrepresentation of the Shawnee people, and other Native tribes’ cultures. The organizers of the pow wow are not Native American, but at least one dancer, Charles Hodges (head male dancer), is part of a federally recognized tribe, according to Jack Blosser, the site manager at Fort Ancient.
An interview by ICTMN also reveals what seems to be a lack of substantive and continual discussions between leaders of federally recognized tribes and the host of the gathering. “We need to sit down and have a conversation. We have to remove stereotypes. This is not the way Indians are,” said Ben Barnes, second chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Barnes said that he has corresponded with the Ohio Historical Society, a private nonprofit organization that administers the Fort Ancient site, but they have not specifically talked about the pow wow.
In the absence of a conversation between Fort Ancient and tribal leaders, social media is buzzing with public comments on sites like Facebook. “It looks to me that this group is a bunch of wannabees attempting to find any federally recognized tribe for an endorsement. I was born a Choctaw 63 years ago and know what being an Indian is about. I resent you people playing Indian,” James Brown wrote on Fort Ancient’s Facebook page.
“This is a hobbyist gathering, they are claiming to represent the Shawnee and other tribes, but they are dressing wrong and dancing wrong. It has become a full mockery of all Indian people from all tribes,” said Keely Squirrel Denning, a member of the Shawnee tribe, who referenced a Youtube video.
For instance, Denning said, in what is called a “long dance,” a teen female appears wearing a light blue shawl and wearing a Pocahontas Halloween costume and cowboy boots. Some people wear war bonnets and that’s offensive, she said.
“I believe the majority of the Shawnee people, and people from other tribes who are falsely represented, would like to make their presence known at Fort Ancient. Instead of having these people who are not from our cultures, teaching things they believe to be true — step aside — and let the real descendants teach the right way. Let us tell our story. Let us dance for their people,” Denning said.
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