Columbus ‘Was a Real Bad Man’ and Other Lessons (and Photos!) From the Great Mohican Pow Wow
Twice a year, in July and September, the Mohican Reservation Campground hosts an event that puts Native American culture on center stage: the Great Mohican Pow-Wow.
Over the weekend, 70 dancers, three drums, a hoop dancer, a story teller and some 40 artisans and food vendors from all over the country found their way to the pow wow near the town of Loudonville. The host drum was the Wild Band from Arizona.
“We won the drum competition here twice,” Moontee Sinquah, the leader of Wild Band, told ICTMN. The group was invited to be the host drum at this year’s pow wow, and were paid $2,000, which primarily went to travel expenses. “It’s not easy to make a decent living on the pow wow trail, but we can do it because we also play at corporate events and give presentations at schools,” Sinquah said. The members of the Wild Band come from different nations: Hopi, Navaho, Lakota, Cherokee and Tuscarora. Some of them also participate in the dance competitions.
Lisa Miller has been in charge of ticket sales for pow wow for twenty-five years. “Friday is always a slow day,” says Miller. “Saturday the weather was great, and we had good numbers, but Sunday the rain kept most people away.” She estimates there were some 3,000 paying visitors at this year’s gathering.
On Saturday, as the sun shone bright, and the place filled with visitors, Ron Colomb, the event’s emcee, born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, used a lull in the dancing to walk around the arena and tell guests that they shouldn’t believe everything they learned in school about Native history. “Columbus is honored in this country like a hero,” he said. “He even has his own day. But believe me, he didn’t discover our America. He only set foot on some islands in the Caribbean, and he did some really bad things to the Natives there. Columbus was no hero, he was a real bad man.”
On Sunday, heavy rains chased away many of the visitors. After the Grand Entry and the first dance competition, the pow wow moved from the arena to the adjacent big tent that has space for some 200 visitors.
In this tent, storyteller Lance White Eagle entertained his audience. After explaining how chipmunks came to have a white stripe on their backs, White Eagle also spoke on more serious issues, about tribes’ fight for the rights to the land they live on. “Right now, the government is giving away land that belongs to the Apache to an Australian mining company for free. The Apache have to put up a fight to stop this.”
When the pow wow ended, the dancers took off their regalia. Most of them were getting ready to move on to the next stop on the pow wow trail. “Next weekend, we play at the Grassroots Pow Wow in Ithaca,” says Moontee Sinquah of Wild Band. Cowdy Coe, a tattoo artist from Pittsburgh, plans to dance at a pow wow in Pennsylvania.
“Come back for our pow wow in September,” Miller said. “It’s really beautiful here that time of the year.”
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