101st Wampanoag Powwow honors spiritual leaders and future generations

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MASHPEE — Gina Peters Marcellino made her way to the dancer registration table after walking through the door of the Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow on Friday. Her granddaughter and her two cousins ​​followed her. Two were competing later in the day

Ten-year-old Lillian had to perform a fancy dance. Her cousin, Sophia, wore a fringed dress with dozens of triangular cones sewn into it.

Much of their regalia, including a fancy shawl, feathers, choker, apron-like vest, leggings, and moccasins, their mothers, friends, or relatives made and gifted. Lillian’s fancy shawl and long ear flaps were meant to mimic the movements of a butterfly as she danced. The designs were printed on the back of the leggings for others to see.

Lillian started dancing at the age of 5. Although it terrified her at first, she gained confidence. Joy comes easily now.

“If you look at the kids when they’re dancing, you can see it in their faces,” Marcellino said.

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Jesse Guod dances during the opening ceremony at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee.  Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times

The event, the 101st Annual Mashpee Wampanoag Pow Wow, is a family reunion as well as a tribal and inter-tribal reunion. There were Native Americans from different tribes and states under the name Powwow. The dancers were dressed in styles reflecting their tribes and their history.

The event lasts all weekend.

Dances, percussion, games, storytelling and competitions were scheduled throughout the weekend. This year’s theme is “Honoring the Four Directions”.

MC Annawon Weedon said the event welcomes tribes from all over. Clothing is indicative of tribe and region. Sometimes there is crossing, a sharing of ceremonial elements.

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Urie Ridgeway helps his nephew, Jesse Guod, get ready before the start of the commencement ceremony at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee on Friday.  Jesse Guod had been dancing for 15 years while his uncle, Urie Ridgeway had been dancing for 40 years.  Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times

“Non-Indians don’t understand diversity,” Weedon said. “Regalia tells stories.”

The design on the shoulder strap of the bag he was carrying indicated the Cotuit and Waquoit rivers. These were the original boundaries of the Wampanoag lands. Over time, that landmass has shrunk to 50 square miles, he said. Weedon plans to pass the bag on to his grandchildren.

The Wampanoag tribe is one of the few tribes in the country to have a title deed to their land, Weedon said. The US Department of the Interior holds the records of many tribes.

“My mother’s property has been in the family for over 300 years,” Weedon said. “It’s longer than the city.”

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Casey Thornbrugh carries his daughter Marianna Thornbrugh, who is six months old, during the grand opening ceremony at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee on Friday.  Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times

Jesse Gould traveled six hours from New Jersey to attend the event. He walked the field wearing the regalia of the Plains Tribes. On his head was a three-tiered feather adornment consisting of black and white feathers and the feathers of a black and white eagle and a golden eagle.

His father was a member of the Pawnee tribe; his mother from the Lenape.

Gould wore a bear claw necklace that the Pawnee tribe is known for. An otter breastplate covered a beaded breastplate, intended for protection. Moccasins with bells jingled as he walked. He was going to participate in the traditional men’s dance later in the day.

Rachel McCauley sat in the shade of a pop-up tent sewing a strap for a leather bag. Her two birds, a green-cheeked conure and a cinnamon-cheeked conure caught the attention of passers-by. She takes the birds with her to powwows.

Akinnah Gonzalez, 6, watches Nailani LuzCaban Gomes, 9, practice dancing before the start of the opening ceremonies at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee on Friday.  Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times

“RJ (one of his birds) loves the drums,” she said.

His mother, Jeanette McCauley, stood next to tables filled with Native American art. Beaded bags and jewelry, wire-carved gem trees, dream catchers, medicine wheels, stones from around the world, and a buffalo jawbone were on display. The art came from the Aztecs, Dakotas, Abenakis, Cherokees and Iroquois.

McCauley, a Poarch Creek, spoke of a spiritual connection to the Earth and all of the natural resources that are gifts from the Creator. Its gemstone trees are a tribute to trees. His words echoed those of Weedon when he spoke of the dances as a form of worship and prayer. Every step tells something, he says.

“In my culture, the importance of the four directions – North, South, East and West – is that they stay in balance,” McCauley said.

Je'Sire Mobley, 3, has his hands over his ears during the opening ceremony as his brother Journē Mobley, 4, watches him at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee on Friday.  Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times

“Without trees, we don’t have oxygen,” she said. “People need to be more careful about what we do with our environment. This land provides us with everything we need. We don’t care about it for the greed of paper you can’t take with you.”

She said non-Indians tend to forget that the Wampanoag welcomed settlers to their land. They are here because these people on this land saved these settlers, she said.

“They saved them, it’s not savagery,” she said.

An osprey hovered overhead as dancers from all tribes gathered for the grand entrance. Head Dancer Autumn Jackson and Head Dancer Iyannough Peters led the procession, followed by Head Elder Wayne “Big Oak” Jackson. The nation flags, Wampanoag, Mashpee Wampanoag, USA and POW/MIA veteran flag, came next. Then came a long line of dancers in their exquisite outfits.

Contact Denise Coffey at dcoffey@capecodonline.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.

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