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October 14, 2010

NCC wraps up Powwow with storytelling and Hoop Dance

Powwow Head Man Johnathan Byrnes

Clarksville’s Native Cultural Circle 13th Annual Intertribal Powwow concluded its second day with  activities for both  the young of age and the young at heart. Sunny skies and soft breezes kept the atmosphere of the Powwow grounds pleasant and welcoming to guests and performers alike. The activities of the day offered interests that appealed to the young of age and the young at heart.

Prior to the official opening of the powwow, Pastor Graham Harvey and members of Crossroads Christian Fellowship offered prayer and songs, celebrating the common spiritual bonds seen in Native American culture and Christian philosophy.

Several honor ceremonies were held during the day. These included the Posting of The Colors at the Grand Entry and Warriors Dance that opened the day’s schedule; a Prayer Dance and the Retiring of the Colors at the end of the powwow. Honor ceremonies are considered scared and are not be photographed. Later in the day, Chief Two Dogs ‘adopted’ Grandmother ‘Many Horses’ as a sign of respect and a show of affection for the love he holds for her. In so doing, she adopted Debbie Harris, making her her daughter. Towards the end of the day there was a special Prayer Dance for a local Native American woman who has been diagnosed with a serious medical condition. Jingle dancers came into the circle and danced for healing as the supplicant traversed the circle in reverse order. Guests were asked to offer prayers and ‘send up some smoke’ on her behalf.

Randy Rain, blacksmith, owner of 'When Pigs Fly Ironworks'

Among the various vendors on the grounds is the set-up of ‘When Pigs Fly’ Ironworks proprietor Randy Rain. A self-taught blacksmith with over twelve years experience, Randy kept a live coal-fired forge going during the day. Randy is a master blacksmith, having perfected his trade in reproducing authentic period ironworks, open hearth cooking stations, ironwork flagpoles and custom ordered designs. The flagpoles placed around the Powwow circle are his work. He is also well versed in the history of the craft of blacksmithing and will easily share it with interested visitors. Along with ironworks, visitors to his site will also find 19th century re-enactor clothing, Native American regalia and accessories.

Also on hand this year was pipemaker Jay Plante. Jay is the founder of the Happy Squirrel Trading Company. He makes Native American styled prayer pipes, metaphysical tools, pendant pieces, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and fetishes. Jay is a multi-media artist and incorporates stone, bone, glass wood, and feathers in his pieces. He has sold his work at Pow Wows from Florida to New Hampshire and as far west as Arizona.

Traditional dances were lead by Powwow Head Man Johnathan Byrnes and Powwow Head Lady Jill Smith. These included several intertribal dances where anyone wishing to dance could enter the circle and the Round Dance where the ladies get to choose any male as their dance partner. Other dances included  the Snake Dance, the Ladies Jingles Dance and the Ladies Fancy Shawl Dance led by Powwow Head Lady Jill Smith and Powwow Princess Christa Koontz. The Men’s Fancy Dance is where men in regalia perform in the circle. Men’s Fancy Dancers included Jesse Cross, David NightHawk McDaris, Charles Page, Head Man Johnathan Byrnes and the visiting Navajo fancy dancers.

Young fella seems to have his steps down

One the favorite events of the powwow is the Children’s Candy Dance. Young children are called into the circle. They are told to follow the example of the Head Man and the Head Lady in learning basic dance steps. Then they are allowed to perform those movements in a brief dance around the circle. Once they have completed one turn around the circle, the arena manager announces it’s time to collect the candy that has been distributed around the dance area for the children to find. It resembles an Easter Egg Hunt as the eager faces scramble about trying to find as many pieces of individually wrapped goodies as their hands and feet will allow.

A special event at this year’s powwow was a guest performance by a Clarksville Native American flute musician. He played several songs which showcased the diversity of various kinds of flutes he had and the kinds of sounds, and thus the kinds of songs that suited each instrument. He impressed the gathering with his knowledge of the Earth’s natural vibration key, F Sharp. In happens that  Native American flutes naturally tune themselves to this frequency.

Another activity for the children were the storytelling sessions by Grandma Minnie, otherwise known as Mary Anne Plante. She told stories of Native American folklore and fable, like how the shrunk came to lose his white coat, why the opossum has no hair on its tail and how the rabbit lost his long beautiful tail. Sitting the center of the circle Grandma Minnie held the attention of  the children gathered there to hear her stories and not a few grown-up new to these fables. Chuckles could be hear several times around the powwow grounds.

Keeping to the tempo of the drums

The Powwow was also gifted with a Hoop Dance demonstration by a Navajo dancer troupe who were visiting with the host drum, The White Horse Singers from Alabama. The Navajo dancers delighted Powwow guests with their colorful regalia, skilled movements and amazing stamina as they traversed the circle in time to the drums and singers songs.

A fun event for the grown-up was the Umbrella Brigade Dance. This a dance performed by military veterans in recognition of their honorable service, wartime service, without regard to branch of service or gender. Its a lighthearted celebration, a kind of release from the ravages of military service by allowing these veterans to joyously strut and dance carefree, twirling colorful umbrellas and laughing despite their past adversities. There were smiles aplenty during this dance.

With the retiring of The Colors, the 13th NCC Annual Intertribal Powwow came to an end. The Native Cultural Circle expresses thanks to all of this year’s sponsors for their support. They look forward to seeing everyone again next year. For more information about the group, email inquiries to: or

[Photos by Turner McCullough Jr.]

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