The flurry of brilliant colors, feathers, drums and dancing of the Grand Entry was nothing less than spectacular. American Indians from all across the United States and Canada gathered to perform and participate in drum and dance competitions. Bright yellows, reds, sparkles and feathers galore adorned the participants. Feet stepped, jumped and spun to the time of the drums. My ten-year-old daughter Nikki and I sat in the grass in front of the bleachers encircling the dance area. We were just a few feet (and hay barriers) away from dancers. They were men, women, and children of all ages. One little girl and boy all dressed up looked about two years old. My daughter, camera in hand, caught it all.
The Ossahatochee Indian Festival and Pow Wow in Hamilton is held on the third weekend in October, so on Saturday, we headed toward Hamilton. The policy of the festival is “no alcohol, no coolers, no drugs, no pets, no politics.” You can be assured it is a fun family day trip. The entry fee is pretty reasonable: $8 for adults, $5 for children 6-12, and children 5 & under free. However, as you can’t bring in coolers, and there are crafts for sale, extra money is a must. My “Indian Taco” cost $7. It was a lot of taco for the money and I couldn’t finish it all. Our daughter saw a lot of other children of all ages carrying bows and arrows. Having given her $10, she now owns her own bow and two arrows (with the points carefully taped with electric tape.)
It worked out perfectly that the festival was on this weekend. Nikki had a teepee project that she was working on for a 4th grade class. Before us was a teepee encampment all set up. The owners waited inside to share their stories. From one man we found out that only one in three (at the most) teepees were decorated. And then the design had to come from a dream or a vision. His own design came from a dream. His symbols represented Christian beliefs.
There were reenactors with muskets and a mini cannon demonstration at an early American military encampment. Pottery making, basketry, corn shuck dolls, and wet-scrape tanning were all there to enjoy.
One of the most touching events was the Veterans Honor Dance. Any veterans in the audience, including police and firefighters, were invited into the circle. There they were honored with a special musical presentation of singing and drums. They were led out with dancing.
The hoop dancewas where an Indian (which is the term they used) danced with at least eight bright yellow hoops and created whatever he pictured in his mind with hoops twirling on arms, shoulders and legs as he danced to the drums. A blanket was laid down for donations. Members of the audience went on to the field to place down the donation. The Emcee, Ron Colombe, explained that this is a tradition that goes back into history. To show respect to the hoop dancer, those watching would leave gifts. “Only today, you can’t spend a special gift at Wal-Mart,” laughed the emcee.
Some of the competition dancing that we enjoyed included the Fancy Shawl Dance, the Jingle Dress Dance and also the more sedate and respectful traditional dances.
I wish we could have seen the demonstrations of primitive technologies such as flint-knapping, fire by friction, atlatl spear, blow gun, and other tools. But on Saturday, those demonstrations were shown at sundown. While you could get a bracelet to get back in, we were not going to stay in the area all day long. It was an hour drive back to Thomaston. So, we missed this part of the Pow Wow. The Sunday demonstrations were earlier in the morning.
If you have never been to a Pow Wow, and we had not, I’d recommend it. And if you are feeling particularly brave, you might want to join in with the dancers on the “everybody dances” time. Or maybe just take pictures.