101st Wampanoag Powwow honors the four directions

·4 min read

MASHPEE - Gina Peters Marcellino made a beeline to the dancer registration table after coming through the gate at the Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow on Friday. Her granddaughter and two cousins followed her. Two were entering competitions later in the day

Ten-year-old Lillian was slated to perform a fancy dance. Her cousin, Sophia, wore a jingle dress with dozens of triangular cones sewed to it.

Much of their regalia, including a fancy shawl, plumes, choker, apron-like vest, leggings and moccasins, their mothers, friends or relatives made and gifted them. Lillian's fancy shawl and long ear pieces were meant to mimic the movements of a butterfly when she danced. Designs were imprinted on the back of the leggings so others could see them.

Lillian started dancing when she was 5. While it was terrifying to her at first, she has grown confident. The joy comes easily now.

"If you watch the children when they dance, you can see it in their faces," said Marcellino.

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

The event, the 101st annual Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow, is a family gathering as well as a tribal and intertribal gathering. There were Native Americans from different tribes and states at the Powwow. Dancers were dressed in styles reflective of their tribes and history.

The event runs through the weekend.

Dancing, drumming, games, storytelling, and competitions were scheduled through the weekend. This year's theme is "Honoring the Four Directions."

Master of Ceremonies Annawon Weedon said the event welcomes tribes from all over. Clothing is indicative of the tribe and region. Sometimes there is cross-over, a sharing of regalia elements.

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Urie Ridgeway is helping his nephew, Jesse Gould, get ready before the opening ceremony starts at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee on Friday. Jesse Gould had been dancing for the past 15 years while his uncle, Urie Ridgeway had been dancing for 40 years. 
Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times
Urie Ridgeway is helping his nephew, Jesse Gould, get ready before the opening ceremony starts at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee on Friday. Jesse Gould had been dancing for the past 15 years while his uncle, Urie Ridgeway had been dancing for 40 years. Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times

"Non-Indians don't understand the diversity," Weedon said. "Regalia tells stories."

The design on the shoulder strap of the bag he wore indicated the Cotuit and Waquoit Rivers. Those were the original demarcations of the Wampanoag lands. Over time, that land mass has dwindled to 50 square miles, he said. Weedon plans to pass the bag down to his grandchildren.

The Wampanoag tribe is one of only a few tribes in the country with a deed to their land, Weedon said. The US Department of Interior holds the deeds for many tribes.

"My mom's property has been in the family more than 300 years," Weedon said. "That's longer than town."

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Casey Thornbrugh carries his daughter Marianna Thornbrugh, who is six months, in the opening ceremony at the Wampanoag Powwow Grounds in Mashpee on Friday. 
Sophie Proe/Cape Cod Times
Casey Thornbrugh carries his daughter Marianna Thornbrugh, who is six months, in the 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 grounds wearing regalia from Plains-based tribes. On his head was a three-tiered feather adornment made of black and white feathers, and plumes from a black and white eagle and golden eagle.

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

Gould wore a bear claw necklace for which the Pawnee tribe is known. An otter breastplate covered a beaded breastplate, meant for protection. Moccasins with bells made jingling sounds as he walked. He was going to compete in the men's traditional dance later in the day.

Rachel McCauley sat in the shade of a pop-up tent stitching a shoulder strap for a leather bag. Her two birds, a green-cheeked conure and a cinnamon green-cheeked conure drew the interest of passersby. She brings the birds with her to powwows.

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

"RJ (one of her birds) likes the drums," she said.

Her mother, Jeanette McCauley, stood beside tables filled with Native American art. Beaded bags and jewelry, wire sculpture gemstone trees, dream catchers, medicine wheels, stones from all over the world, and a Buffalo's jawbone were on display. The art came from the Aztec, Dakota, Abenaki, Cherokee, and Iroquois.

McCauley, a Poarch Creek, spoke of a spiritual connection to the Earth, and all the natural resources that are gifts from the creator. Her gemstone trees are an homage to trees. Her words echoed Weedon's when he spoke about the dances as a form of worship and prayer. Each and every step tells something, he said.

"In my culture, the importance of the four directions - North, South, East and West - is that it stay in balance," McCauley said.

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

"Without the trees we have no oxygen," she said. "People need to pay more attention to what we do to our environment. This earth provides us with everything we need. We don't take care of it for the greed of paper than 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 folks on this land saved those settlers, she said.

"They saved them; that's not savagery," she said.

An osprey soared overhead as dancers from all the tribes assembled for the Grand Entry. Head woman dancer Autumn Jackson and Head Man Dancer Iyannough Peters led the procession, followed by Head Elder Wayne "Big Oak" Jackson. The nation's flags, Wampanoag, Mashpee Wampanoag, United States and POW/MIA veteran flag, came next. Then came a long line of dancers in their exquisite regalia.

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

This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: 101st Wampanoag Powwow honors spiritual leaders, future generations