It may have been more than 200 years since the thunder of native drums echoed across the vale of the Cheat River in the Allegheny Mountains.
That will change October 5-6 when organizers of the "We Are Still Here" pow-wow welcome what they expect to be hundreds of guests to celebrate West Virginia's Native American heritage.
Festival spokesman Buddy Aiken says singers, dancers, and drummers from several nations will gather along the route of the Great Indian Warpath at Parsons, West Virginia, to share their culture and honor veterans and first-responders.
Aiken, whose mother's family hales from the surrounding mountains, says he hopes the festival will become an annual event welcoming a return of native culture in a state in which few people are aware of native habitation.
"I was surprised to find that not many people seemed to realize that native peoples lived here," Aiken said. "They knew of Seneca Rocks, but they didn't know people lived here."
Historians in recent years have faulted schools for teaching that the region was uninhabited, though it was inhabited in great numbers until 1650, when the Iroquois of New York laid claim to the region as a hunting ground and forced resident tribes to leave.
Even after 1650, small groups held out in defiance of the Iroquois. In addition, the "Great Indian Warpath," also known as the Seneca Trail, led through Tucker, Randolph, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Greenbrier, and Monroe counties in the eastern state.
Aiken said the event, held along the route of the ancient trail, will include dances and ceremonies that demonstrate native customs and dances that welcome non-native participants.
The Parsons pow-wow will also honor veterans and first responders with song and dance.
The event was set in October to avoid conflict with other pow-wows nationally, but Brian Sarfino, marketing director for the Tucker County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says October is an ideal time of year as the mountainous region will be resplendent with autumn color.
“At elevations above 3,000 feet, there is a homogenization of northern hardwood and southern hardwood trees. Think of it as Canada meets North Carolina. The colors are spectacular, and the scenery is uninterrupted as far as the eye can see,” Sarfino says.
The pow-wow grounds at Parsons are also a drive of 30 minutes from lodging and restaurants in Elkins, Davis, and Thomas, West Virginia.
For more information, follow them online at Powwows.com/WeAreStillHere.