To accommodate a larger attendance, the inaugural gathering of Native Americans for song and dance on the Cheat River on October 5-6 has been moved to a larger venue.
The “We Are Still Here” pow-wow—celebrating the native history of West Virginia—has been moved to the Five River Campground at Parsons, in Tucker County, which will host larger crowds and on-site camping.
“We’ll have much more room, and dancers and vendors will be able to camp on-site, which is something we couldn’t accommodate until now,” organizer Buddy Aiken said.
Aiken established the event earlier this year after moving to West Virginia and realizing the history of Native American culture in the state had been largely overlooked.
Tribes left the region east of the Ohio River in about 1650 when the Iroquois Confederacy claimed it as its exclusive hunting ground for beaver fur, though some returned, often secretly, in defiance.
Institutions in West Virginia later taught that the state was part of a sacred hunting ground in which no tribes resided, though it was no more sacred than any other, and historians have since corrected the narrative.
Among those that returned, Aracoma, a daughter of Shawnee chieftain Cornstalk, legendarily settled in the 1760s, and historians now believe Shawnee chief Tecumseh was born near present-day Jane Lew in 1768.
In the 1830s, many natives from the southeastern U.S. escaped to what’s now West Virginia during the Trail of Tears when the U.S. government was forcing their removal westward.
Aiken said Native American dancers are thrilled to return to the mountains along the Cheat where the Seneca Trail traveled and where many native villages were located.
“We’ve had an outstanding response, and singers and dancers are coming from all over,” he said. “More singers are registering every day!”
Typically a public pow-wow is a social and religious gathering in which Native American groups meet to sing, dance, socialize, and honor their cultures. Pow-wows, when public, invite non-natives to observe, socialize, and participate.
“Pow-wow” is a Narragansett term that means “spiritual leader,” and because a pow-wow is a religious gathering, etiquette should be observed.
Drums should not be touched or played by those who are not a part of the drum group. People and their regalia should not be touched without permission. Depending on the tribe and ceremony, viewers should ask before taking photographs or recording videos or tapes. Some tribes ban photos and sketches of ceremonies.
The pow-wow opens Saturday at 10 a.m., and ends at 5 p.m. The Sunday pow-wow opens at noon and ends at 5 p.m.