AMHERST — Drums, burrs and traditional dancers are some of the sights and sounds to experience Memorial Day weekend at the second annual Odenong Pow Wow in the township of Amherst.
Events are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is free.
Powwow-goers can enjoy handmade crafts, powwow singing, dancing, traditional and contemporary foods, services, and artwork from Native American, First Nations, and native vendors from North, South and Central America in addition to the Caribbean.
“There will be opportunities to hear first-hand from native people about their respective cultures, experiences, beliefs and lives,” said powwow organizer Justin Beatty. “There will be opportunities for non-natives to come to the dance area and participate in dances too! Attendees may even hear traditional languages spoken, apart from those they have heard in movies and the like.
“Iron River will return as the host drum this year,” Beatty said. “Chris Newell, who was one of the guest speakers last year, is serving as emcee this year.”
Not only will the powwow celebrate, support and increase the visibility of Indigenous cultures in the region, but it will promote, preserve and advance the artistic talents of the Indigenous community and create economic opportunities for artists, entrepreneurs and small businesses. people through a high-visibility cultural event with significant tourist appeal and public engagement.
“Here in western Massachusetts and surrounding areas, the visibility of Native Americans, First Nations and Indigenous peoples has been difficult to maintain,” Beatty said. “We are often overlooked and, in some cases, downright erased from the public perception of Native Americans.”
For more than 35 years, the annual UMass Amherst Pow Wow has been a celebratory ceremony for the Indigenous peoples of the region.
Like other campuses, the pandemic has caused the University of Massachusetts Amherst to stop hosting or postpone major events.
“The UMass-Amherst Pow Wow is one that a lot of people really love and is one of the last pow wows in the area that is well known, respected and well attended,” he said.
To fill this void in 2021, Beatty, in conjunction with the Social Distance Powwow, created the Odenong Powwow to focus on Indigenous peoples in the North East.
“The number of powwows in the area has dropped to near zero and without the UMass Amherst powwow, there was no medium to large scale powwow here in Western Massachusetts,” said said Beatty. “I think this is a historic opportunity to show that we are still here.”
Providing a quality cultural event, the Odenong Powwow, it hopes to support Western Massachusetts by educating, interacting, and bridging cultural differences while highlighting the indigenous peoples living in the region.
“The hope is to expand over time and make this powwow one of the best events in the Northeast,” Beatty said. “We are working to make this the best pow-wow possible. …something that natives here in this part of the country look forward to, something to forget about the lack of opportunity to celebrate our respective native cultures.