The Richmond Powwow, a celebration of Native American art and culture, is held every year during the fall harvest. (Photo by Wayne Stacy.)
The things I see:
The history of Native Americans in Kentucky is well documented. While tribes and hunting parties traveled the region prior to European and Colonial settlements and Kentucky statehood, there were no indigenous tribal settlements. Three main tribes – the Shawnee, the Cherokee and the Iroquois- treated the area as a communal hunting ground and nature preserve…
For nearly 20 years during the fall harvest, however, a wonderful thing has been happening in Richmond: Native Americans from across the country have been migrating for the annual “Richmond Powwow.”
The Richmond Powwow started in 1994 as a labor of love and the brainchild of Janet Quigg. The powwow has grown, and at times shrunk, but the powwow has been around to promote Native American culture to people of all walks of life.
Over the years the Richmond Powwow has had several locations in the Richmond community, but recently it found a permanent home on the grounds of the historic Richmond Battlefield, sight of the second largest battle of the Civil War in Kentucky. There is a nominal fee to get in ($3 for children, $5 for adults); Quigg tells me “one day I hope we can afford to open the gates for free.”
Internationally renowned Native American musician Arvel Bird performs during the Richmond Powwow. (Photo by Wayne Stacy.)
The Richmond Powwow often brings some very prominent Native American personalities from recent pop culture. This year alone, internationally renowned musician Arvel Bird brought his Native American / Celtic fusion of violin and flute sounds to the event. Actor Larry Sellers, most notable for his role of “Cloud Dancing” on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman from 1993 to 1998 and his cult classic role in Wayne’s World 2, as “Naked Indian” was on hand for the event. Native Kentucky Author Lynny Prince was there as well to promote her book Scattered Leaves: The Legend of Ghostkiller; her fictional story of supernatural time travel is based on factual events surrounding the “Great Sioux Uprising” and the mass execution of 38 Sioux Native Americans on Dec. 26, 1862.
Native American interpretive dancers put on displays of authentic tribal performances that represented specific experiences in Native American life, including the “intertribal” dance where performers present their own interpretation of their tribes’ dances and the “grass” dance where the scouts of the warrior societies dance around the inner circle to flatten the grass in preparation for important events.
The dance programs were very interactive; for instance the “grand entry” ceremony (which we were all forbidden from photographing) was presented by the Honor Guard of the Ohio Valley Native American Warrior Society. Veterans and parents, children and spouses of veterans and active duty military service member were invited to participate.
There were about a dozen gift vendors offering authentic Native American wares, including a great deal of sterling and turquoise jewelry; some of it was made by the craftsmen who were selling it and some of it was brought in by Native American tribe members from out West.
There were tools, trinkets, horns, natural teas, clothing, ornate works of art and many other items. There were demonstrations of how the Native Americans “knapped” arrowheads. You could walk through an authentic U.S. Cavalry outpost campsite or Native American tepee, and primitive campsites were available for overnight stays. There was a great food vendor who created authentic Native American flatbread dishes. If you have never had Native American flatbread; it is a cross between the kind of pastry bread used to make funnel cakes and a pot pie crust, but not sweetened. The bread is deep fried, very fluffy, very flaky, stuffed full of great things … and very, very good.
Vendors were on hand at the Richmond Powwow offering an assortment of Native American art and jewelry. (Photo by Wayne Stacy.)
I was informed from an early age that my bloodline led to the Cherokee Nation on one branch of my family tree, although I have not found the link so far. As an avid genealogist, I have traced my family back for 10 generations in many directions, and I have found I am mostly Scottish, but I persist in finding the link. I have always had an affinity with Native American culture, and the struggle the Native American nations endured across this country. So visiting the Richmond Powwow was a must for me to experience and to bring to you.
This year the powwow wasn’t very large, and unless you want to have deep conversations with the staff and those who participate in it, or if you stayed for all the scheduled performances, you could have easily walked through the event within an hour or so. But that is a large part of the powwow experience; all of the performers were so accessible and eager to interact with the public. You can lose yourself in the experience and before you know it…the day is gone.
I must place one caveat on the Richmond Powwow, it is not an “exclusive” Native American event. The concept behind the Richmond Powwow is inclusiveness. If you have a desire to learn about Native American culture you are welcome to participate, to perform, to dress in authentic costume, to sell your wares.
I find after having several discussions with some of the vendors, this is a very different perspective than most of the other powwow events across the country. I am not sure if this is a detriment to the goals of the Richmond Powwow or an advantage, but I do know the nonprofit organization who presents the Richmond Powwow brings to us a window into a vital part of our history; not only of American history as a nation, but world history in relationship to the inhabitants of this land, long before there was a Kentucky, or a United States, or the 13 colonies … long before a European set foot on our shores these great people were here.
Before the Spanish introduced the horse to the North American continent, these people walked across this land from coast to coast. Before Jesus Christ, or a profound written language, these people were here. For at least 6,000 years Native Americans have lived, loved and died on this continent. There may truly be no more of an enduring, uninterrupted, lasting culture than that of the Native American…now that is just my personal conjecture of course, but as always it is one of “the things I see.”
If you would like to learn more about the Richmond Powwow and how you can help keep this great event alive, visit their website: www.richmondpowwow.org.
If you have suggestions about an adventure in your area, or would like to contact Wayne about his work you can contact him at email@example.com
Wayne Stacy is the “consummate vagabond,” which may be what makes him a great photographer. A former military man himself, he is third-generation child of a family dedicated to military service. He has traveled the world as a military dependent and in his own service to his country. While Stacy has always been an artisan, it wasn’t until he was injured on his job as a Master Electrician in 2002 and could not use his hand for more than three years that he rediscovered his love for photography. He is an on-call photographer for KyForward, is helping build KyForward’s photo archives as well as writes travel pieces. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and see his website here.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by Wayne Stacy