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A gathering of spirits
Annual Adamstown Intertribal Powwow is a soaring salute by and for Native Americans
Though folks usually think of the Pennsylvania Dutch — or Germans — as those with the deepest roots in the Cocalico area, the truth is far from that.
It is the Native Americans, the Lenni Lenape in particular, whose presence here predates that of the Europeans by many centuries.
And, for the fifth year, the descendants of those first Americans from whom the name Cocalico (meaning den of serpents) is derived, will honor their ancient culture during the Adamstown Intertribal Powwow. The celebration is set for Saturday and Sunday at the Adamstown Rod and Gun Club, 563 Willow St., Reinholds.
“This is a great time of year for us,” said Keith Rodrigues, one of the event organizers. “This area is rich in Native American history and culture.
“Our goal is to educate people — who we are, what we are: caring, loving and family-oriented people.”
In addition to Rodrigues, Ward Reese of Sinking Spring, an Ephrata High School alumnus, and Darius Puff of Colebrookdale Township, both Berks Countians, help pull together this two-day event. Mark Onehawk is another key organizer.
Both Reese and Puff are descendants of the Lenni Lenape. Rodrigues, originally from Pueblo, Colo., who relocated to Laushtown in 1982, counts Apache and Pueblo among his ancestors.
The men explained that all Native American cultures are welcomed and embraced to be a part of the event which includes dancing, drumming, Native American foods and crafts.
Among the performers:
Drummers: host drum — Homeboys (Tipi Hoksilapi); guest drum — Eagle Thunder and others, all drums welcome and performers are urged to contact Rodrigues in advance.
Head dancers: Elk Spirit Bass and Diane Hummingbird Woman Larkin.
Head veteran: Mike Seeker Masler.
Firekeeper: Stephen Talltree Block.
Emcee: Mark Onehawk.
There will be camping for powwow performers, vendors and volunteers.
Gates open at 10 a.m. each day and admission is free. There is a parking fee of $5 per car.
Rodrigues, Reese and Puff stressed the cultural importance of the “Grand Entry” set for noon.
Though this is a colorful and moving event, photography of it is discouraged due to its spirituality.
“It’s an honor thing. The spirit and the atmosphere of this is beyond measure,” Rodrigues said.
The men said that representatives of most Native American nations are on hand for this, wearing authentic garb and paying respects to ancestors and elders, particularly military veterans and first responders of their own culture and other United States’ peoples.
“It’s a gathering of nations,” Reese said, “and we all learn, too.”
He spoke to the significance of the veterans’ dance.
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve looked up to see a hawk or an eagle fly above us,” Reese said. “This is no coincidence.”
“When our prayers go up to the Creator, they are taken by hawks and eagles,” he said.
Protection of the homeland is something Native Americans take seriously, tied especially to the natural world of their pre-European days.
Indeed, the men noted the reverie with which even the natural articles of the regalia is treated. For instance, if a feather floats from a headdress, everything stops, said Reese.
The feather is cleansed and returned to its position of honor.
The beat of the drums harkens to the mother’s heartbeat, the first sound heard by every living creature.
The men stressed the importance of the drums, dance, stories, and traditions that are still largely passed down through oral rather than written narratives.
Puff participates in a number of powwows in the region, and is a fixture at many historical cultural events like the annual Heritage Festival held the first weekend of October in Berks County.
He noted there are very few full-blooded Native Americans in existence and even fewer who carry only the blood of one nation.
“It was a different place before ‘the boat people’ (the Europeans) showed up,” said Puff.
Most Americans likely have some Native American blood in them, but most don’t realize that, the men said.
“We’re all part red and that’s cool,” said Reese.
Native Americans, despite the lands and identity taken from them by immigrants, pretty much embraced the newcomers in the 17th and 18th centuries and taught them survival skills which, in turn, helped them thrive.
Tied to that is caring for the land that was once theirs alone.
“We are actually allied with the Christian concept of stewardship,” said Puff. “Native Americans have always been the best stewards — we taught the English how to survive.”
“As a people and with all that has happened to us, we still have the desire to live and celebrate life here,” said Rodrigues.
For more information, contact Keith Rodrigues or Mark Onehawk via e-mail at Adamstownpowwow@yahoo.com or visit Adamstown Powwow on Facebook.
A little about the Lenape
Lenni Lenape is the Native American name meaning “men of men,” but is usually translated “original people.”
There are three principal tribes or divisions: the Unamis or Turtle; the Unaluchtgos or Turkey; the Monsey or Wolf.
Turtle occupied the area between the coast and the Blue Mountains. Their hunting grounds extended from the Hudson to the Potomac. They mainly lived on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River south of the Lehigh River.
It was principally the Turtle and Turkey tribes that were referred to as the Delawares. Those tribes were defeated by the Iroquois in 1742 when most roamed to western Pennsylvania.
The Wolf tribe was the most ferocious. They lived in the mountain regions at the headwaters of the Delaware and Susquehanna rivers.
The Turkey lived in the area of the Chesapeake Bay. William Penn “bought” his land from the Turtle and Turkey tribes.
Sources: The History of Berks County, www.nanticoke-lenape.info/history.