‘A new breath of fresh air’: Monacan Indian Nation’s powwow returns after COVID pause | Local News

MONROE — Hundreds of people gathered Saturday for the Monacan Indian Nation Powwow, marking a return to the annual festival after a two-year break due to COVID-19.







Devin Bruner helps his fiancée, Olivia Richardson, fix a piece of her regalia during the annual Monacan Indian Nation Powwow in Monroe on Saturday.


Photo by Kendall Warner, The News & Advance


Dancers took center stage in the middle of the day as several different groups played drums for a dancing competition. Vendors showed off traditional Monacan artwork, jewelry and clothing, and powwow attendees basked in the camaraderie that has been reduced within the tribe over the last two years in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Kenneth Branham said this was the first large gathering of any kind for the tribe since the previous powwow in 2019.

“It’s fantastic to be back out here,” Branham said. “The goal is to get people out here to see how native people celebrate, dance and just have a good time with family fun.”

The two-day festival highlights the culture of Native American tribes, including the Monacans, showcasing dancing, regalia, and other traditions.

People are also reading…

Attaquin Weeden, a dancer during the competition, traveled from Maine to take part in the powwow and has been working on his craft since he was a kid and was taught the art by his father.

“Since I was a kid and could start walking, my father, I would just follow behind him and just watch his steps. After I started on my own, I’d put a little more pep in my step and learn from other people’s moves , Weeden said.







Monacan Indian Nation Powwow 5

Attaquin Weeden poses for a portrait while wearing regalia during the annual Monacan Indian Nation Powwow in Monroe on Saturday, June 4, 2022.


Photo by Kendall Warner, The News & Advance


Now, Weeden travels to powwows up and down the East Coast, dancing in competitions in his bright blue regalia, hoping to honor those came before him.

“I was told when you wear bright colors, the ancestors can see you better and can watch over you,” he said. “So when I’m out there I pray for my loved ones and the ones here with me, just to represent my family.”

Several groups of drummers performed music for dancers such as Weeden. One group, Red Clay, is enjoying being back performing as a group at powwows.

Matthew Richardson, a drummer for Red Clay, which includes several different tribes from North Carolina, said “we just appreciate the togetherness of being at something like this.

“Pre-pandemic, we had a whole schedule, but that didn’t happen, so we’re excited to travel again and just to be around the drum again.”







Monacan Indian Nation Powwow 20

People browse vendors during the annual Monacan Indian Nation Powwow in Monroe on Saturday, June 4, 2022.


Photo by Kendall Warner, The News & Advance


Richardson said the group was excited to try out some new songs during the two-day event this weekend.

Prior to the two-year break, the tribe hosted the powwow every year, with the original location being on Elon Road in Monroe. With a new venue — at 225 Laurel Cliff Road in Monroe — and “beautiful backdrop,” according to Branham, the tribe is excited for a new era of the powwow.

This year, said Diane Shields, a historian of the tribe, marks the 28th Monacan Indian Nation Powwow, and it brought new life to the festivities.

“It’s like a new breath of fresh air. We just all needed this. It’s like we lost part of our culture not being able to do this kind of thing,” Shields said.

Shields said the family nature of the event is her favorite thing, allowing visitors to see people they usually don’t get the opportunity to, and to see people grow up through the years.







Monacan Indian Nation Powwow 16

Charlie Hedgepeth has his face painted by Meredith Hedgepeth during the annual Monacan Indian Nation Powwow in Monroe on Saturday, June 4, 2022.


Photo by Kendall Warner, The News & Advance


With festivities continuing Sunday on the grounds, Branham said that the most exciting part of the entire show is the grand entry, as well as the retiring of the colors, which happens at the end of the day’s festivities.

“I can remember back at Elon when we had like 60 dancers. I think there’s 60 just Monacan dancers now. So we’ve had around 150 dancers today and I love it because you see all different types of dancers and people with kids of their own who used to be children themselves,” she said.

The grand entry, which has become the highlight of the day for many powwow attendees, is at noon each day, when all of the dancers enter the area and are led by the head dancers and veterans of the tribe.

Branham said the camaraderie that comes from having casual dancers along with competitive dancers really helps the festival grow.

“When we went to non-competition, little kids were behind the booths learning how to dance, and that’s what we wanted,” he said.







Monacan Indian Nation Powwow 15

A dancer participates in the annual Monacan Indian Nation Powwow in Monroe on Saturday, June 4, 2022.


Photo by Kendall Warner, The News & Advance


In past years, Branham and the tribe leadership wanted to emphasize education about Native Americans, specifically the Monacans. Events like the powwow give them the chance to put on a show for people who might not be knowledgeable about Native American culture.

“We want to be good neighbors. And part of being good neighbors is doing things like this and educating and having the public there,” Branham said.

The powwow will continue from 10 am to 6 pm Sunday with dancing, vendors and other traditional Monacan festivities. Tickets can be bought at the gate for $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under age 5 get in free.

,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.