Midway hosts powwow

Messenger photos by Renee Gannon

Jennifer Vance of Charleston, W.Va., and the Cherokee tribe, celebrates her ancestral heritage by dancing in a sacred ring during the third annual "Honoring Turtle Island" powwow in Midway.

Shawn Riley of Newark, a descendant of the Delaware Shawnee tribe, participates in the grass dance.
Sue Kernie of Jeffersonville and a decendant of the Cherokee tribe has traced her ancestors as far back as the year 1834 to Georgia.

A member of the White Oak Singers was among the many people who attended the Midway powwow.

In Native American culture, the drum represents the heartbeat of the people. As such, it is the central pulse of a powwow. 

On Aug. 9-10, representatives of 15 Native American tribes celebrated that pulse as they gathered in Midway for the third annual “Honoring Turtle Island” powwow. The event was open to the public.

Brian Darst, a Midway resident, served as the emcee. He is a member of the Blackfoot Northern Cheyenne tribe and his lineage is of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Lenape, Shawnee and Cherokee nations. 


He explained that in Indian culture, Turtle Island means Mother Earth.

“A powwow is a cultural ritual and social gathering for American Indians as well as for the public. It is also very spiritual,” he said.

Dancers, drummers and singers from across the country took part in the celebration. Vendors came from Michigan, West Virginia, Indiana and Ohio with Indian food and handmade crafts and regalia.


“It’s very difficult to keep our culture alive. With the stigma and myths about our culture, everyone thinks the only Indians that are alive are the ones in the movies. Believe it or not, we do exist and that is why we have the powwows, to keep our culture alive,” Darst said.

In the past, the greatest challenge was bringing the tribes together. In the 1950s, that changed as travel became more accessible.

“Mass transportation helped us come together, and because we were all able to come together we have mixed in the different traditions. It is very important to us that we preserve our history, and we do our very best in trying to pass on our culture styles and dance,” Darst said.

In the past, Indians gathered for pic-nics, brought their drums, and wore their best dress. They would sing, dance and tell stories for three or four days, and that is basically what a powwow is today Darst said. 

While powwows involve many dances, some tribes dance clockwise and others counter-clockwise, all according to their beliefs. They dance to honor past warrior ancestors and to pray. There are jingle, grass, men’s and women’s traditional, and intertribal dances. Some invite anyone to dance, including those of non-Indian descent.

Vendor Rudy Koos, a resident of Dayton and member of the Piqua Shawnee tribe, sold real horse tails, turtle rattles, fur pelts, beaver tails, beads, jewelry and items made of leather at the Midway powwow. He said Indians honor whatever animal they wear on their regalia.

“They believe that the Creator gave it to them, so they should honor it, and they never threw anything away,” he said.  

In an emotional voice, Koos who has been going to powwows for over 24 years, said he was really moved by his first experience at a powwow. 

“These are a blood people and while at my first powwow, I saw an elder stand so proud and straight as he honored the American flag and yet that flag ruined his life,” he said.

Sue Kernie, a resident of Jeffersonville and member of the Cherokee nation, said she can trace her ancestors back to 1834 in Georgia.  She attends 10 powwows a year and said, “I do it for the spiritual connection and to honor my ancestors.”

Jennifer Vance of Charleston, W.Va., can trace her heritage back to the 1800s and said her family members hid in the hills to avoid the Trail of Tears. The largest reservations are now located in Oklahoma and North Carolina.

“So many of our people died along the Trail of Tears. Some walked thousands of miles; they were starved and they froze,” she said.

While the powwow in Midway paid tribute to Indian culture, it also raised money for the host community. A total of $1,105.50 from donations, auctions and the blanket dance went to the Midway Youth Association.

It takes about a year to put a powwow together, Darst said, and he is already planning for next year, when the event will take place Aug. 8-9. 

“We were really pleased with the weather and the turnout this year, and we hope to bring the powwow back to Midway again next year,” he said. 

For more information, go to www.powwows.com.

Master of Ceremonies Brian Darst (left) announces that his grandson, Sam Pierce, master of arms, will be going into the Navy when he graduates next year. Darst said many Native Americans are veterans, having fought in the Vietnam War, World War II, the Korean War, Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm and the Iraq Freedom wars. Darst served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1986 to 1992.

Children participate in a traditional Native American dance.

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