Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



Catawba Pow-wow filled with magnificent dancers, warm hospitality

Posted 4/26/2011 11:38:00 AM

“You’re pretty much family when you come to a Pow-wow,” said Matthew Manaqua, the kind young man who showed my husband and me around the 2nd Annual Catawba Pow-Wow.

Matthew was right; the atmosphere at the Pow-wow was so warm and friendly that, despite the fact that we’d never been to a Pow-wow before, we felt right at home. Although Pow-wows serve to unite Native Americans and preserve their shared culture, they also provide a chance for Native American nations to share that culture.

The Catawba Nation, which is headquartered in Rock Hill, held its first Pow-Wow last year. The three-day event is part of the Come See Me Festival.

The highlight of the Catawba Pow-wow, like many others, is a dance competition, with cash awards for the best dancers. This year, after only one year in existence, the Catawba Pow-wow attracted dancers and drummers from as far away as South Dakota, Canada and Mexico.

We arrived just in time for the Grand Entry, when all of the dancers competing enter the arena together. It’s an experience I will never forget. The dancers ranged from tiny tots, just barely walking but already dancing, to men and women who have been dancing for more than 50 years. The stirring sounds of drums filled the coliseum.

As the dancers filed in, Matthew explained the different categories of dance. Traditional, Grass, Straight, Fancy, Jingle. Each dance has a different story behind it. The Grass dance is said to have its roots in the Great Plains, where Native American Indians would do this dance to stomp down the tall grass. The women’s Jingle is a healing dance, created by a Chief who, while his daughter was very ill, dreamt that she recovered after women wearing bells all over their dresses danced around her. When he awoke he had the dresses made, the women danced and his daughter’s health was restored.

One of the most breath-taking parts of a Pow-wow has to be the elaborate regalia worn by the dancers: great bustles of feathers on the Traditional dancers, long, colorful strips of fabric that bounce with the Grass dancers’ movements, the Jingle dancer’s dresses covered in glistening bells.

The regalia is magnificent; but don’t call it a costume. As Matthew explains, “a costume is something you put on to be someone you’re not.” For native people the dances performed at a Pow-wow (and the clothes they wear to dance them) is a pure expression of who they are.

Outside of the arena, vendors and educational booths allowed an opportunity to learn even more about the Catawba Nation and Native American culture. This is a wonderful chance to see Catawba pottery up close and speak to artists who are carrying on the centuries-old tradition of Catawba pottery. It’s also a chance to experience native culinary traditions like delicious fry bread.

Click here for more information about Pow-wows, the Catawba Nation and how you can attend next year’s Catawba Pow-wow.