As the weather cools and our thoughts turn to home and holidays, it’s a fitting time to honor those who protect and serve our nation in the armed forces. For a unique and touching tribute to veterans, consider attending The Mashantucket Pequot Museum’s Veterans Powwow in November.
The powwow is part tribute, part dance competition. It is open to the public, and welcomes all veterans and active duty military with free admission.
This cultural event takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 11. Free admission for veterans and active duty military (with ID and one guest) includes the Powwow; admission to the museum; and complimentary chowder and corn cakes at the Pequot Cafe.
“The respect shown to veterans is an integral part of the Native American culture,” museum officials note on the website. “Native Americans have a rich history in the United States Military. The veterans of today are shown the same honor and respect as the warriors of times past.”
All powwows include a Grand Entry, which is a procession of dancers; flag song (akin to the U.S. National Anthem), flag ceremony and honor songs. There will be also be an opportunity for Native and non-Native veterans to participate in a round dance, which is open to all.
And there’s no need to feel intimidated, said Christopher Newell, the museum’s education supervisor. No formal attire or regalia is required during a round dance, and he promised that it’s easy to follow along.
“If you can step to your left on the beat, you can do this dance,” he said.
Every veteran will also be given a token of appreciation as part of the special honoring. Newell said it’s usually a braid of sweetgrass, which his tribe, the Passamaquoddy, believes is one of the first grasses to cover the Earth.
“You burn the dried sweetgrass to pray, and then the smoke lifts your prayers,” Newell explained, adding that the sweetgrass is believed to have a spiritual ability to clear the air of negative energy.
Of course, sweetgrass simply smells great, burned or not.
The Veterans Powwow does include a dance competition, with various age and themed categories, head judges, and cash prizes.
The powwow is included with general admission to the museum, located at 110 Pequot Trail, Mashantucket. Visitors may purchase a ticket to the powwow only, for $10. Children younger than 6 are admitted free. For additional information, visit pequotmuseum.org.
If you go:
Powwows are public events. Here are some helpful tips for first-time visitors. To follow along with the happenings, including when to stand for certain portions (such as the grand entry, flag song or honor songs), listen to the announcer. The announcer provides guidance as the event progresses.
Some dances, like intertribals and round dances, are open to the public and some are not. The announcer will invite the public into the arena to participate in a dance.
Cameras are allowed and welcome, but occasionally you’ll be asked not to photograph certain events. If you’d like to stop a dancer and take a picture with them, please ask their permission first. The dancer’s outfit is commonly referred to as “regalia”. For Powwow dancers this is a way of life, so respect for their regalia is key. Please ask if you have questions, or would like a closer look at something.
Editor's note: This story appears in the fall 2017 issue of Sound & Country magazine. For more local stories and to flip through the publication online, click here.