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Published: Sunday, 10/21/2001

Annual powwow is good medicine

Brian Diggs of Findlay is a member of the Blackfoot and Navajo tribes. Brian Diggs of Findlay is a member of the Blackfoot and Navajo tribes.
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They danced in a circle, a show of unity and togetherness in body, mind, and spirit set to a beating drum and chants. They honored veterans among them for their sacrifices, as well as those now making sacrifices for their country. They honored their ancestors, elders, and children.

The word “powwow,” according to some Native Americans, is associated with the medicine man. For those attending the 14th Annual Traditional Pow Wow yesterday at Summit Hall in Point Place, it was all good medicine.

The event, sponsored by the American Indian Intertribal Association of Toledo, continues from 1 to 5:30 p.m. today. Organizers expect about 1,000 people over the two-day event.

“Historically, some of the powwows were held after the battle,” said Joyce Mahaney, spokeswoman for the association. “Historically, the powwow was to try to have good medicine and that's what we're trying to do today.

“Powwows are for the whole community and not just the Native American community,” Ms. Mahaney, a Chippewa, added.

The Toledo powwow, which featured Native American dances, songs, crafts, and food, has always had a dance to honor the veterans among them, according to LeRoy Malaterre, the emcee for the event. Men and women in traditional dress danced in a circle and invited veterans to join them. People were encouraged to shake hands with veterans.

Dennis Bibee, left, of Maumee, participates in a friendship dance with Brian Diggs. Dennis Bibee, left, of Maumee, participates in a friendship dance with Brian Diggs.
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“That's something we've always done,” said Mr. Malaterre, a Chippewa, who said that the veterans' dance was not in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. “It's how we've always been and how we'll always be. It will, perhaps, remind people that we're all Americans and we have to work together, not only through this crisis but to save Mother Earth.”

The powwow honored two American Red Cross volunteers, Robert “Tall Bird” Ryan and Carol Allen, who went to Ground Zero in New York City to help with rescue efforts. The North Toledo couple cooked for rescuers in the days after the tragedy. Both said they were comforted by how local residents have reacted to their volunteerism.

“The outpouring from the country and from the public, there's no way you could describe it,” said Mr. Ryan, who has both Cree and Cheyenne blood. “I literally had tears in my eyes.”

Mr. Ryan called the powwow a cultural exchange between Native Americans and people of other backgrounds.

And that was a good thing for Elizabeth Sudheimer, a fund-raiser for the Perrysburg International Music Club, who brought 30 junior high school-age students - 29 from Hungary and one from Ukraine - to the pow wow to experience Native American culture.

Many of the students, part of an exchange program with the Perrysburg School District, only know Native Americans through movies, Ms. Sudheimer said.

“This is just one part of American culture. I would hope they see that America is one diverse group of people made up of many different cultures.”

She called the powwow an appropriate foundation for learning about American culture.

“These are the people who first inhabited the land,” Ms. Sudheimer said. “[The students] have been amazed and are asking many questions.”

Native Americans held a dance in their honor and the students from Szeged, Hungary, followed in the circle, an activity Lilla Lengyel, 13, called “very cool.” She said she has seen how movies portrayed Native Americans and liked meeting them in person.

“It was really better,” Miss Lengyel said. “They are so friendly.”

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