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Published: Monday, 10/4/2004

Tribes gather for annual powwow

Kyle Crawford of Muskegon, Mich., performs during a ceremony yesterday at the Second Annual Intertribal Powwow at Buttonwood Park near Perrysburg. Kyle Crawford of Muskegon, Mich., performs during a ceremony yesterday at the Second Annual Intertribal Powwow at Buttonwood Park near Perrysburg.

Pamela Medahko, with an eagle feather in her hair and a bone-and-elk-tooth necklace around her neck, couldn't stop smiling as she looked at the sky.

She had just finished dancing in a powwow yesterday afternoon when the crowd began to point upward. High in the bright blue sky above the twirling Native American dancers circled two bald eagles.

"They honor us," said Ms. Medahko, happiness and surprise playing out on her face.

In Native American culture, eagles are considered spiritual and to be revered, the Michigan woman said. Seeing eagles during a powwow was a pleasant surprise, though maybe they'd liked what they'd seen last year and decided to make a return visit.

Saturday and yesterday's intertribal powwow at Buttonwood Park near Perrysburg was the second annual powwow held by the Black Swamp Intertribal Foundation. Eagles made an appearance during last year's dancing too, said Jamie Oxendine, president of the foundation.

"It's an honor," he said of the eagles. "We feel the Creator is happy with what we're doing here today."

What they were doing was celebrating Woodland Native American culture and teaching curious non-Native people who gathered to watch the dancing.

"I'm hoping they get a better understanding of Native American culture, and especially Woodland culture," Mr. Oxendine said.

Much of the general public has a misleading view of Native American culture, he said, with a view of Indians on horseback attacking cowboys on the Great Plains and Wild West a predominant image.

But the Native Americans who lived east of the Mississippi River, including throughout Ohio, were part of the Woodland tribes, which had their own distinct cultures, arts, and dancing, he said.

Hosting a powwow, the nonprofit Intertribal Foundation's main event of the year, is a way to share traditions, Mr. Oxendine said. Native Americans from as far away as Minnesota and Florida came to take part.

"We dance for our ancestors, Mother Earth, and for those who can no longer dance," said Ms. Medahko, the head female dancer at yesterday's powwow and a member of the Little River Band of the Odawa Nation. "To me, it's a religion."

Contact Luke Shockman at: lshockman@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.

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