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Published: Sunday, 10/1/2006

American Indians celebrate ways of their ancestors

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Detroit resident Peter Chiquito, of Navajo and Apache descent, dances during the American Indian gathering. Detroit resident Peter Chiquito, of Navajo and Apache descent, dances during the American Indian gathering.
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Long before you see the American Indians in their traditional regalia - Wind BearHeart wearing a dress adorned with 365 jingles formed from tobacco tins and Jamie Oxendine wearing a silver headdress and four earrings in each ear - you'll hear the drums at the Woodland Indian Celebration, They Walked Here Before Us.

Getting to the powwow - tucked into Buttonwood Park along River Road in Perrysburg Township - means walking across a small bridge and back a short mulched trail to an opening in the woods. There, about 75 dancers are featured in a circular concert area surrounded by more than 25 vendors.

And you'll enter a world where almost everything seems to have an extra meaning.

The 365 jingles on Ms. BearHeart's dress are an easy one. Each jingle represents a day of the year for Ms. BearHeart, who moved to Toledo eight years ago from the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota.

Mr. Oxendine's four earrings in each ear represent both the four seasons and the four directions.

The corn soup, made with corn, hominy, potatoes, onions, and chicken broth and sold by Anita Frodl of Henry County, is referred to as a healing soup.

"It will heal your spiritual being as well as your physical being," she said.

Even her pumpkin fry bread, which Ms. Frodl says is only a treat, might be more than that. When a Native American man came to her Tribal Expressions catering trailer with a special order, asking for food to mend a damaged relationship, Ms. Frodl said she could deliver.

American Indian re-enactor Clarence Nieset talks with Eric Bell and his daughter, Carissa Bell, 4, at Buttonwood Park. American Indian re-enactor Clarence Nieset talks with Eric Bell and his daughter, Carissa Bell, 4, at Buttonwood Park.
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"Everything I make is with my hands," she said. "And the love just kind of goes right through your body."

She serves Native American foods at about a dozen powwows a season. She likes They Walked Here Before Us, which is in its fourth year, because it is outdoors and in early fall.

Although she was wearing a T-shirt to prepare fry bread, Ms. Frodl often wears an elk hide dress adorned with elk teeth and horsehair for such celebrations. And when the weather is hot, the dress, which weighs about 55 pounds, has made her warm enough to faint.

Organizers, however, would have liked a little more warmth and a lot more sunshine yesterday.

In its first year, the celebration drew 150 dancers - twice as many as are expected today - and Mr. Oxendine, master of ceremonies, blamed the difference largely on the forecast of storms for yesterday's opening.

But throughout the afternoon, there were sprinkles rather than downpours and Mr. Oxendine estimated attendance at 1,000, four times as many as he had predicted given the forecast.

Ms. Frodl could have told him the weather would hold through the afternoon. She called a cousin in South Dakota - she was born on the Cheyenne River Reservation there - on Friday with a request: "Pucker up and blow this storm away."

And Ms. BearHeart, whose jingle dances are to bring healing, is a big believer in the value of gathering outside.

"Out here, look how beautiful it is," she said as the late afternoon sun turned golden. "You're standing on Mother Earth. You've got a good sky."

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



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