Native American Festival –
One thing I really appreciate about Florida is there are endless things to do year round. Within an hours drive in the last month there have been numerous festivals: Kumquat, Greek, Seafood, Pirate, Manatee, Medieval, Arts, Music, and the list goes on.
This winter, I regularly bike the Withlacoochee Trail, hike in the Chassahowitzka Forest and kayak the Weeki Wachee river. Yet, I never have given much thought to the Indian influence in Florida until recently. While reading The Orchid Thief in preparation for an upcoming Fakahatchee Strand / Everglades trip, I learn the significance of the Seminole and Creek Indian influences. This little bit of knowledge has me thirsting to learn more. Lo and behold today is the Native American Festival in Brooksville, FL.
The Big Pow Wow
There is a circle of bleachers in the center of the venue where a flat grassy area is to be the stage. Vendors circle the entire venue. I find the vendors suffer from a bit of sameness. There is an abundance of flutes, feathers, blankets and dreamcatchers to be had. I’m not into jewelry so I skip past those booths. I am, however, especially curious to check out the food trucks.
I had recently read of fry bread and was anxious to give it a try. As I have arrived early, I am first in line to get a bison burger on the bread. Fry bread is a simple dough, flattened and floated on simmering oil much like an unsweetened funnel cake. The tasty burger is served pita style.
Todays Master of Ceremonies is Otter Boy, a Navajo, whose grandfather bestowed upon him this name due to his rambunctiousness as a child. Otter Boy introduces the drummers and musicians, the Red Boys, who will perform throughout the day. I note the use of “red” in the name and wonder why all the hubbub over its use; no one here seems to notice or care.
Otter Boy, explains that Pow Wows were traditional inter-tribal meetings where members gather to exchange, song, dance and stories.
Before breaking into song and dance he further explains the meaning of the regalia worn, beading patterns and the permitting required to posses eagle feathers. He also notes for a list of upcoming pow wows to visit PowWows.com. I find these modern references intriguing. I guess I envision them still living in a teepee on the reservation free from modern encumbrances. My folly was further debunked when he joked of a basement in his teepee where he can hang his plasma TV. Surprisingly, he encourages us to interact with the performers and to ask any additional questions we might have.
A Full Dance Card
Otter Boy introduces the crowd to the Grass Dance, whereby, scouts would proceed the tribes into the plains looking for suitable areas to settle. Often, the most desirable areas were covered in 5 foot tall buffalo grass. 100’s of scouts would dance tamping the grass down preparing the site for habitation. The Red Boys pounding of the PowWow drum and singing is engaging. It’s impossible not to feel the urge to hop and stomp.
Otter Boy continues introducing other performers other dances. Those demonstrated were the Warriors Dance, the female Healing and Fancy Shawl dances. An added bonus was Otter Boy inviting the crowd up for an inter-tribal grass dance. Murphy, aka Running Bear, took great delight in stomping down and then (much to my chagrin) “watering” his little patch of flattened grass.
The stomping works up an appetite and I circle back around to the food trucks for a little dessert. Fry bread with strawberries and confectioners sugar.
I particularly enjoy learning of the Native traditions and way of life. It is truly part of the American heritage and worthy of preservation and celebration.
There are many other Native American festivals throughout Florida paying homage and celebrating its Native American heritage. I certainly look forward to attending and learning more about the culture, traditions, dances, oh and the fry bread tacos!