Nanticoke Powwow



Nanticoke show tradition
By Justin Cord Hayes, Staff writer

MILLSBORO - There are less than 1,000 Nanticoke Indians left in this country, according to tribal leader Chief Kenneth "Red Deer" Clark, and most are within 120 miles of the site at which the 22nd Annual Nanticoke Indian Powwow is being celebrated.

Perhaps that is why the event is so rife with bittersweet moments.

One occurred just as the powwow began, when the inaugural dance was heralded by the pledge of allegiance.

"It may seem odd that we begin with the pledge of allegiance," said Charles C. Clark IV, Chief Clark's son and the tribe's assistant chief.

"But just because we lost everything from sea to shining sea, we love this land and many of our people have served this country."

Such reminders of the baser events of American history were as frequent Saturday as were festive dances.

Chief Clark said the powwow has always been, to some extent, about settling conflicts.

"During times of trouble, they allowed the tribes to determine how best to fight their enemies, and they were a way of planning for the future."

Often, planning for the future meant assimilation into the European population.

"Our kids want the same things as all kids - to have MTV and all the latest clothes," said Asst. Chief Clark.

"But they carry the additional burden of continuing their culture. It could all be lost with the carelessness of just one generation."

Carole Durham, a Cherokee from Lynchburg, Va., does her part to insure that American Indian culture remains visible.

She and her husband attend powwows like the one in Millsboro throughout the eastern United States.

They sell traditional ribbon shirts as well as bumper stickers bearing legends such as, "Sure you can trust the government, just ask an Indian," as well as books like James W. Loewen's "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong."

"The powwow as we know it today resulted from the suppression of the dancing that Indians performed in their daily lives," said Ms. Durham.

"Now, the powwow is an effort to show the public that our culture is still alive."

She added that, in her opinion, there are deliberate efforts to keep American Indians "invisible."

"Many Indian events go unreported," said Ms. Durham, "but then, the dominant society cares mostly about the dominant society."

The "dominant society" was even evident in such mundane matters as what was available for the crowd to eat.

Fry bread and Indian tacos competed with "all American" favorites like hot dogs and Sno Kones, and the fry bread was actually pizza dough.

"Because of the bulk and the crowds, we have to use pizza dough from Grotto's and can't make it the traditional way," said Nanticoke tribe member Sandra Norwood.

Grotto's fry bread aside, the Nanticoke Indian Powwow does its best to preserve the tribe's traditions.

Asst. Chief Clark believes that such events can help narrow the gap between Natives and non-Natives.

That gap, he reminded the crowd, is what led to the mutual antagonism that once characterized the two groups.

"What they didn't understand, they tried to rub out," said Asst. Chief Clark, "but we're still here.

"Everywhere you go, you're walking the shadows of Native Americans."






"The History and Genealogy of the
Native American Isolate Communities
of Kent County, Delaware, and
Surrounding Areas on the Delmarva Peninsula
and Southern New Jersey"



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