Powwow brings past to present

Willamette holds fifth spiritual and social gathering

Statesman Journal

March 18, 2007

Sean Dougherty's green eyes peeked out from beneath a headdress of eagle feathers tipped low over his forehead.

The Irish-German-Native American was bedecked in feathers, ready to step-to for the men's traditional Native American dance at a Saturday social powwow at Willamette University in Salem.

The fifth annual event, in Cone Fieldhouse on campus, included Native American dances set to a drum beat and chanting.

It was not a performance, though 500 onlookers crowded the stands and ringed the gym floor to gaze at the stomping feet and brightly colored clothing. Nor was it a dance.

"Every step we take is prayers to the people, dancing for the people," Dougherty, of Salem, said. "It's very spiritual."

Master of ceremonies Bob Tom said powwows have been going on before Native American people had a name for them. The 70-year-old attended his first when he was 6, and being a part of one means more to him than song and dance. It is who he is.

"Listening to the drums, being surrounded by friends, Indian people, makes you stand taller, makes you proud to be Indian," he said.

A dizzying array of scents, including burning sage, dried lavender and fried dough, filled the fieldhouse Saturday. The aromas reflected cultural roots, but also drew visitors to vendors on the scene selling Native American foods and wares.

Jessie Hunt of Turner sold herbs such as sage smudge stick, an early antiseptic and cleanser of bad spirits.

"When (the dancers) walk in, they burn it," Hunt said. Some Native Americans "take it to the sweat lodge. They breathe it."

Debbie Austin of Keizer sold fry bread in a booth outside of the gym.

"I can give you the ingredients, but the way of mixing it is the secret," she said.

The flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, water and yeast combination sizzled in vats of oil.

Willamette University freshman Caity Casebolt said the event was a crucial reminder of American history -- the Native Americans' loss of their homes, land and hunting grounds.

"It's a part of our history," she said, "and it's also a part of theirs."

jdaley@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-671

Daley, Jillian. “Powwow brings past to present.” Statesman Journal 18 Mar. 2007. 22 Mar. 2007 http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007703180334