Sunday, December 2, 2007


On the 23rd we went to the Louisiana Indian Heritage Association's annual fall powwow, which we’d read about in the newspaper. The moderately terrible weather (really rainy and rather cold) made for pretty small crowd, but the gathering was all the more intimate for its small size. It felt rather like being at someone else's family reunion. This is unsurprising, since in many ways a powwow IS a family reunion with a community outreach component. Everyone was very laid-back. The MC told stories and jokes, unhurriedly moving people through the afternoon's programming. People strolled around visiting each other and the few hardy vendors who had stayed despite the weather, or relaxed at picnic tables in the pavilion. The dancers prepared themselves -- and their elaborate clothes -- at a leisurely pace, pausing here and there to catch up with old friends.

Judging from the clothing, the people came from a much wider variety of tribes than I had expected: Louisiana, certainly, but people were also wearing clothes typical of tribes from the Great Plains, Southern California, and northern Mexico. The languages spoken, Creole included, were just as mixed. Most surprising of all, to me, was to see clothes I recognized from the tribes back home in New England -- Wampanoag and Pequot, if I’m not mistaken! The kid’s clothing frequently reflected that of their parents in color and ornamentation. I found that very endearing. Also the way they frequently danced with their eyes fixed on their parents feet, clearly working hard to get the steps right.

And then we met a celebrity! The MC kept teasing one of the performers about being famous movie star. Because of the teasing tone, I assumed he was joking. He was, but I discovered when I went over to her display table that she actually is a big movie star! Irene Bedard, to be precise. We meant to get a picture of ourselves standing with her, figuring our younger cousins especially would be excited to here that we've met the woman did the voice of Disney's Pocahontas, but we forgot. Sorry.

The powwow was held a campsite in Robert, LA, which is on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. This meant that we got to cross the really really long Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. I’ve wanted to do that since we came down here, and I was delighted to finally have the excuse.

I was really glad to get a chance to meet some people from this culture that has so profoundly shaped New Orleans. Yay powwows!

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