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September 6, 2008

8:57 p.m.: Powwow dispels myths about American Indians

ANDERSON — Black, red and white are allowed in the closets of Delaware Indians, as Greg Livengood learned Saturday.

During the Andersontown Powwow, the Greenfield resident listened as Dee Ketchum, a former Delaware chief, led a presentation on his tribe’s history and customs.

Ketchum’s black otter fur hat and the red and white bead work on his bandolero bag contradicted what Livengood had always thought he knew about Madison County’s indigenous people, that those three colors were sacred and shouldn’t be part of an Indian’s wardrobe.

But that’s not the case, Ketchum explained, at least not among the Delaware.

“Some tribes have family designs, and really, you have to get their permission to wear their designs,” Ketchum said. “And some tribes have colors you cannot wear.”

This year is Ketchum’s fifth Andersontown Powwow, and he’s been speaking at Connor Prairie for 15 years. The Oklahoma native said by doing presentations on his tribe’s history he hopes to correct common misconceptions about American Indians.

“There are so many myths and stories about Native American clothing, customs and traditions,” he said. “It amazes me what people think of the concept of Native Americans in Oklahoma. They think we still live in the 1800s.”

Delaware Indians living in 2008 do not stick to reservations and tend to enjoy very modern lives, Ketchum said.

People in the tribe often struggle to balance their heritage and mainstream culture, what Ketchum called “the two worlds,” he said the tribe is still strong with 12,500 members worldwide, about half of which live in Oklahoma.

Livengood will be able to put his new knowledge of the Delaware to good use. Along with his friend Scott Pike, Livengood leads a group of Boy Scouts in the Order of the Arrow, a Scouting honor society that teaches boys about aspects of American Indian traditions.

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