ANDERSON — Dressed in post-European contact regalia, Jim Sawgrass, a member for the Florida Muskogee (Creek) tribe, blew into a shell horn to attract a crowd to his Eastern Woodland camp.
“My tribe, of course, is not from this area, but we were part of the Eastern Woodland tribes,” he explained. That, he continued, was a network of tribes that stretched from Canada through the eastern United States to Mexico.
Sawgrass’ camp was one of many special attractions Saturday at the annual Andersontown Pow Wow at Athletic Park. The event honors the city’s Native American culture, history, art and music.
Initially home to the Miami and Potawatomi, the area also became home to the Lanape, or Delaware, tribe as they were pushed westward through European settlement from the eastern United States.
In addition to the Eastern Woodland display, pow wow visitors could witness a Native American wedding, learn how to throw a tomahawk or atl-atl spear, and watch 2019 World Hoop Dance Champion Cody Boettner perform. Visitors also were able to feast on Native American culinary treats, including buffalo burgers, fry bread, Indian tacos and lavender lemonade.
According to Sawgrass, the Woodland Indians were agrarian, surviving from farming, hunting and fishing.
But contact with Europeans, he said, changed the lifestyles and economics of Native Americans. For instance, his hybrid regalia, a combination of buckskin pants and European-style shirt, was the result of conquest and trade two centuries ago, he said.
“We now became traders,” he said, the persistent sound of the drums of the dancers colliding with the soft strains of international recording artist Douglas Bluefeather’s flute.
Noblesville resident Donna Eisman said she was no stranger to pow wows, introduced to them by her grandmother, who she said was Cherokee.
“She’s the one that told me about my history, what I was made of,” she said. “It explains who I am, how I think, how I feel about things. I feel it in my heart. I feel like I’m in the right place. When you’re young, you don’t think that’s important. When you’re older, you know how important that is.”
Eisman passed on the tradition Saturday to her 10-year-old grandson, Joshua Van Fossan, a fourth-grader at Durban Elementary School in Noblesville at their first pow wow in Anderson.
“I have my grandson out here, and he just did his first dance, so I am all teary-eyed,” she said.
The experience has been great for Joshua, Eisman said.
“I think he’s starting to gain a little more confidence about being Native American,” she said.
Joshua said he felt his ancestors as he danced.
“I think it was great. I like the drums,” he said.