Thunder Mountain Lenape Powwow

Today we drove to the Thunder Mountain Lenape powwow, which was full of color and music. There were two drums — that is, groups of singers who sat around the same drum, chanting in rhythm.

Dancers mostly moved around the circle. The younger the dancer, the fancier the footwork and the more the likelihood of spins and twirls.


The two elders in the lead pretty much just walked, stepping in time. But look at the stage presence of the woman — she was impressively regal. (I heard someone say she was the clan mother.)

A younger male and female lead dancer not only took on major parts in the ceremonial dances, but also made sure that the little kids felt welcome. Elsewhere on the grounds there were child-size teepees and little houses made out of shipping pallets.

Between the dances, the powwow leader told stories, mostly illuminating some cultural detail. One story was about how the Lenape give thanks for their food while they plant it, while they harvest it, as they cook it, and after they finish it — but not right before they eat it, which is considered an awkward time to give thanks.  Another story was about how an older relative invited the speaker over to visit when the speaker was a young boy, but when the boy arrived at his relative’s house and knocked, the relative wouldn’t get up to open the door… he later told the boy that he’d already given him one invitation, and it was rude to stand outside his relative’s house and expect another one.

IMG_4096.JPGWe had attended a much bigger powwow in Wisconsin years ago when Peter
was very small, but he mostly sat on a bench and held his hands over his ears — he didn’t like the pounding drums.

Carolyn hopped up and started dancing at the first opportunity.

IMG_4142.JPGHere are Peter and Carolyn dancing a snake dance — like “crack the whip,” but with the added fun that if the head of the snake starts to circle around somebody standing on the sidelines, that person has been “eaten” and must join the dance. (Somebody ought to make a computer game on that theme… and maybe include some really catchy music.)
IMG_4132.JPGAccording to the powwow leader, European settlers got the idea of the square dance from watching the Indian Two-Step.  Here you can see the lead couple moving down an aisle formed by the men on one side and the women on the other. Having grown up in Virginia, I am familiar with the Virginia Reel, so parts of this dance really looked familiar.
IMG_4130.JPGThis couple said they were from South Korea. The powwow leader invited them to join, and after only a little encouragement, they did.
IMG_4173.JPGIn addition to a parrot, a turtle, and some kind of huge snake, a tiger cub was here for the kids to pet. Fearless Carolyn had no real qualms about petting the tiger. Peter, who has inherited his mother’s sense of caution, is watching from a very safe distance.