KEARNEYSVILLE – For the first time, the Wanjila Oyate Wacipi, or All Nations Powwow, was held at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds last weekend. The event brought together members of a number of Native American tribes for a round of traditional song and dance. The dancers showcased a number of different dances while members of the Sweetwater Singers and Yellow Thunder – two indigenous singing and drumming groups – provided a musical backdrop.
The event was organized by the One Heart One Mind Interpretive Center, which came to Charles Town in November.
“Most powwows today are contests. So people compete for prize money, and that is the reason for attending. Our Powwow isn’t like that,” said Jennifer Hudson, executive director of the center. “It is a traditional, community-supported powwow, which means that we support all of the dancers and the drummers and we build community out of it,”
“All of the money that we raise goes right back into the community to help people that need it,” Hudson said. “The center is based around community.”
Though the center has no particular tribal affiliation, it practices the traditions of the Lakota, Hudson said. The center carries on the knowledge and beliefs of Chuck Derby, or “Running Elk,” one of the last traditional pipe carvers from Minnesota, who passed the tradition of pipe carving to Michael McGee and the center before passing away in 2010.
The center aims to help educate the broader public about native cultures, languages and lifestyles.
“We don’t have a lot of reservations out here. There’s not one … within about four hours. A lot of school kids think the Indians all died off,” Hudson said. “This is a way we can help to educate people by doing outreach through community programs.”
“The idea is that through language education and culture education – really just talking about this way of life – that we can give people a better understanding.”