A member of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Bill Martell can’t count how many Pow Wows he’s participated in over the years.
“It’s been hundreds, I imagine,” Martell said as he donned his colorful hand-made Native American regalia prior to dancing Saturday in the Peshawbestown Traditional 2012 Jingtamok (Pow Wow).
“I started when I was 13,” he explained.
Martell’s 17 year-old daughter, Julie, was arranging a shawl on her brightly colored jingle dress.
“I don’t know how many I’ve danced in either,” she said. “I’ve been doing this since I could walk.”
“We’ve been meaning to get up here for years to see this,” said Jeanne Blumberg, who was attending with her mom Julie, dad Clois, and cousin Erin.
“We know we have some Cherokee and Shoshone blood in us,” Julie Blumberg said, “and we decided it would be good for us to learn a little more about Native American culture.”
The basic format of the Pow Wow varies little from year to year. But this year’s Peshawbestown Pow Wow featured something new — a female tribal member entering the Pow Wow arena bearing the veterans’ Eagle Staff.
“Having a woman bring the Eagle Staff into the sacred circle is really unheard of,” explained Tony Grondin of St. Ignace, himself a veteran and a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. He came to Peshawbestown last weekend specifically to participate in this year’s Pow Wow.
“We had a special ceremony with the Eagle Staff last (Friday) night,” Grondin said. “It’s really a significant thing that a woman is carrying the Eagle Staff for the first time. I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Tribal member Linda Woods, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam era and a member of the Eagletown American Legion Post, last weekend became the first woman to lead fellow veterans into the Pow Wow arena bearing the sacred Eagle Staff.
The American Legion Eagletown Post commander, Air Force veteran Alvin Pedwaydon, is also the Tribal Chairman of the Grand Traverse Band.
Of the 130 dancers who entered the Pow Wow circle Saturday afternoon during the first of three “Grand Entries” over the weekend, more than a dozen near the head of the column were women veterans, led by Woods, bearing the Eagle Staff.
“I am proud to bring her here today,” Woods said, referring to the eagle’s head mounted atop a hand-carved staff. “This is truly a great honor.”
The arena director of this year’s Pow Wow was Fred Raphael. The master of ceremonies was Leonard Malatare. The head veteran was George Martin. The head male dancer was Brian Moore and the head female dancer was Rhonda Purcell.