Pow Wow offers chance to embrace Native American culture

Dover High School Native American Club Vice President Gia Williams-Martin, left, and President Galya Cooper discuss the planning of the Pow Wow at Dover High School to be held on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Dover High School Native American Club Vice President Gia Williams-Martin, left, and President Galya Cooper discuss the planning of the Pow Wow at Dover High School to be held on Saturday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

 

DOVER — Galya Cooper has developed an intense interest in Native American history and culture, which isn’t surprising, considering that she has Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape and Cherokee blood flowing through her veins.

That is why Ms. Cooper, a junior, cannot wait for the second annual Native Heritage Pow Wow that will take place on Saturday in Dover High School’s gymnasium from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

After all, Ms. Cooper helped jumpstart Dover High’s Native American Club three years ago. She now serves as president of the club and has had a big hand in helping organize the Pow Wow event.

“I’m looking forward to everything,” she said. “I’m looking forward to all of it. I want to see it all unfold after planning for it for so long.”

Among the highlights of Saturday’s Pow Wow will be the Drum Call at 11 a.m. followed by the Grand Entry when dancers will enter into the circle at 11:30.

There will also be a special program dedicated to the tribes at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, who are continuing to protest and have filed a lawsuit to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The Native group’s source of drinking water will be crossed multiple times by the pipeline.

Ms. Cooper said Saturday’s Pow Wow will be a chance for Native Americans and all cultures to come together.

She said it’s that kind of learning power and knowledge that made her want to start the Native American Club in the first place.

“Starting the Native American Club was the product of me just trying to raise awareness after learning that there’s a lack of knowledge about Native Americans,” Ms. Cooper said. “People need to find out the truth about Native Americans versus when it comes to Western movies, Hollywood and things like that.

“People usually just think of the plains, Indians, teepees and horses, when not everyone’s like that. That’s just a perfect skewed version of what [Native Americans] look like.”

She added, “I noticed there was a prominent ignorance around and for actual Native students there was a lack of support and a lack of pride. The Native American Club can help boost their self-esteem as far as their heritage and how they feel about their culture.”

Stacey Ricketts, Ms. Cooper’s mom and a parent adviser for the Native American Club, is proud of what her daughter has been able to accomplish. The club now consists of around 20 members.

“About three years ago my daughter went to the principal,” Ms. Ricketts said. “At the time she was a little bit disillusioned because there were lots of programs for Black History Month, they celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, but there was nothing really big for Native American Heritage Month.

“So she took a gamble and went to the principal and asked for permission to start the club and one of the activities that the club decided that they wanted to do is to have a Pow Wow and have it hosted by the club and the school.”

Urie Ridgeway, of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe in New Jersey, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies and Will Mosley Sr., from the same tribe, will be the arena director for Saturday’s Pow Wow.

Duncan Munson (Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe, N.J.) and Samantha Ridgway (Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape, N.J., tribal princess) will serve as the head dancers.

Terry Sammons, of the Lenape Tribe of Delaware, will be the spiritual director/leader at the Pow Wow.

The Red Blanket Singers from New Jersey will be the host drums, while Chenape Singers (Intertribal Drum of Delaware), which includes drums and singers of the Cherokee, Nanticoke and Lenape Tribal Nations of Delaware and Tidewater Agency from Delaware will serve as co-host drums.

Before the program commences, Pow Wow etiquette will be explained to the spectators.

“People who haven’t come to Pow Wow’s often, or ever before, will get to know the rules and the regulations as far as our culture and what is to be done in the circle,” Ms. Ricketts said. “They’ll find out what can’t be done, when photographs can be taken and when they can’t, and things such as appropriate behavior and attire.”

Gia Williams, a senior who serves as vice president of the Native American Club, said the Pow Wow will serve many purposes.

She said it will be a chance to raise education and awareness of Native Americans, help celebrate Native American Heritage Month, will feature a special Blanket Dance for Prematurity Awareness Month and will celebrate Delaware’s recognition of the Lenape Tribe.

“I’m looking forward to everything — the dancing, the food, everybody uniting, especially after the pipeline thing in North Dakota,” Ms. Williams said. “It’s crazy how everything’s coming together and this Pow Wow is like the perfect time for it.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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