This afternoon I took my sister, niece Marisa (8) and nephews Evan (6), Chris (10) and T.J. (13) to the 24th annual American Indian Association Powwow in Orlando, FL. It was a gathering of tribes to sing, dance, visit, tell old stories, sell arts and craft items and to honor their elders and warriors in a celebration of Native American culture.
We may remember from our history classes that the story of our Native Americans is largely a sad one as they were driven from their lands onto reservations in the early years of America's development. I talked with Chris and T.J. about the Trail of Tears and other aspects of the Indians and heard in their questions the respect I had hoped they would have for these proud people.
We had lunch and bought souvenirs and talked with many of the participants. Several offered to have their pictures taken with little Marisa and Evan, a thrill the kids talked about the rest of the afternoon.
Toward the end of one of the dances, two eagles flew overhead to the shouts of the dancers and visitors. One gentleman explained to me that they revere eagles because it is believed that the eagles, by flying so high, carry messages from the people to their Creator. That these beautiful birds appeared overhead when they did was an unexpected and magical surprise.
Most impressive were the dancers in their multi-hued regalia, beautiful feathered headdresses and jangling bells. The younger ones twirled with an energy that only youth possesses while the older participants danced to the traditional beat of the drums. A few of the dancers were in wheelchairs and several used walkers but their determination carried them on. What was common among all of them was the dignity that showed on their faces and in their postures.
Tears moistened my eyes as I watched, enthralled with their precise steps, the respect they showed for their cultures and for the hardships they continue to endure. During the invocation I was also impressed that everyone stood and was silent, paying tribute to the legacy of our country's first peoples.
I was inspired and encouraged by the multitude of visitors and the openness of the dancers, vendors and others to talk one-on-one and to explain portions of the rituals of their meanings.
It was a heart-warming, fun and educational afternoon, a day I will long remember as I look forward to next year's event. My thanks and appreciation to the American Indian Association of Florida, Inc., www.aiaofflorida.org
for making this so memorable.
If you have a chance to attend one of these celebrations, I urge you to do so. We're never to old to see part of the country's history come alive.