Indian drumbeats will echo off the Allegheny mountains July 7 and 8 as the Seneca Nation of Indians hosts a powwow.
It is the second annual powwow for the Senecas -- Keepers of the Western Door. Last year paid admissions were about 6,000. From the number of early inquiries she's been receiving, Jackie Bowen said a larger crowd is expected.
The event is open to the public and while most non-Indians attending may regard a powwow as only a competition of dancing, the event carries a deeper feeling for Native Americans.
"Most dancers come to the powwow knowing they probably will not win," said Ms. Bowen. "For many Indians who come it's a get together from a spiritual aspect. When you hear that drum beat for the first time during the grand entry, a deep pride comes from inside -- it's a very emotional time."
After the powwow last year, Ms. Bowen said, many Senecas came to her and expressed their feelings. For many it was their first powwow. "Some were very touched, they just stood and wept," she said. "So many of our people didn't know what it would be like."
The powwow is dedicated this year to "Mother Earth to coincide with Earth Day," said Ms. Bowen. "Native Americans have always appreciated gifts from her. Our ancestors loved the soil and used it wisely."
A powwow gives tribes a chance to intermingle, to get to know each other. "It's good to let people know we (Senecas) are not just a tribe isolated in New York state but part of a larger Indian tribe overall," said Ms. Bowen, a surrogate judge for the Senecas.
Dancers may spend weeks preparing for a powwow. Ms. Bowen said they condition themselves both physically and spiritually.
The public is welcome to attend and watch the dancing.
"Dancers get their motivation from the crowds," said Ms. Bowen. "But if you miss a beat and the judge catches you -- you get points off." William Crouse, manager of the Seneca's day-care center, will be master of ceremonies.
The best senior dancers will win $1,000. An outfit may be valued between $2,000 to $5,000 and most winners use the prize money to further enhance their outfits, said Ms. Bowen. Most outfits are hand sewn adorned with beads and feathers native to a dancer's tribe.
Dancers move to the beat of drums, which are accompanied by five or more singers. Songs are played in two categories -- traditional and fancy.
First place winners from last year's powwow have been invited to be lead dancers this year. They are Mike Ziegler, a Sioux from Woodstock, and Leslie Hemlock, a Seneca from the Cattaraugus Reservation.
The Young Nation Singers, Senecas from the Tonawanda Reservation, will be the host drum this year. They won first place last year over drums from across the United States and Canada. Top drum this year will win $1,500.
Ms. Bowen said more than 300 dancers are expected to compete for nearly $17,000 in prize money.
The Seneca Nation of Indians has pledged $10,000 and the powwow committee has received a $5,000 loan from the Salamanca Industrial Development Agency. Last year's powwow showed a $1,000 profit. Co-chairing this year's committee are Reginald Crouse and Thelma Shane.
Not a lot of money has been spent to promote the powwow and New York's matching funds advertising program was dropped this year, said Ms. Bowen. "It's mostly been word of mouth by dancers and vendors. I think we've arrived."
Nearly 100 vendors will set up the two days in Veteran's Park on Route 417. They will offer Indian crafts, bead work, dance outfits, wall hangings, foods and clothing.
Gates open at 10 a.m. daily. Admission will be charged. Dancers, singers and vendors will be allowed to camp near Seneca tribal offices in Jimersontown. A fireworks display at 10 p.m. July 7 will be sponsored by the Salamanca Area Chamber of Commerce.