Millington Powwows: Event Educates Public on Native American Culture

By Aimee Edmondson
October 13, 2003

Last year, Stanley and Patty Bell filled their Chevy Suburban with their children and their Choctaw regalia for 23 weekends on the road, dancing and drumming in powwows as far away as Albuquerque.

During the week, she teaches preschool and he's a school custodian on the Choctaw reservation in Philadelphia, Miss.

"Once Friday hits, we're off to the next event," said Stanley, a full-blooded Choctaw like his wife.

This weekend, Patty served as "head lady" and Stanley played the northern drums at the American Indian Association (AIA) of Millington's seventh annual powwow at USA Stadium.

The Head Lady serves as an honorary host and model for all other dancers.

This weekend's powwow drew at least 2,500 for Indian arts, crafts, dancing and food, estimated AIA chairman Hal Colston.

"There were 500 nations in North America, but the white culture lumps us together," said Colston, who is half Cherokee. "Powwows are held mainly to educate the public."

The event also featured Larry Sellers (Cloud Dancing) from the television series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, who settled comfortably in one of the temporary booths.

The scent of traditional Indian fry bread overcame that of cedar and sage, which was used to smoke the circle at the center of the event and make way for the dancers in their elaborate regalia.

"This blesses the circle and gets the impurities out," said Colston, working a nearby booth selling T-shirts, Indian dolls and turquoise jewelry.

Much of the money from the powwow goes to pay for festival expenses, so Colston is hoping one of the many grants the nonprofit AIA has applied for to build a cultural center in Millington will come through soon.

The 200-member AIA hopes to find a permanent home for its monthly meetings, and secure several acres for permanent Indian exhibits and its two annual powwows.

Lecia Mould drove 16 hours from her home in Horseheads, New York, to set up a booth.

Part Mohawk, Mould weaved dreamcatchers out of grapevines. She substituted waxed polyester string for the traditional deer sinew, finishing them off with silver pheasant feathers.

The web is said to catch the bad dreams, letting only the good ones through.

"I always tell the children the good dreams come giggling down the feather and into their heads," Mould said.

Aimee Edmondson: 529-2773