Dancers dressed in splendid regalia march into the Patterson high school gym to the thundering beat of drums. They represent more than forty Native American tribes, some from as far away as Washington state, Arizona, South Dakota, Maine and Florida, who were represented in last weekend’s 38th annual Baltimore American Indian Center Powwow. The two-day event brought together Indians and non-Indians alike for a celebration in honor of National American Indian Heritage Month.
Around the corner, a visitor could learn to make native American fry bread, a delicious treat of deep-fried rolled dough topped with honey or powdered sugar, or try indigenous coffee grown and roasted by native peoples.
Ed Simermeyer, vice chair of the Baltimore American Indian Center, says that powwows are held so that the community can gather, practice and pass on their traditions. His son John, a Tuscarora dancer who led the smoke dance, says “especially in urban areas, where there are no designated reservations, a powwow is important so that community members can come together.”
They can also be an important way to educate non-Indians, who can see dramatic and colorful dancing, hear native music and drumming, taste native foods and see traditional crafts being made by real artisans. The powwow is a showcase for tribal styles and traditions.
This year’s powwow was especially important to the local native American community, which has just inaugurated its first museum, the Baltimore American Indian Center Native American Heritage Museum, which is located at 113 S. Broadway.