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Sussex Countian
  • Pride and tradition define annual Nanticoke Powwow

  • Traditional Native American tunes, dancers in charming regalia and Indian tacos will dominate the Nanticoke Indian Association's 36th annual Nanticoke Powwow on Saturday and Sunday
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  • Traditional Native American tunes, dancers in charming regalia and Indian tacos will dominate the Nanticoke Indian Association's 36th annual Nanticoke Powwow on Saturday and Sunday, located off the John J. Williams Highway in Millsboro.
    What's a powwow?
    A powwow is a cultural event that's like a festival where Native Americans gather and celebrate traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. The event includes lots of traditional singing and various dances by Native Americans draped in handmade native clothing and accessories. In addition, a powwow is a great opportunity for people to buy arts and crafts like jewelry and clothes. Tasty native cuisine is also offered including fry bread (similar to a funnel cake), Indian tacos and buffalo burgers.
    The Nanticoke Indian Association's Powwow averages about 27,000 people throughout the weekend. A number of their attendees represent various tribes such as Nanticoke (common in the Millsboro area), Lenape (common in Cheswold) and Cherokee.
    "It's a homecoming," said Nanticoke Indian Association Chief William Harrison Daisey, of Dover. "[It's] a family reunion, that's why it's important because folks come from all over the country to meet relatives and friends," Daisey said. "Young folks make it a priority to come home to strengthen family ties."
    Sunday's powwow will begin with a Pentecostal-like church service that starts at 10 a.m. and lasts until 1 p.m. After service, the vending and other festivities will commence.
    Happy feet
    More than 10 dances will be performed at the 36th annual Powwow. There's the friendship dance, the only dance that non-Native Americans can perform. For this one, you're "basically going around in a circle within the dance ring and holding hands," said the 81-year-old Daisey. There are also fancy dances, flashy jigs designed to show off one's skill. Other popular dances are modeled and named after animals like the rabbit dance.
    Preserving heritage
    Even though some Nanticokes live in the Millsboro area, you won't find many there because the majority chose not to stay in Delaware due to discrimination, Daisey said. Before the Revolutionary War, many Nanticokes lived in Maryland. But after the war a number of them migrated from Maryland due to persecution from whites.
    "[Some] relocated to the Millsboro area because they were near the water and it was very similar to the areas where they lived in Maryland," Daisey said. "Delaware wasn't really nice either. But it was a little nicer than Maryland."
    Some of the other Nanticokes spread throughout the country in search of peace. Others even ventured to Canada.
    It makes Daisey proud to show the Millsboro community what the Powwow is about because it gives a number of locals their first chance to see a Native American in person. More importantly, Daisey enjoys the Powwow because it allows his fellow Native Americans to reconnect with their roots. It also allows the youngsters to learn more about their culture, which is crucial in keeping it alive.
    Page 2 of 2 - "The young folks need to know their history," Daisey said. "They need to preserve their heritage and pass it on."
    IF YOU GO
    WHAT 36th annual Nanticoke Powwow
    WHEN Noon to 7 p.m., Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday (church service from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
    WHERE 26800 John J. Williams Highway, Millsboro
    COST $10 vehicles per day; $2 person per day for walk-ins
    INFO Visit nanticokeindians.org, email info@nanticokeindians.org or call 945-7022

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