For the Delaware Tribe of Indians the 48th Annual Delaware Powwow isn’t just a pow wow but a chance to come home and reunite with family.
“This pow wow is a big family reunion for most and some families come home more now than they do during Christmas,” said LuAnn Hainline, Delaware pow wow Committee member.
“I like that we have something that families can come home to and it is the families that have really kept this pow wow going for nearly 50 years,” Hainline said.
Hainline has been a pow wow committee member for 37 years and has attended the Delaware pow wow every single year since it started.
Like Hainline, Curtis Zunigha, the Tribal Manager for the Delaware Tribe of Indians and former Delaware Chief (1994-1998) has not missed a powwow in 35 years.
“I’ve lived in foreign countries, other states and a year ago I was in Washington D.C. but I still came back for the pow wow,” Zunigha said. “It is a special pow wow because I know I belong there.”
Zunigha’s daughter got her Indian name from an elder during the pow wow one year. And he has two grandchildren have attended the pow wow since they were born.
“The pow wow creates a lot of love and good spirit,” he said. “It gives a sense of personal attachment that this is my tribe, my people, my family, my friends and my community.”
The pow wow is held on 29-acres just north of Copan, Oklahoma, on original Delaware allotment land owned by George Fall-Leaf. George’s brother Numerous Fall-Leaf was the one who came up with the idea to have the powwow in 1964 and individual tribal members not the tribe have kept it alive for 48 years.
“The first pow wow was very small and there was a small arena,” said JoAnn Markley, Hainline’s mother and Delaware pow wow Committee member. “At that first powwow we were getting acquainted with each other and now we are just one big family.”
Markley has never missed a pow wow and has been a pow wow committee member for 47 years.
“When we first started (having the pow wow) there were a few camp sites over here and a few other there,” Markley said. “Now there are campsites all over the place.”
She adds that people use to play jokes on each other during the pow wow. One of the funniest moments Markley remember is when a couple people recorded a lady snoring really loud and played it over the intercom for the whole pow wow to hear.
In 1974, a non-Native American by the name of George Shoemaker gave the pow wow committee $700 to build a new arena and install lights, said Markley.
“Back then $700 was a lot of money and he just gave it to us because he wanted to help,” she said. “If it wasn’t for George we wouldn’t have been able to grow.”
Now, the committee runs a concession stand during the pow wow to raise money for next year’s pow wow. They also receive donations from families and the Delaware Tribe of Indians.
The Delaware pow wow Committee consists of eight members: Elaine Clinton-Chair, JoAnn Markley, LuAnn Hainline, Curt Johnson, Tony Kills Crow, Ford Griggs, Walter Dye and Mike Doye.
In 1977, Fred Fall-Leaf, who had inherited the 29-acres from his Uncle George Fall-Leaf, built a house on the property and became the pow wow committee chair.
Fred served as pow wow committee chair until nine years ago when he passed away from cancer. His daughter, Elaine Clinton and her husband Jack Clinton then took over the land and Elaine became the pow wow committee chair.
Clinton said she took over the pow wow because she wants to continue the tradition and honor her father and family.
“I do this because I love it,” Clinton said. “I’ve grown up at this pow wow and the only one I haven’t been to is the first one because I wasn’t born yet.”
Clinton plans to continue to host the pow wow for as long as she can. But when the time comes she will pass it into a family member and keep it going for as long as possible.