The Lower Hudson Valley Native American Celebration that took place on September 24-25 at Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park in New York was the culmination of the Northeastern pow wow championship series.
“The championship series is made up of the four events hosted by the Redhawk Native American Arts Council each summer,” said Cliff Matias, a member of the council and an organizer of the championship series. The Redhawk Arts Council is a not-for-profit founded and run by American Indian artists and educators who live and work around the New York City area. They provide venues for First Nations artists and educators throughout the northeast to share their artistic vision.
“We are dedicated to breaking stereotypes by presenting the traditions and societal contributions of Native Americans through song, dance, art, film, crafts, foods, and other forms of expression,” they state on their site. The Northeastern pow wow championship series was a unique idea of theirs – there are no other pow wow championship series to their knowledge in the country. Matias explained how it works.
”There’s our June Gateway to Nations in Brooklyn, then our pow wow in Sussex, New Jersey, followed by the August Bear Mountain Pow Wow in Harriman, New York, and finally the championship at FDR park in Westchester, New York. Over 50 dancers competed in this years series.”
The top dancers based on score from each of these pow wows compete for the title of Northeastern Pow Wow Champion.
“The winners of the series are the dancers with the highest points scored in all four events,” Matias says. “A dancer may not even win first place at any of the events but if they are consistently in the top three they may be able to win the series.”
Dancers from all over the Northeast arrived for this final event, despite weather warnings.
“The powwow is the last event of the season for most contest dancers in the Northeast and attracted many pow wow dancers from Canada who are already feeling the first frost at home,” Matias says. “Despite the weather mans’ call for rain all weekend, the skies remained rain free for both days of the event, attracting many New York City residents.”
Spectators were treated to incredible dance competitions by some of the most talented dancers around. The male champions were Charles Belisle for men’s Traditional, Keith Sharphead for men’s Grass Dance, and Derek Martin for Men’s Fancy Dance. The female champions were Naomi Martin for Fancy Dance, Cassie Rae Thomas for Jingle Dance, and Quahna Mars for Traditional.
“This was an exciting dance off between two Jingle Dress Dancers for the Championship, Aquayah Peters and Cassie Rae Thomas after three songs Cassie Rae was the winner,” Matias said.
The Lower Hudson Valley Native American Celebration also honored Sgt. Allen Two Crow, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, who’s body was discovered on the West Point Military Academy grounds in 2002. This is the ninth year the Redhawk Counil has hosted a special in honor of Sgt. Two Crow, which this year was a men’s Northern Traditional Special.
“Over 30 Men’s Traditional Dancers from across the country and Canada danced in honor of this fallen warrior,” Matias says. “All styles of this warriors dance was represented Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Iroquois and Eastern War. The winner of the Special was Devon Kicknosway from Kahnawake, Quebec.“