Plymouth, NH—In less than two months, the Diversity Fellows at Plymouth State University, part of the university system of New Hampshire, and the New Hampshire Inter-tribal Native American Council (NHINAC) organized, promoted, and held the first-ever Veterans Pow Wow in the John C. Foley Gymnasium.
According to student organizer Elizabeth Anne Montmagny, around 600 people came through the doors. She also said, “We had 20 vendors and the circle was always full of dancers.”
The first-time university pow wow comes on the heels of the state’s establishment of an Indian Commission. “New Hampshire is no longer one of the only states in the country without an Indian Commission,” stated Chief of NHINAC Peter Newell. “We are official and we are here for you.” The fifteen-member Commission was invited to the event to be introduced to the public.
Newell is also the primary mover and shaker responsible for the erection of a singular Native American Veterans War Memorial. It, too, was installed last summer, at the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, NH. The script reads, “Dedicated to all Native American Veterans, American and Canadian, who served to protect this land called Turtle Island.”
The Newell’s are of Penobscot and Mi’kmaq descent (these are two of the seven tribes of the Wabanaki Confederacy). The people of the Confederacy continue to live on their land with various levels of recognition in both Canada and the United States (in present day New Hampshire, Maine, north central Massachusetts, and Vermont). The monument shows the flags of the United States and Canada and a Native staff. Newell worked with the stonemason to design a granite Drum suspended within a stone arch. Eastern Woodland-style moccasins are engraved above the drum and POW/MIA is engraved below. (Veterans or survivors may order pavers with name engraving through the NHINAC website).
For over thirty years, annual pow wows organized by NHINAC have been held at Saco River, Wells Beach, Sugar Run and Tamworth. Their Laconia Indian Historical Association Learning Week-end (LIHA) is a family-oriented event they organize that includes how to make individual dance regalia as well as provide medical information such as, “HIV and Native Americans.”
The new Indian Commission was announced and honored last summer at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum Annual Pow Wow in Warner, NH. Inspired by a Native teacher, the (non-Native) founders of the museum established what they say is, “not just a museum of artifacts, but also an educational and cultural center, or a museum with a voice.” In business now for over 20 years, with revenues of $730K annually and 17 employees, the museum “connects the people of today with 20,000 years of ongoing Native American Cultural expression.”
The event does not appear on the Plymouth State University President’s Commission on Diversity website as yet, but Sara Jayne Steen, President of Plymouth State University, attended. “Steen spoke of how glad she was that Plymouth was celebrating the Native American culture; she was so honored to be part of the event,” said Montmagny.
Hand drum competitions earned cash prizes; regalia winners, adult and children, were awarded ribbons. Paul Bullock, owner of The Wandering Bull, an educational Native craft and regalia business with over forty years in the New England area, was emcee. “His words always speak to the audience,” said Montmagny. Drums included Mountain Spirit Singers. Head Male Dancer was Marcus Fultz and Head Female Dancer was Kayla Fultz.
And it seems like this is just the beginning of a reawakening for local focus of American Indian culture. According to The Citizen of Laconia newspaper, the university system campuses at Durham and Keene are beginning to set up chapters for Native American Culture. Plymouth State is broadening its focus on American Indian history as it pertains to the history of America itself, The Citizen of Laconia reported. The reason behind PSU’s efforts to organize local chapters of the Native American Cultural Association is to make “First Nation” history and culture a larger part of how they teach American history.
The American Indian veterans who served this country honorably would be happy to hear this.