On September 11, CoNAM members Sherry Wack and Verna Colliver traveled to Lake Mauch Chunk Park, Jim Thorpe, PA, for the Mauch Chunk Pow Wow. After a hiatus brought on by CoVID, the Lenape Nation, who sponsored the event, was happy to welcome performers and visitors for a two-day event to the grassy area among the trees surrounding the lake.
CoNAM set up a table among the other vendors and food trucks and displayed T-shirts along with post cards and buttons to raise awareness and show support for the children who lost their lives during the residential schools era which lasted into the 20th century. The ongoing issue of Missing and Murdered Indian Women (MMIW) was clearly and dramatically shown in the artwork of Paige McNatt (Nanticoke Lenni Lenape) on a large poster, banner and on tan T-shirts.
As vendors finished their setup, Ernie Strong Bear, Cherokee, circled the area smudging with sweetgrass.
The organizer, Chuck DeMund, officially opened the Pow Wow with a welcome and signaled the start of the Grand Entry. He then offered the “word to be said before all else is said”—a thank you in Lenape language to the Creator and a prayer to the Four Directions which he then translated into English. DeMund concluded by remembering the tragedy of 9/11 and honoring the veterans and first responders, as well as the 13 soldiers who recently died in Afghanistan. Barry Lee kept the crowd engaged, serving as emcee for the performances and music.
Throughout the day at their table, Verna and Sherry shared information about the boarding school issue and invited interested persons to sign up for the October 6 Day of Truth Telling and Repentance. CoNAM plans a Zoom event on that date to honor the children by remembering them and telling their stories. We got 15 requests to join the October 6 Zoom event.
Most visitors were aware of the issues and supportive of the need to fight for justice for the women and children and to tell their stories. Many bought shirts and other items; some simply gave a donation.
The gathering was a festive occasion with all ages participating in the social dances. Children enjoyed the Candy Dance, moving with the music, but when the music stopped, they broke rhythm to pick up candies scattered in the grass. Non-Natives were invited to join the Inter-tribal dance.
*Verna Colliver is secretary of the Eastern PA Conference Committee on Native American Ministries.
See the Flickr photo album: Mauch Chunk Pow Wow Sept 11, 2021.