Members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and other southeastern tribes will soon head to Petal for the 2018 Petal Southern Miss Powwow, a two-day celebration of Native American culture.
The free event, which is the result of a partnership between the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce and the Golden Eagle Inter-tribal Society at Southern Miss, will be held April 21 and 22 at Hinton Park, behind Petal Civic Center.
“We sponsor this powwow to show the state of Mississippi that Native Americans are still here, especially my tribe,” said Lanena John, president of the Golden Eagle Inter-tribal Society. “I’m a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians … and we have six different communities.
“So our point is to showcase our culture … and basically share our culture with others.”
The Petal Southern Miss Powwow is designed to bring together tribes and local non-native communities with activities like Native American dancing, music, art and food. The event is open to the public, and all ages are invited to attend.
Both days of the powwow start off with gourd dancing, followed by the Grand Entry in which participants come out in their native dress.
“We have a drummer who sits in the middle of a circle, and while they’re drumming we have dancers,” John said. “And that’s to praise and honor God and to present their culture through their dancing.
“Basically, when we hear the drums, we say that is the heartbeat. So they follow the beat of the drums.”
This year marks the 16th anniversary of the Petal Southern Miss Powwow, which previously was held on the Southern Miss campus before moving to Petal four years ago.
“It’s really, truly, a fun event,” said Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce. “The kids love it, because we have dance contests for the Native American dancers, and their ceremonial outfits are beautiful.
“It’s just a very interesting day. It’s low-key, but you also learn a little bit about the Native American heritage. They honor our veterans, and give out special awards during the Grand Entry. I think people should take advantage of it, because you don’t have an opportunity to go to a powwow very often.”
John, who is in her third year of hosting the powwow with the Golden Eagle Inter-tribal Society, said the event has grown every year.
“Last year was a really great turnout,” she said. “We didn’t think it was going to be that big, but it was, and we’re so grateful. Hopefully it’s the same this year.”
Wilson said it’s an honor to be able to host the powwow in Petal.
“I love it,” she said. “I have made some very dear friends from all over the south – Native Americans who now I look forward to seeing every year.
“More importantly, I think it’s just a great opportunity to learn in a true, fun environment about Native American heritage. Right here in Petal, we have a strong heritage of Native Americans living in the area. And people enjoy bringing their kids out here – it’s really fun.”
The schedule of events for the 2018 Petal Southern Miss Powwow is as follows:
11 a.m.: Gourd dancing
1 p.m.: Grand Entry
5 p.m.: Gourd dancing
7 p.m.: Grand Entry
11 a.m.: Gourd Dancing
1 p.m.: Grand Entry