By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — One late-summer day in 1988, a group of Native Americans gathered at Plug Pond.
Wearing their tribal dress, they broke out in cultural dance, music and song. They told visitors about their tribes and shared other information about their deep history.
It was the start of a quarter-century-long tradition that has grown to rival the popularity of Haverhill’s many other festivals.
And tomorrow, it will be back to celebrate year number 25.
The annual Native American Intertribal Pow-Wow is coming to the Plug Pond Recreational Area Saturday and Sunday.
Sponsored by the Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness and the city’s Recreation Department, this family event is an opportunity to learn about Native American culture while experiencing the foods, music, dance, crafts, storytelling and other traditions that are part of this event. Gates will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days.
“We believe that it has become such a popular event for many reasons,” said Dawn Duncan, MCNAA board member. “It has always been a true collaboration with the community where Native Americans feel at home and proud to share our rich culture. It is a beautiful location, perfect for sharing authentic and traditional Native drumming, dancing and other cultural activities with the public.”
New to this year’s event is seven-time Native American Music Awards winner and recording artist Joseph Fire Crow. One of the top three Native American flute players in the world, Fire Crow will hold a special performance on Saturday. Fire Crow is part of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and has been releasing albums since 1992. His album “Cheyenne Nation” was nominated for a Grammy in 2001.
Members of Gedakina Inc. will launch a 30-foot war canoe and some North Shore Native Americans will bring their smaller canoe and kayaks. Rides in the canoes and kayaks will be offered to the public.
A special lake-side ceremony will be held each day in celebration of the event being held at Plug Pond for 25 years.
Also new this year is Mashee Wampanoag artist and craft maker, Kerri Helme, who will demonstrate pottery-making throughout the weekend. Helme collects her own clay from the beach, dries it out, crushes it and sifts it. The pots are built up using the coil method, then are sun dried and fired up in a pit.
Additional new program artists include Triple Tribal, an a capella harmony group that will perform Native songs accompanied by hand drums, rattles and rain sticks. The Sweet Grass Singers will perform Passamaquoddy songs from their tribe and will be accompanied by hand drums. Both groups will perform on Sunday.
This year’s entertainment will also include The Wolf Cry Singers, performing on Saturday. This inter-tribal women’s hand drum group will perform traditional and contemporary Mi’kMaq, Cherokee, Navajo, Abenaki and Delaware songs and chants. The group’s mission is to keep the spirit and languages alive through their music and connection as women to each other.
All performances will take place inside a circle on a grassy area near the pavilion on both days and will be announced by emcee Annawon Weeden, who will also announce when the audience can participate.
Native American drumming and singing will be performed by the Iron River Singers of Southeastern Mass., the Urban Thunder Singers of Greater Boston, the RezDog Singers from Maine, and the Mystic River Singers of Connecticut. The drum is the heartbeat of the Native American. Without the drum, there could be no pow-wow, organizers said.
Inter-tribal dancing will take place inside the circle and the public is invited to join in. Dance-style demonstrations include the lady’s fancy shawl dance, jingle dress dance, grass dance, crow hop, lady’s traditional dance, men’s traditional dance and the Eastern Blanket Dance.
Claudia Fox Tree, M.Ed. Arawak (Yurumein) will lead an interactive presentation on Sunday about assumptions that have been made about Native Americans, where stereotypes are learned and how myths are perpetuated. Participants can explore the role of language and the power they have to change inaccurate stories. This interactive workshop is geared toward adults and upper-grade students and will begin about noon.
“At this pow-wow, as with all of our cultural events, visitors walk away with greater knowledge, understanding and appreciation of our Native American culture and traditions,” said Fox Tree, a MCNAA board member.
Loril Moondream and Peter White Fox of Wendell, Mass. will make antler-tip necklaces each day with the children and their families (with a $2 cost for materials). They will also engage children in storytelling in front of or inside a tipi. Native American games will be set up around the tipi throughout the day for the public to play.
Arts and crafts available for purchase will include flutes, wampum jewelry, beaded jewelry, silver and turquoise jewelry, corn husk dolls, furs, stones, wall paintings, Native-themed clothing and hats, bamboo musical instruments, ponchos, rattles and blankets.
“Then and Now Native Foods,” operated by a Native American family from Attleboro, will offer food, including a northern traditional meal of a salmon fillet, succotash and cranberries. There will also be rice and beans, shrimp succotash, sausage fry bread, buffalo burgers, rez steak, corn soup, tacos, fry bread, turkey cranberry wraps and other traditional favorites. American foods include hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and soda. Annie’s Awesome Lemonade will offer lemon, strawberry and tropical lemonades.
The state Center for Native American Awareness will set up a table to include Native resource books, information, event flyers, newsletters, membership applications and other information. The center will also sell used Native American books for $2 each.
IF YOU GO What: 25th annual Intertribal Pow-Wow. Where: Plug Pond Recreational Area, off Mill Street, Haverhill. When: Tomorrow and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. Suggested donation: $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and $3 for children ages 4 to 12. Free for children 3 and younger. Restrictions: No pets, no swimming, no drugs, no alcohol. Visitors are invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets. Parking: Free. More information: Online at mcnaa.org, call 617-642-1683 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.