Powwow

The Kiowa Gourd Dance is performed Saturday to the constant beat of a drum called Enemy Horse and singing during the the Four Winds Intertribal Society Powwow at Yettie Polk Park in Belton.

BY LARRY CAUSEY

TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

BELTON — The steady beat of a huge tom-tom and the gurgle of Nolan Creek marked the Saturday powwow of the Four Winds Intertribal Society at Yettie Polk Park in Belton.

“This is how we honor our dancers,” said emcee Gene Randall of Cedar Creek, who is part Apache, as about a dozen men shuffled around the drummers.

“We’re all family here,” he told the crowd. “How many have never been to a powwow before? Welcome.”

Randall said this year’s powwow was more informal than usual because it’s the society’s first one in two years.

“Not everyone feels comfortable in coming out and dancing yet,” he said.

Outside the ring of dancers, Dick and Cara Young of Ding Dong sat on a tailgate and watched. He’s Cherokee and Blackfoot, he said, and has been to a couple of powwows.

“We have tipis at our place,” he said. “We celebrate the (American) Indian heritage.”

They are doing a little work on their 20-acre place on the Lampasas River, he said, so they don’t have the tipis up yet this year.

“We call it the reservation,” he said.

Some of his tribal ancestors came from northern Indiana, he said. The Cherokee branch came out of Kentucky, he said, before the government settled them in Oklahoma.

For a long time, he said, the Indian heritage was so hated that no one would admit to it, making it hard to trace ancestors. However, tribes do keep genealogies, where people may search for names, he said.

“As you get older, you realize the importance of not who you are but where you came from,” he said. “Look at the children, with their parents around the drums, carrying on the tradition.”

Teresa Velazquez of Temple said she is of the Chickasaw Nation and has been to past powwows at the Bell County Expo Center. Three of her oldest grandchildren used to dance in those powwows. With her at this one were her husband, Alfonso; their daughter, Teresa Maria Velazquez; and their 16-month-old grandson, Nashoba.

“I like listening to the drum,” she said. “The drum is our heartbeat. When we dance, we pray. This is where we feel one with our ancestors.”

They also try to educate people about Native Americans, she said.

“Some people have questions,” she said. “We have children that don’t even know that we’re still around. Some think we still live in tipis.”

James Duncan of Belton, co-chairman of the society with Paula Taylor of Temple, said he is Cherokee.

“I do dance sometimes,” he said. “Today I’m just enjoying the organization.”

“We do this to teach our children, to mingle with each other,” he said. “At one time it was illegal for Native Americans to do a powwow. In 1978 they made it legal.”

The society would like to have another outdoor powwow in the spring, he said. “This is a lot cheaper.”