Dancing at the Pow Wow

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

There was a two-day yard sale in our neighborhood in Senoia last weekend, September 22-23rd, and although I craned my head and moaned a little bit Saturday as Bill and I returned home, tired out from the heat and excitement of the Pow Wow at McIntosh Reserve in Whitesburg, he did not stop.
It was a gorgeous day for the 31st Annual McIntosh Reserve Fall Festival, and while the ads and posters did not announce the fact, it was indeed a Pow Wow. This type of social gathering is the Native American people’s way of “meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones. This is a time-honored method to renew Native American culture and preserve the rich heritage of American Indians,” according to online sources. Sounds really good to me; like maybe some groups in this country could take a lesson (instead of a ‘knee’) and meet together, joining in singing, dancing, renewing important and meaningful cultural mores and preserving the rich, rich heritage that belongs to those of us who share a special birthright, who love who we were, what was good in us. What a novel idea. Singing, playing music, Dancing! In our finest clothes. With pride. And love for one another.
The story of the Treaty of Indian Springs was the subject of the Senoia Area Historical Society’s most recent meeting. Daryl Johnson, 22 year veteran Park Ranger, gave a detailed and riveting account of the lives of the McIntosh men, their ancestors and those who came here from Inverness, Scotland to make history in Coweta County and in Carroll County during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. William McIntosh, also known as Taskanugi Hatke, (White Warrior), was one of the most prominent chiefs of the Creek Nation between the turn of the nineteenth century and until the time of Creek removal to Indian Territory. A Scot, who by birth was half Creek, and who rose to great prominence.
The festival and “meeting”  last Saturday was held at the very site where, ironically, the Upper Creek chiefs executed the Lower Towns’ Creek head man, Chief William McIntosh, and the male members of his family who were with him that tragic evening of April 30th in the Spring of 1825. The judgement was that Chief William McIntosh was a traitor. He was the son of a Scot, a British Tory soldier, Captain William McIntosh and a Creek Princess from the powerful Wind Clan, Shenoyah or Senoya. A Powerful story.
The Pow Wow was held on the lush green “bottom land” over in Carroll County which is part of the Reserve that borders along the sparkling waters of the Chattahoochee River. A Reserve is not anything like a “reservation.” It was land “reserved” as a part of a special deal during the land-grabbing, land-lottery bargaining that went on during the time of President Andrew Jackson. It was during this time that the white man pushed those who possessed this land, (now called Georgia and Alabama and Mississippi), men who pushed the Native Creeks and Cherokees, and Choctaws and many other tribes almost to the Pacific Ocean. Lots of greedy dudes pushing people around, off their land, and eventually onto Reservations in a desert environment… land that was nothing like the plush, watery, tree-lined lanes or Indian trails in what is now The McIntosh Reserve. Today there are acres of camping and picnic sites, river overlooks and a great meadow just perfect for the circle that is required for a Pow Wow.
The costumes, or “regalia” worn by the Native American dancers, the flautists, drummers (singers) and exhibitors were magnificent. You do have to be careful with the etiquette involved with the Pow Wow, as with other professionals as well. A friend recently corrected me when I commented favorably on her beautiful Victorian gown and headdress; she reminded me that these were “not costumes.” Though made in present day, with fabrics and laces that were not antique, the patterns for their Antebellum dresses were authentic, down even to the undergarments (those pesky corsets), which we could not see but which were worn along with about six pounds of petticoats.
The etiquette for the Pow Wow includes the construction of the regalia, how and when the drums “sing,” how the feet are positioned during and at the end of a dance, and a hundred miniscule rules and regulations that must be learned to participate. Do ask permission to touch an instrument or part of the handmade clothing or feathered “bustle” for example. The participants are very willing to show and tell you about their instruments and the intricate handmade items.
I did enjoy dancing with two young girls in lovely regalia, their bells jangling and the fringe on their blouses flying to beat of the drums. This dance was the “Communal Dance,” open to all guests. Bill obviously feels uncomfortable dancing a stomping two-step with our genial Native American friends. He sat on a bale of hay and took pictures. Which was nice, actually. I have a record of something I never imagined doing…Dancing at a Pow Wow!

*William McIntosh (as well as many other chiefs, actually) signed a treaty that sold land without the agreement of all the tribal chiefs. It is a long and very complicated story, one that Daryl Johnson will be happy to share with you. Do visit him and look for the next Pow Wow near you!

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