Shinnecock powwow draws thousands to Southampton
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Call it social networking, American-Indian style.
Dozens of tribes from across the nation were represented Saturday at the 67th annual Shinnecock Indian Reservation Powwow, an event that drew thousands of visitors to Southampton.
Elaborate traditional costumes, feathered headdresses and bright facepaint were on display as tribal members performed dances and sang. Drumbeats echoed from the stage throughout the afternoon.
Shinnecock trustee Bradden Smith said powwows are a way for scattered tribes to stay connected, preserve their culture and educate outsiders.
"This is how we do social networking," he said.
Smith said dancing is the "historical way to show our emotions; to show our gratitude to our Great Spirit and for the earth providing what we need."
Gerrod Smith, 58, who has lived on the Shinnecock reservation all his life, watched as his 14-year-old grandson, NJ Williams, performed.
NJ said he's been dancing at powwows since he was a young child.
Why does he do it? "Because I get to keep my traditions," he said.
Proceeds from the powwow help fund the Shinnecocks' church and tribal government, raising several hundred thousand dollars a year, Bradden Smith said.
The Labor Day weekend festivities began Friday and run through Monday at the reservation, located off Montauk Highway.
A welcoming parade was held Saturday, followed by a long list of performers on the main stage.
Mike Tagariello and Susan Barbato brought their infant granddaughter.
Barbato, 48, of Medford, called the powwow an important event. "It's the history of Long Island," she said.
Tagariello, 56, of Levittown, attending his first powwow, was equally impressed.
"It broadens your cultural horizons," he said.