The 64th annual Shinnecock Powwow this weekend combines tradition and entertainment through its dancers, drumming, costumes and food. An institution on Long Island, the powwow runs Friday through Labor Day and gives spectators a glimpse into centuries-old ceremonies.

Organizers say the recent controversy surrounding the Shinnecock's quest for federal tribal recognition will be a non-issue at this weekend's festivities.

"The recognition process has no effect at all on this celebration," says Shinnecock Nation public relations director Beverly Jensen. "The powwow is still a celebration of our culture and way of life . . . we know who we are."


WHAT TO EXPECT

Visitors will see several traditional dances and drumming competitions, all steeped in significance.

"I think, in general, people don't have an understanding of what they're seeing," says Gordell Wright, 38, a member of the Young Blood Singers drum group and a Shinnecock Nation trustee. "They look at it as just dancing and singing. There is a lot of meaning behind what is being done. To some, it is just entertainment. To us, it is a way of life."

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Groups of drummers and dancers will compete throughout the four-day event in the main staging area, which is surrounded by food and merchandise vendors. The most dazzling sights often come during the "grand entry" ceremonies, a colorful procession of costumed performers.

One visitor who appreciates the meaning and traditions of the event is Sundy Schermeyer, Southampton's town clerk, who regularly attends with family members.

"It is a wonderful cultural event," Schermeyer says. "I love the beautiful costumes, the traditions, the dancing and the delicious food."


ABOUT THE DANCES

EASTERN BLANKET DANCE FOR WOMEN

Similar to a courtship dance. Throughout the winter, the women would weave blankets. When they had a social, the women would wear the blankets during the dance to show off their work and impress the people they had feelings for.

NORTHERN MEN'S TRADITIONAL

This dance incorporates the styles of different Indian nations and depicts warriors and hunters recounting their exploits.

Fancy dance for men

A dance, usually for younger men, to show their endurance.

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Men's grass dance

Originates from the Great Plains region. Men, usually younger men, did this to flatten the grass so a camp could be set up.

Other dances you will see include a healing dance called the jingle dance, the Iroquois smoke dance and the fancy shawl dance for women.


64th annual Shinnecock Powwow

WHEN | WHERE 3-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday. Grand entry at 7 p.m. Friday, noon and 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and noon Monday, at the Shinnecock Reservation, West Gate Road, Southampton

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INFO 631-283-6143, shinnecocknation.com

ADMISSION $12 ($10 ages 5-12)