Throngs of people danced, clapped and bobbed their heads to the rhythmic heartbeat of the drums during the Shinnecock Indian Reservation’s annual powwow in Southampton on Saturday.
Even cloudy weather and the looming threat of Tropical Storm Hermine did nothing to dampen the celebratory atmosphere of the 70th annual powwow, one of the largest Native American gatherings on the East Coast.
Saturday — the second day of the four-day event — featured 100 Native American arts, crafts and food vendors from North and South America, performances from Tlacopan Aztec dancers and energetic dance contests featuring participants of all ages.
As she hugged and greeted friends, Alli Hunter Joseph, 44, a Shinnecock tribe member who spends time between New York City and her childhood home on the reservation, said the event helps to teach her children about the customs and stories that have been a staple in her own family.
“There’s a lot of passing down of information and stories from generation to generation and the powwow is a big piece of that,” she said.
Joseph added that the powwow also helps to bring visitors a greater understanding of Native American cultures.
“When we enable people to come here and share in our culture, there is hopefully more of a building of respect,” she said. “When they come on the reservation, people do see that Native Americans are assimilated to life in the world around us, but we still work very hard to maintain our relations and that is the most important thing to us.”
Claus Osewald, 66, of East Hampton, who was enjoying the festivities with a friend, said the festival was a chance for him to take in the surroundings and enjoy the dancing and the music.
“The rhythm, it really gets to you,” he said. “When you’re here, the beating of the drums really starts to pick you up the longer you listen to it. And even though there’s a lot of people and fun, it’s really low key. It’s great. ”
Lance A. Gumbs, a Shinnecock event organizer and the northeast area vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, said while the event has grown and changed through the years, the most important part of the celebration was to remind people the Native American culture was alive and well.
“We are trying to educate people to our ways, to show them that we are still here,” Gumbs said.