Hondo Davis made the trip from Coney Island to Lindenhurst to dance at the Paumanauke Pow Wow on Saturday for many reasons. The fun of the competition is one, said the community health worker, and the chance to show off his concho belt, cow-bone breastplate, and other American Indian vestments is another. But above all he dances to honor his heritage, he said.
“The dignity and passion that makes up who we are as native people, I get to exhibit that, and it’s a privilege,” said Davis, 30, who counts the Catawba, Santee and Creek peoples among his ancestors.
Davis was among about 5,000 expected to visit the annual celebration of indigenous culture — now in its 37th year. The two-day event offers Long Islanders the chance to experience American Indian music and dance, and to browse goods sold by dozens of indigenous vendors.
Raising money for scholarships for American Indian students is one goal of the event, according to Tony Moonhawk Langhorn of Ringwood, New Jersey, one of the pow wow’s organizers. Another goal is to educate attendees about the enduring presence of indigenous peoples in the region.
“A lot of people think there’s no more natives left on the East Coast,” he said. “We try to show them that there are.”
Lance Gumbs, the former tribal chairman of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton, agreed.
“We have to make sure that we are visible,” said Gumbs, in front of a stand at which he was selling moccasins, ornamental feathers, and wampum-strung jewelry. “We have a long and storied history on Long Island,” he said, citing Massapequa, Montauk and numerous other local communities whose names have American Indian origins.
It was in part to learn more about the Island’s American Indian heritage that Gloria Yanchewski, 61, of Bohemia, attended Saturday’s Pow Wow.
“I like listening to them,” she said of the American Indians at the pow wow. She looked on as dozens wearing bright, traditional regalia danced — some solemnly, some joyously — in a ceremonial performance scored by drumming and singing.
“You don’t get the true story unless you listen,” she said.