The sounds of tribal drums, the infectious rhythm of dancers from across the country and the smells of fried meat and kettle corn once again filled the grounds of the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton Saturday for the 72nd annual Shinnecock Indian Powwow.
The celebration of Native American traditions and culture, which started Friday and concludes Monday evening, draws thousands every year to the grounds of the Shinnecock Nation and is one of the largest Native American gatherings on the East Coast.
While crowds were fairly small to start Saturday morning, the atmosphere quickly picked up in the afternoon when dancers of all ages, dressed in feathered headdresses, moccasins, and other Native American traditional attire, began twirling, swaying and dancing out to the stage for the annual dance competition.
Festival-goers were able to enjoy the dancing, live bands and tents selling items ranging from crafts, fur skins, stuffed clams and kettle corn to more traditional patterned blankets and handmade wampum — beads of polished shells strung in strands, belts or sashes.
Randy King, vice chairman of the Tribal Council of Trustees for the Shinnecock Indian Nation, said he enjoyed watching people of all ages dance onstage and catching up with friends and family from across many states that he sometimes had not seen in a long time.
However, most of all, King said he was glad that people from different places and cultures were able to experience Native American culture, a sentiment other festival-goers also echoed as the reason for their attending.
“We encourage everyone to have a good time and hope everybody enjoys the many different representations of culture, food and all types of outerwear…and enjoy Mother Earth and being in harmony with her,” King said.
“I love it, I enjoyed every minute of it,” said Mike Austin, 50, of Monacan Nation descent, who watched his two children Kaylee, 11, and Jessie, 10, dance in the grand entry ceremony.
Attending their first powwow from Amherst County, Virginia, Austin said he was looking forward to watching his children participate in the dance competition, having spent an hour getting both ready in brightly-colored ceremonial attire.
Austin said he appreciated “the diverse culture” represented at the powwow.
“Nobody’s judged here," he said. "Other than that, (what attracts people) is the interest to pass on traditions.”
Dressed in a beige Native American dress, Andrea Godoy, a Shinnecock tribal member who lives on the Shinnecock grounds, enjoyed dancing on stage and watching her son Aiden Godoy, 5, dance as well.
“It’s a special place, it’s a beautiful place,” Godoy said of why the festival draws so many people annually. “The drum is the heartbeat. Drums call to people, it speaks to people’s inner spirit. The people who come here love the feeling, the freedom, and the spirituality.”
With a laugh, she added, “And the food, can’t forget the food."