Dance unites at the 9th Annual Rock, Rattle and Drum Powwow in Adams


ADAMS -- In many American Indian traditions, when someone grew ill, their family would invite everyone to come together for a feast and a ceremony -- the powwow, which means "to make well," according to Susan Jameson and Fidel Moreno of nonprofit organization Healing Winds.

Jameson and Moreno are reviving that tradition to bring the Rock, Rattle & Drum Powwow to the Berkshires Sunday, Aug. 10, for its ninth running year, this year at the fairgrounds off Route 8. The theme is "Living in Harmony, Fulfilling Our Destiny," which Jameson said came from teachings in the Lakota, Anishnaabe, Kanienkehaka (Mohawk) and Hopi nations, among others. They urge the world to come together to protect nature and each other in unity, Jameson said.

"People leave feeling spiritual and good, and they keep coming back," she said.

"There is a rich [American Indian] heritage in the Berkshires," Moreno, who is of Huichol and Chichimeca Mexican descent, added. "We want to keep it going."

Dancers will perform in full regalia, often a bustle, or headdress of eagle feathers, intricate beadwork and symbols or items that represent the dancer's identity. The regalia does not act as a costume, Moreno said.

"A costume is something you wear when you're pretending to be something else," he explained. "What [the dancers] wear tells a story about who they are. It tells the identity of that person and is sacred to him."

The regalia also reflects the kind of dance. Women will wear a traditional buckskin dress for a ladylike, gentle toe-touching dance often performed by older women. Younger ladies wear a loud, jingle-covered dress for the jingle dance, which originated in the early 1900s. The jingle dance requires more agility -- the dancers' heels never touch the ground. The "jingles," Moreno said, were once made from the rolled-up tops of tobacco tins, and then attached to the dress to make the sound.

Fancy shawl dancing, he continued, mimics a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. It requires highly intricate footwork and elaborate shawls.

Men who perform as grass dancers will have long fringe on their regalia, to mimic the swaying of prairie grass in the wind. The grass dancers originally would perform their slow, gentle-stepping dance before the people set up camp in the plains, "to let the animals in the grass -- the snakes, skunks, coyotes -- know to move, because the camp was coming," Moreno said.

Junior Head Lady Dancer Anisha Marion Pasaghesic, 17, will perform with her brother Skye, 15, the Junior Head Man Dancer, both of the Ojibwe and Abenaki nations.

"You think you'll get nervous," said Pasaghesic, who has been dancing in powwows since she was 8, "but once you're dancing everything else goes away."

Her favorite part of performing in powwows is traveling, she said.

"In the summer we travel almost every weekend [to a different powwow,] and it's fun to just have a good weekend and catch up with friends you haven't seen in a while," Pasaghesic said.

Visitors can come into the arena to join in a social dance.

Award-winning violinist and American Indian flautist Arvel Bird will also perform. A self-described Celtic Indian with roots in both the Scottish Clan Kennedy as well as the Southern Paiute tribe of the American southwest, Bird blends traditional Celtic and American Indian music. This will be his third time performing at Rock, Rattle & Drum.

"Being in [the Berkshires] is comforting. There is a sense of belonging there," he said. "We've made a connection with the people hosting the event, so we have no problem connecting with the people after that. They come up to me after the show and tell me what they've experienced at my performances, and I try to nurture that bond and keep it going."

Bird has also discovered he has ancestors in the Berkshires -- members of Clan Kennedy settled here during their first years in America.

"I'm looking forward to exploring my heritage and history this time around," he said.

A grand entry and veteran's honoring will mark the official start of the powwow. The veterans honor guard, carrying the U.S. flag, an eagle staff to represent American Indians, and on occasion, the flags of certain nations in attendance, leads in the dancers. A veteran's honor song dance follows, and veterans and their families are invited to dance.

"The veterans play a hugely important role because they lead the dancers in. It's a way to honor our veterans, our officials, our elders," Moreno said.

"Veterans are considered very sacred [in American Indian culture]," Jameson said.

Art and craft vendors will sell traditional food, crafts, beadwork, leather goods and regalia supplies throughout the weekend, and Adams officials will sign a Charter of Compassion.

"[People can] come together to love one another, respect one another," Jameson said. "The world is calling for us to celebrate life, to take care of one another and the earth and all our relations."

If you go ...

What: The 9th Annual Rock, Rattle & Drum Powwow

When: Saturday, Aug. 9, and Sunday, Aug. 10. Vendors and grounds open from 10 a.m.
to 7 p.m. Saturday and
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The grand entry will begin
at 1 p.m. both days.

Where: Adams Agricultural Fairgrouds off Route 8, Adams

Admission: $8 for adults; $5 for seniors 65+ and youth 11-17; free for children 10 and under

Information: (413) 443-2481


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions