Annual powwow to highlight Nanticoke culture, heritage

Sept. 10 and 11 will mark the 34th annual Nanticoke Indian Powwow, at which nearly 600 members of the Nanticoke Indian tribe and other Native American tribes will share their culture and heritage with each other and the public.

“Basically, the reason we have powwows is people come together to remember to keep our heritage together,” explained Marilyn Jackson, who works for the Nanticoke Indian Association, which organizes the powwow. “This year, our powwow is being called a ‘unity powwow,’ to bring our people more together. I think that’s important.”

Last year approximately 20,000 people attended the two-day event, held in a wooded area near the Nanticoke Indian Museum on Route 24 near Millsboro, and Jackson said that the same turnout is expected again this year.

“I know we have members coming from California. We have members coming from all over the country,” she said.

As in past years, a raffle will be held for a Native American blanket, to help raise money for Nanticoke Indian Museum. There will also be more than 40 vendors on the grounds, selling homemade and handmade items ranging from dreamcatchers to succotash.

“We also have vendors coming from all over the country,” she said. “We’re going to be selling Native American tacos, fry bread. We have one vendor that does a lot of herbal teas. We have jewelry, gourd bowls, dolls, rattles and dance sticks. That’s just one vendor.”

The powwow will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Jackson said that the one thing people shouldn’t miss is the Grand Entry, which will happen at noon on Saturday.

“That’s when all the chiefs from different tribes come in in full regalia. It’s just so colorful and beautiful and quiet. It’s really something you should see if you’re coming.”

Dancing is a main focus of the powwow, where such traditional powwow dances as the Shawl Dance and the Fancy Dance will be performed, following the Grand Entry.

“There’s a huge circle of people learning what all the different dances mean. The emcee explains the dances. He tells them what’s appropriate, when to take pictures, when not to take pictures,” said Jackson. “There’s an emcee that explains each dance. During the break they have storytelling. In between [the dancing], is when they have the storytelling. When they take their break, that’s when people get to see what the vendors have.”

The following are some of the guidelines organizers offered for powwow etiquette, though they noted that etiquette varies from tribe to tribe:

• Always ask permission before taking pictures of any dancers, drum groups or ceremonies.

• Pay attention to the master of ceremonies. He will inform you of any special instructions during ceremonies and songs. He will also announce dances and dancers during competitions.

• Dress appropriately.

• When special songs, such as the Flag Song or Honor Song, are played, it is customary to stand and remove your hat. Refrain from taking photos or recording during this time.

• As an attendee, do not enter the dance area unless invited. This area is considered sacred.

• Seating is limited at many powwows; check to see if is appropriate to bring lawn chairs and/or blankets (the Nanticoke powwow encourages it).

• Remember that benches or seats in the arena are for dancers. It is customary for dancers to place a blanket on the bench where they will be seated.

• Do not pick up anything dropped by a dancer, especially feathers.

• Remember that powwows are alcohol- and drug-free events.

If you have any questions about etiquette or procedures, organizers said, check with the emcee, arena director or head singer.

Admission is included with the powwow parking fee. All-day parking costs $10 per car and $5 for motorcycles. Walk-in admission costs $2 for adults and $1 for children. Buses pay $25 for parking, plus $2 per person on the bus, with the driver collecting the fee for each bus.

The powwow grounds are located on Route 24, between Routes 1 and 113. Signage along the roadway will direct powwow attendees to the parking area.

New handicapped parking and access is being offered at this year’s powwow. Attendees who are wheelchair-bound or have motorized wheelchairs will enter the powwow grounds on Mount Joy Road and will be directed to the identified parking area, where unloading and access to seating is convenient.

Unless otherwise directed, handicapped attendees who normally use the general powwow parking area will continue to do so if they are able to load their wheelchair and ride the tram to the powwow grounds. Special seating for those handicapped individuals will be available.

For more information, call (302) 945-3400 or visit