Nanticokes to highlight ‘Water is Life’ theme at 41st Powwow

This weekend, Native Americans from all over the country will gather in Millsboro for the Nanticoke Indian tribe’s 41st Annual Powwow, celebrating this year’s theme, “Water is Life.”

“We can’t live without it,” Powwow Chair Kayleigh Vickers said simply — and in observance of the importance of water in man’s ability to thrive, there will be water blessings on each day of the powwow, set for Saturday, Sept. 8, and Sunday, Sept. 9.

Vickers said the powwow will focus attention on water in a variety of ways and that several water-related organizations will help with that. This year’s theme, Vickers said, relates to a desire of the tribe to “focus on taking care of what takes care of us. We’ll be talking about it as the weekend goes on,” she said.

In the powwow circle, the Nanticoke celebrate life and honorable deeds for both the living and those who have crossed over into the next world. Members of the tribe are taught that honoring individuals encourages the next generation to embrace the world’s unlimited possibilities.

In addition to powerful dance demonstrations, the powwow will feature authentic native crafts, clothing, jewelry, books and commemorative items of the Nanticoke Tribe. These will be available for purchase throughout the weekend, as will Native American food.

One of the dances this year at the 41st Annual Powwow is the Jingle Dance. Known also as the healing dance, the Jingle Dance originated with the Ojibwe in the Great Lakes region. The women’s dress itself is said to have originated as a means of healing a medicine man’s granddaughter. In a dream, the elder was told to construct a jingle dress and have his granddaughter dance in it. Legend has it that she was healed.

The colorful, unique jingle dress is covered with rolled up snuff can lids attached with bright colored ribbons. The “jingles” are close enough together to hit one another, creating a near-musical, happy sound, much like rain.

Jingle dancers perform simple zigzag steps, rather than high-stepping or fancy footwork, and make the jingles sway. The jingles are attached to soft cloth, such as taffeta or cotton; each dancer is judged by her footwork and grace.

Several other types of dance are also seen at the powwow each year, including Traditional, Women’s Fancy, Hoop and Men’s Fancy. Between 150 and 300 dancers are expected to attend this year’s powwow from as far away as Canada, Vickers said. This year, two drum groups are expected to participate as well.

Visitors to the Nanticoke Powwow can come away with arms filled with crafts, cameras filled with colorful pictures, and memories of the event’s dances, sounds and smiles. Organizers ask that visitors follow directions from the master-of-ceremonies regarding the taking of photographs throughout the weekend-long cultural celebration.

Dozens of Native American crafts and food vendors will be located on the on the grounds during the powwow. The vendors and crafts booths will open at 10 a.m. on Saturday and at noon on Sunday.

Food vendors will be offering such popular traditional Native American fare as fry bread, succotash and fried fish sandwiches, as well as “Indian tacos” made with fry bread instead of tortillas.

The powwow grounds are located in the middle of a wooded area off Route 24, (John J. Williams Highway) near Millsboro. The GPS-friendly address for the powwow is 26800 John J. Williams Highway, Millsboro, DE 19966. Parking is free.

On Saturday, the powwow grounds open at 10 a.m. Grand Entry on Saturday will be at noon, with the second dance session beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday morning begins with a worship service at 10 a.m.; and Grand Entry on Sunday will be at 1 p.m.

The entrance fee is for the powwow is $5 per person; children 12 or younger are admitted free of charge. Observers are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs.

Attendees who are wheelchair-bound or have motorized wheelchairs should 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 may continue to do so. Special seating for these handicapped individuals will continue to be available and monitored by powwow staff.

For more information, call the Nanticoke Indian Center at (302) 945-3400, the Nanticoke Indian Museum at (302) 945-7022, e-mail or go to the website at

By Kerin Magill
Staff Reporter