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An Experience of a Lifetime: Annual Native American Powwow

Written by: Romula of RHaw Creations

My little setup at the powwow
Romula of RHaw Creations

Words cannot explain the feelings I had and have regarding this memorable moment in my life. For years, I have been attending the Annual Native American Powwow in Howard County, Maryland. Never dreamed of being a part of such an amazing event full of love, culture, community, and diversity.

When I started this journey to become an artist and business woman, I had dreamed of making it into a powwow. Didn’t expect it to be this soon. Going to local pop-ups and small events, helped me get my feet wet, unknowingly preparing myself for this. There was no way for me to know that taking the reigns of my life would get me so far that I am literally living my dream.

Since childhood, I’ve always had the affinity for the Native American way. Part of it, is that my family line has several tribes such as Cherokee, Seminole, and Blackfoot in it. And that is just my mother’s side. Not to mention being raised by a descendent of the Dominican Caribs in the “West Indies” [Note: Not Dominican Republic, but Dominica, a French inhabited country]. My life has always been surrounded by this indigenous lifestyle or perspective without being raised in tribal communities of the Native American people. I can remember my grandfather calling me “Red” when I was very little, saying it was my native name (but I think he called me that because I was red-boned lol, that is neither here nor there). I used to always buy those Native American holiday, birthday cards every time we’d stop at Gateway in Breezewood, PA when traveling to Erie to visit our folks and running over to the Souvenir shop across the street to buy stones and rabbit furs. Shoot, I used to draw and paint wolves, always inspired by those Native paintings with spirit animals. I even bought a plaque of a eagle and chief from the local amusement park called Waldemeer in Erie, PA that still hangs on my bedroom wall today (it’s got to be 15-20 years old). And how could I forget! Since I could remember, dreamcatchers have danced around my bedroom, keeping those nightmares away.

So one can see how important this event was for me and how very nervous I was to even ask to participate. “Closed mouths don’t get fed”, my partner always says to me when I’m indecisive about reaching out and doing new things. He is my voice of reason….or is he my “poke and prodded” to make me take chances!

Why was I nervous, you may ask?

Well…I wasn’t sure if I’d be accepted.

Now this isn’t a sob story or anything for anyone to feel sad about me, but being accepted has been one of the many challenges of my life (don't get me wrong, over time, I've met amazing people who have accepted me for who I am and I value them today). Its different being unique, a natural character and a half, and not looking specifically like a specific ethnicity due to my unique features. So to ask a Native American organizer of a Native American Powwow, where most of the dancers and vendors come from reservations or were raised heavily in their Native roots (whether on or off the reservation), was like the biggest intimidation in my life. Who am I? What am I? I’m so little Native American in cultural sense, why would they welcome me with open arms?

Well….why wouldn’t they let me join? Especially, since I’ve been attending the powwow for over a decade. Pretty sure we were all on a first-name basis without knowing each other’s names.

I was creating this whole fear upon an assumption and past experiences that weren’t valid. And I was quickly proven wrong. I was welcomed into the circle of the Annual Powwow. They gave me a chance to setup and sell my work, including pulling out the big guns - Native American Inspired Ceramic Artwork!

Used Tsalagi (Cherokee syllabary) to represent south and wolf.
Japanese-Native American fused Bento Box

Now I can go on and explain each day, including setup day. But my social medias are covering that by having Reels/Videos summing up the experience visually. (Checkout my TikTok or Instagram to see Parts 1,2,3 and possibly 4)

What I will talk about is how amazing the people were and what I learned.

Majority of the vendors and dancers do this for a living. They are constantly traveling. Constantly, sharing their culture. Constantly, loving life to the fullest, the best they can. They are truly selfless, community-oriented, and a wise group of people knowing their history and their ancestral roots. It did not matter if you were 100% native or 2% native, you were welcomed. Everyone is welcomed no matter where you were from.

I met so many unique people with such a big hearts. The first day, which was setup day, my vendor neighbor gave me Three Arrowheads out of the kindness of his heart. He enjoyed my partner and I as we engaged in frivolous, witty conversation. Which I think was an amazing way to get to know someone’s character. Kent heard I did hemp jewelry and with that he gave me the arrowheads. Of course, there was a lesson with it .

“I only give in threes,” he said as he handed them to me. He preceded to explain in that beautiful, North Carolina drawl that I can speak at times unbearably so, that everything is in threes. The basics of life are three. Think of the Holy Trinity, Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost. Think about Chinese medicine, Heaven, Earth, and Man. Sun, Moon, and Earth. We can keep going down the list.

You give blessings to give blessings. To receive blessings, you must give blessings. Now they don’t always happen right away, but when you give with your heart, you will be blessed. Kent said, you also give in threes because you never know if one will break or get lost, so you have another to keep, but you have a third to give. There’s always giving.

You know I ate that up and sucked up my tears, and although we are still in Covid-like days, I had to give him a genuine hug.

You know how HARD it IS TO FIND GREAT ARROWHEADS?!?!?!? And to be given three right off the bat (or is it “right off the back”?) of perfect size and carving, I almost fell a part.

I’d only known the man for less than an hour and I was given a gift because he enjoyed my partner and I, but most importantly, he saw my potential. And boy was he shocked when he saw me the next day putting it all together into a necklace. Kindness at its finest!

On Sunday, my gift to them was giving them the Silver Blade soap (I saw Kent come by and smell it while I was busy with a customer, so I took note of how much he liked it, observation is key). I added a Mother’s Rose soap for his beautiful wife, who spent most of her time polishing the vintage Native American silver jewelry. And then have them a bottle of the Silver Blade, so that Kent got his soap, his wife got hers, and they could battle over the spray. That was my funny joke, but still following the lesson I learned about giving in threes.

I thought that was the end of gifting, but Kent gave me a silver ring forcing me to put it on my finger to make sure it fit. Then my mother who was with me on that day of me receiving the ring, later on gave them a string of lights because they enjoyed the lights my mother brought for my display on Sunday. Giving is always a blessing, as I gave them a gift to thank them for their kindness, I was gifted again. And then without me saying, my mother returned the favor back by giving them lights. Full circle.

Three Arrowheads given to me by my vendor neighbor.
Three Arrowheads

All of the spectators/shoppers were so lively and willing to talk with me as if were long lost friends. There were folks who were flabbergasted at my artwork and literally gawking at them like as if they were in a gallery. There was so much positive feedback and amazing suggestions, that I almost forgot what it was like to communicate with people after Covid (well, its still going around). It reminded me of Myers-Briggs test where I’m considered extrovert despite having introvert tendencies. After so long of being a hermit, I forgot what it was like to have stimulating conversations and spreading my wings amongst the community. I was even invited to the Hollister, NC Powwow and the Allentown, PA Powwow because of these meaningful connections I was making. The amount of smiles I put on peoples faces will never be forgotten. I mean, I even have custom orders to fulfill because these folks touched me in such ways that I wanted to create for them and they trusted me to do so.

One spectator by the name of Daily (found out later her husband was a hoop dancer at the Powwow), beautiful spirit, had only come to gather inspiration from my space. Who would of thought we would have become great friends of which she would remind me to run to the dance circle so I could see her husband and nephew hoop dance. She explained each dance piece, pointing out Eagle, Butterfly, Alligator, and the Unified Circle. Daily and I talked like we were sisters and she even helped steer people my way. It was sad having to say goodbye to her, but we have each other’s contact information and she kindly invited me to the Cherokee reservation in Cherokee, NC. So it’s merely a “see you next time!” (Although she wasn’t looking to buy anything, the last day she brought her husband over and he gave her money to buy one of my sprays. I know she wanted to support me, and I was grateful that she did. So I gifted her one of my soaps for her to enjoy.)

The last person I am going to name is Johnny. He was the first native to see my work and recognize my Japanese-Native American fused mask. He noticed the ghost warrior paint and the Japanese Kabuki style with it. He said to me before even knowing my name as he was walking by my section to get to the dance circle, “I appreciate real art, art that tells a true story.” I would only see him a handful of times throughout the weekend until…a good friend of his stopped at my section, talking to me about native life and creating a powwow in West Virginia in his mothers land, and seeing him show his passion towards it; that Johnny would come back. Johnny talked to his friend for a bit, giving me time to cater to others. I thought after they left, that would be it. But Johnny came back at the end of the last day, he came into my space and we talked. He spoke to me, my mother, and dear older friend named Sandra who was raised near the Everglades and always attended the Powwows there. So much knowledge! He spoke about how life is about community, that when one eats all eat. The Earth is full of unlimited resources, there is no need to hoard or make profit from it. He knew the constitution better than I did (well, no surprise actually, I have no shame) and was telling me the true story of our people. He even made the joke that Democracy which was Native should be here, but why is there a Republican Party when the very people who left England wanted to leave the Royal Kingdom and their politics which was republican style. It was way more funnier when he said it; writing it down doesn’t sound the same, haha. Because of his kind words, knowledge, and willing to invite me to other Powwows, I gave him a bottle of Silver Blade. His eyes lit up as he smelled it. He said, “Hmmm, this is some good stuff. Peppermint is good to keep the bugs away. Thank you!” We exchanged information and now we are friends.

Used the Kabuki style and Native American Ghost Warrior Face Paint
Japanese-Native American fused mask.

Overall, it was an experience of a lifetime. I’ve spent so much time talking about the people, I didn’t mention how good the business did. I sold out of all of my soaps the first day! Omg, it was a long night having to make more. My sprays, even the 4oz sprays were going so fast that by Sunday I sold out of all the 2oz Silver Blade sprays and 4oz Protection of the Hearth sprays. Managed to sell two of my ceramic masks to one person! And then my plates, cups, and ceramic jewelry were selling left and right.

One gentleman told me that he was grateful for me bringing my artwork out on display. He said that the world needs to see my work and that he was impressed to know that I had more complex work in the vault. This is the man who stared at my small sake shot ceramic glass. He knew it took a lot of work despite how small it was He was shocked at my lids on my porcelain jars. Actually a lot of folks really were amazed at everything I did, especially the ceramic work. It was nothing, but reassuring that this is my path.

At the end of the day, I put myself out there and took a chance. The blessing was being well-received! I have never felt so welcomed and accepted as much as I did those three days at the Powwow. All starting with a simple email to the coordinator several weeks before. I lived a dream, and now I’m never letting this dream go because it’s now reality. I’ve got more Powwows to join!

All I want to do is spread unconditional love, appreciation for the earth, and to bring that connection back by having a relationship with Mother Nature by sharing herbs, essential oils, artwork, and hemp jewelry. My RHaw Creations being shared to the world!

P.S. That’s my mom! I am so grateful for her help and belief in me being successful! I forgot to get a picture with Coche, my partner, but I am grateful for him too. Without the two of them, I’m not sure I’d be able to do this on my own.

Yep, that's my momma!
Mom and I

P.S.S Photo of my setup! Below that is an image of some of the dancers getting ready to lineup for the Grand Entry!

Thanks to my  mother, Sunday, I had fun lights to dance around my products.
RHaw Creations Setup
At the Powwow, they do a Grand Entry, where all dancers, ranging from fancy to traditional, come out together into the circle. It's a very beautiful experience/ceremony.
Native American Dancers at Grand Entry

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