Cherokee Pow Wow in Rome, GA

I attended the annual Cherokee Homecoming and Pow Wow in Rome, GA Saturday, September 3. I always find inspiration at these things. Today was especially meaningful for me. First, there was no charge for active duty and veterans of any military branch. The artwork and booths were tremendous. Beadwork, woodwork, glasswork, leatherwork, clothing, and art were amazing. Not to mention all the books I would have loved to been able to afford. But what really made this special were the dancers and the grand entry. Over 100 dancers were there, all in their own gorgeous handmade costumes and regalia. I saw two Order of the Arrow dancers and called them out immediately. An arrowman knows an arrowman. The four different drum circle teams kept the rythym going along with the chanting and music. At one point the Cherokee flute soloist played a song dedicated to “the Wahkan” or sacred messenger. It was a spiritual. I was just in the crowd but the beauty of that single pipe echoing across the ceremonial grounds gave me chills. Another point was the grand entrance. After the presentation of the colors (flags of the United States, Eastern Band of the Cherokee, Vietnam veterans, and 9-11 memorial) all veterans and any active duty men and women were invited to enter the circle and dance around as the drummers performed and sang a song of dedication. I was thrilled to do this for my first time ever, wearing my leather moccasins and kicking up the dust as I moved about the circle. My heart swelled from the encouragement. The emcee was a Christian and opened with an amazing prayer of blessing and dedication. I saw the pride and traditions of veterans who still were honored to serve, and displayed their medals and patches. They all shook the hands (in a line) of visiting veterans and service men and women. While the Cherokee will never be a fan of President Andrew Jackson, they are proud and willing to serve the armed forces of the United States. And they draw on their native american traditions as well as their belief in God to give them strength. From what I csn tell, these veterans I saw today may have had tough times, but they have a powerful inner strength that has taught them to survive. Tough, creative, colorful people.

There was one Vietnam vet, a Cherokee woodcarver and craftsman who was selling some incredible work. He and I chatted and when he discovered I was active duty Army he said I could buy anything for 20% off. I purchased a handmade Cherokee Talking Stick with deer antler. The stick is used during small group times where the person holding the stick is the only one to speak, and has the freedom to share anything he or she wants honestly. The others must listen until it is their turn to hold the stick. I also picked up a beautiful small stained glass windchime of the Medicine Wheel. As I relayed to this veteran about the new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, he – like me, excitedly saw the connection to the traditional Medicine Wheel. When he heard that I, as a Chaplain, was interested in utilizing some of these traditions as appropriate for any soldiers with native american roots, he was thrilled. He told me I’d be a good chaplain and then told his wife to give me some extra gifts to use. He gave me a bag of ceremonial incense grass, a decorative natural shell to place it in, a handcarved bowl stand, and a gorgeous handmade leather/bead/turkey feather fan. He showed me how to do my prayers as usual, but incorporate these traditions of burning a small amount of incense, waving the scented smoke over myself and the others using the fan. I do this (much as the ancient Hebrews used incense during worship) as a way to worship God using the sense of smell as well. In fact, even now I can still smell a wisp of that incense in my nostrils – hours later, and remember the wonderful time I had today. I met some new friends. And I now have some genuine Cherokee instruments and articles to use during small worship gatherings, especially if there are native american soldiers present. I find that native american Christians still use traditional elements to enhance their worship, and I want to use them from time to time. This is what Wahkan means – messenger of God, but a messenger who still has much respect for the truth and beauty of Native American cuture. I left the Pow Wow today feeling blessed and “commissioned” by Cherokee veterans. I was so inspired that as I passed two women (mother and daughter) stranded on the side of the highway after their truck tire seperated, I felt my gut telling me to stop and help. So I did. They told me they couldnt change their tire, and had prayed for someone to help. When they learned I am an Army chaplain, they thanked me and said ” the Lord provides.”. The Lord DOES provide. Folks have helped me before so why not help these women? We replaced their tire and sent them on their way. They also blessed me with gas money. I told them not to do that but they absolutely insisted. Today was very much a good day. Spending time with my two beloved children the day before only added to it!!


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christy Howell on 4 September 11 at 12:37

    Enjoying your blog! Keep them coming!


  2. Posted by Linda Pennington on 7 September 11 at 22:55

    What a fascinating story you tell of your day; you told us part of it, but I enjoyed reading it in entirety. You have a wonderful sense of community expressed here, and I’ve seen you generate that sense in other settings. God had gifted you and called you for this special challenge with our service men who need spiritual guidance and a wonderful role model such as you will be. Many blessings to you, our good friend!


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