Plaquemine Pow Wow to raise awareness

Advocate file photoWilliam Madden, representing the Choctaw, Cherokee and Osage tribes, left, and Drew Sagona, representing the Choctaw tribe, dance in the Louisiana Indian Heritage Association’s Fall Pow Wow in the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in 2010.
Advocate file photoWilliam Madden, representing the Choctaw, Cherokee and Osage tribes, left, and Drew Sagona, representing the Choctaw tribe, dance in the Louisiana Indian Heritage Association’s Fall Pow Wow in the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in 2010.

“The Pow Wow is a gathering of the tribe,” Pat Arnould said. Arnould is a member of the state-recognized United Houma Nation and is director of Louisiana Indian Education. A year and a half ago, Iberville Museum’s People of Iberville series project director, Rita Lynn Jackson, contacted United Houma Nation chief Thomas Dadar who, in turn, assigned Arnould to help with the Plaquemine Pow Wow.

“It’s not just for Indians. We like to share our culture,” Arnould said. “For this time, it’s (the powwow) to bring awareness to the people in Iberville Parish about (how) we were here a long, long time ago. Unfortunately, people in Louisiana tend to think that we’re all dead and under the mound, and that’s not so. This is going to be, for this powwow, to just raise the awareness of the fact that my tribe, the Houma, were here when the French came up the river. My tribe was part of the (treaty) when they saw the Red Stick (set up), which is why they named it (the town) Baton Rouge,” she said. The red stick marked a boundary between two tribes: “it was the Houma and the Bayou Goula.”

“This Pow Wow is going to be a fantastic way of raising awareness that, not just in Iberville Parish but in surrounding parishes, the Indians are still around,” Arnould said. “In the past it was for the gathering — getting together — and it would go for two, three weeks at a time. But here in Louisiana we just do two days, sometimes two and a half days,” Arnould said. “We’re going to be here two days, Saturday and Sunday.”

Dancing will end at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 7. The dancing will be a competitive event, thanks to donations from local sponsors.

“The city has done fantastic. And I really think this is going to be a really good event,” Arnould said. “The people who come to the powwow, the dancers, they have a powwow circuit that they follow. They do it to show their regalia, to show their fancy footwork and be able to be judged and win a purse. A lot of these people coming around, it’s kinda like part of what they do to earn money.

“Their means are a lot less than some.”

There will be other attractions between dances, she added.

“We’ll have some crafts people there and also food. You can’t have a powwow without fry bread. The French people took it and made it into beignets in New Orleans. We take it and stretch it out and make it flat, then they do what we call an Indian taco — put some meat and lettuce and tomatoes on top of it.”

“This powwow is going to be fantastic. I just applaud Rita (Jackson) and all the people and the mayor in reaching out to us,” Arnould said.

Jackson explained that the tribes used to hold two powwows yearly in the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, but had to cut back to one, dropping the spring event. That spring event will be in Plaquemine this year and might return again. That’s Jackson’s hope. Arnould said the powwow benefits dancers and non-dancers. It has a spiritual component.

“They say that the drum is the heartbeat, and when you start dancing and get in the circle you can actually feel the energy. It makes you feel good.”

For more information about the powwow, contact Arnould at (225) 261-5440 or email PLArnould@cox.net.