Mother Earth’s Heartbeat: the Annual 4th of July Eastern Band of Cherokee Nation Powwow6.13.2017
The sound of Mother Earth’s heartbeat, the drum is a powerful instrument in Native American rituals and ceremonies. Rhythmic beats provide the soundtrack for the 42nd annual 4th of July Powwow in Cherokee, which runs Friday through Sunday, June 30 through July 2, in Cherokee, NC.
A three-day event of authentic Indian dancing, drumming, and tribal regalia, the powwow combines song and movement with competition. There will be $60,000 awarded in prize money and categories include hand drum, tiny tots, and special contests.
A Family-Friendly Weekend
Organizer and promoter Daniel Tramper is a World Champion hoop dancer who also participates in the Men’s Fancy Dance, which requires beautiful and extravagant attire. He shares, “I’ve been dancing since I was two or three, and I just turned 52!” The talent seems to run in the family. “I’ve got sons and brothers and sisters who have danced all their lives.” While Daniel is unable to participate this year because of his commitments to running the event, he is very excited to watch and be a part of the fun as a spectator.
Special dance competition categories mean that a wide range of ages are represented. The Tiny Tots/Juniors category is for children under six; Junior Girls/Junior Boys is for adolescents ages 6–12; the Teen Contest if for ages 13–17; Men’s Women’s Dance Contest is for ages 18–49; and Golden Age Men/Women are for ages 50+.
There are a total of about 15 different categories that dancers can compete in. Participants can jump between “special competitions,” such as Men’s Grass Special and Cherokee Warrior Specials.
Performers from all Over
Last year, more than 300 people traveled to Cherokee to perform in the Powwow. Daniel recalls that one year they had as many as 500 performers.
Every year, a “southern host drummer” and a a “northern host drummer” are chosen from around the US to perform special duties, such as leading the grand entry and playing specialty songs. Daniel says, “I like to go throughout the United States and pick different drummers. I don’t want to pick a NC drum over and over or a southwestern drum over and over… This year, we came back to the east coast for the northern drum (War Paint from Rowland, NC) and the southern drum is MGD from Lawrenceville, Georgia.”
Drums from different regions are made of different materials and, thus, sound differently. Around Cherokee, you'll mostly find deer hide drums, including the hand drums, but up north, they sometimes use elk or moose hides.
Why People Return Again & Again
When asked why people love this event, Daniel replied, “The camaraderie... People like getting to know different cultures. You can have some people coming from Wisconsin, some coming from North Dakota, some from right here in North Carolina. You just meet all different nationalities of Indians here.”
People of all ages also enjoy the amazing fireworks display, which takes place on Saturday evening.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 30 through July 2. Gates open to the public at 5 p.m. on Friday, and noon on both Saturday and Sunday.
WHERE: Cherokee Acquoni Expo Center (Old Cherokee High School), 1501 Acquoni Rd. Cherokee NC 28719
COST: $12 per day, cash only. Children ages 6 and under are admitted for free.
For a full schedule, visit the event page.