For three years now I’ve been going with my fiancé, Sam, and her family to the Seneca (or, previously, Veteran’s) Pow Wow in Salamanca, NY. It’s a big event for her and she’s gone almost every year since she was small. For me it was an interesting bit of culture shock, the language, the music, and the dancing were very different than what I grew up seeing in the country and suburbs.
The Seneca language sounds nothing like any Latin or Germanic based languages and in a way almost sounds like Mandarin. It doesn’t really but, that’s the only thing I could think of that was remotely similar. It has a musical quality to it that you have to hear to understand, so here is a link.
You’ve probably heard native drumming, as Hollywood uses the same beat in every movie with a native. It too is very different from traditionally Western music (although LMFAO seems to be getting close) so here is an example.
You might get the impression from me so far that I don’t really know much about any of this, which is true. I’ve read just about every book on the Senecas I could get ahold of in the past three years and I still have only the vaguest idea of what’s going on at the Pow Wow. I can identify some of the dance outfits now (Shawl, Jingle, etc) and maybe one of the dances off hand (Smoke dance) but usually I’m asking a lot of questions.
The Pow Wow isn’t just Senecas. It’s actually not even native (get it?!) to this area but was adopted by them. Unfortunately, one of the many things I have yet to learn is who it was adopted from. There were representatives from the Six Nations, and all over the country.There was also a hula dancer but we missed that. Also this year they had Aztec dancers from Mexico City which had outfits that were very unique to that area.
One of the best parts of the Pow Wow is the food; frybread with beans, Indian tacos, and strawberry juice. There’s also plenty of other things and Sam’s uncle owns and operates one of concession stands which sells sausages and huge plates of curly fries. I guess it’s not the healthiest but, oh well.
There’s also a lot of vendors selling native made jewelry, native books, and things like Sage. We decided the first year to get my father a gift since he couldn’t make it and we saw a stand selling blankets. We thought it would be real funny for a native to buy a white guy a blanket and then it was even funnier when that blanket turned out to made in India. A real Indian blanket you see. Next year we bought actual native-made things.