Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:43 AM
A choir performs at the Pearl Harbor Day Powwow and Reconciliation Ceremony.
Published on: Thursday, December 12, 2013
Robert Selle, Special to The Sentinel
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - As part of the 9th Annual Native American Indian Heritage Month Powwow at the University of Maryland at College Park, a “deeply moving” ceremony, called the Bridge of Peace, brought together Native American U.S. military veterans and representatives of Japan, as well as Native Americans and white Americans in friendship and forgiveness. Wounded feelings exist on all sides and the UM rite was meant to address these and initiate a process of reconciliation.
Powwows traditionally honor American veterans. Since this particular event fell on Dec. 7, remembered as Pearl Harbor Day, it was significant that the ceremony included those from both sides of the war. A nine-woman Japanese Choir, some dressed in their traditional kimonos, set the tone for the Bridge of Peace Ceremony by offering a heartfelt song, Hand in Hand. “The Bridge of Peace Ceremony was deeply moving,” said Dr. Christopher Lester, director of the college’s Office of Multi-ethnic Student Education (OMSE), which put on the powwow. “It deserves to cause a ripple effect for reconciliation far and wide.”
The Bridge of Peace Ceremony is the signature project of the Women’s Federation for World Peace (WFWP), one of the powwow co-sponsors, which also included UM’s American Indian Student Union. “The Bridge of Peace represents repentance, forgiveness, healing, brother and sisterhood, and new beginnings,” said WFWP President Angelika Selle. “It has been taken around the world, and over the last 20 years has brought hundreds and thousands of former enemies together here in the U.S., the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.”
The Bride of Peace participants stood at opposite sides of a decorated arch representing a bridge at the front of the powwow meeting hall. They would then slowly walk toward one another with a heart of repentance and forgiveness, meet in the middle, exchange gifts, embrace, and then walk through the archway to the applause of all the onlookers.
The ceremony, Mrs. Selle said, is not meant to be just for show but signifies that each pair of participants is genuinely “willing to continue the process of getting to know each other, their hearts, and their cultures and to grow to become friends and true brothers and sisters.”
The powwow began with an Intertribal Grand Entry, in which Native American Indians in their sumptuously colorful full regalia danced around the meeting hall accompanied by two circles of Native drummers, who also sang and chanted. The three chief drummers were Zotigh, from New Mexico; Southern Eagle, from North Carolina; and Medicine Horse, from Maryland.
Native American Indian powwows are social events, according to the powwow program. They are designed to be joyful and fun, with eye-popping regalia, breathtaking performances, and moving music. They provide an opportunity to reunite with old friends and meet new ones. But they are also profound cultural events that are infused with the sacred tradition and wisdom of the ages.
After the Grand Entry, a group of prominent supporters addressed the audience, including Dottie Chicquelo, the OMSE assistant director and powwow coordinator; Dr. Lester; Andrew Fellows, mayor of College Park; Edward Chow, secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs; Dr. Kumea Shorter-Gooden, UM’s chief diversity officer and associate vice president of the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion; and Keith Colston, executive director of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs.
Following the Bridge of Peace Ceremony, the powwow continued with the Children’s Candy Dance and the Blanket Dance, and the especially beautiful flute music by Eagle Warrior. In the afternoon, there was a Military Veterans Honor Circle in recognition of Pearl Harbor Day. This was a sacred ceremony conducted by Penny Gamble-Williams, Jay Winter Nightwolf, and Dawn Wolf that involved smudging and the bestowing of medicine bundles of sage and sweetgrass.