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Native American Festival returns to Chase City

South Boston News
Contessa Scott, Head Woman / May 09, 2018

Understanding a culture requires experiencing it. The public can experience Native American culture by attending the annual Southern Virginia American Indian Festival at the fairgrounds in Chase City, May 11-13.

The three-day powwow includes storytelling, singing, dancing, craft-making, and Native foods.

Highlights include the Native American storytelling around the bonfire that takes place both Friday and Saturday night and the grand entry to be held at noon Saturday and at 1 p.m. Sunday. The dancers come into the arena at one time and dance to the beat of the drums. They will be dressed in colorful Native American garb and lead by Head Man Jeremy Womble and Head Woman Contessa Scott.

The word ‘powwow’ is said to have many different origins, but the most widely held belief is that the word comes either from the Narragansett word meaning ‘spiritual leader’ or the Algonquian word for ‘he dreams’. Whatever its origin, today the word is synonymous with life, spirit and togetherness.

That is the message that Head Man Jeremy Womble and Head Woman Contessa Scott want to convey to all who attend the festival this weekend. This is the first time either Womble or Scott have served as a member of the head staff in Chase City. Both see their roles as significant. Not only do they lead the dancers for the Grand Entry, but as members of the head staff they serve as role models, who are knowledgeable about the traditional songs, dances, honoring’s, and other powwow events.

Womble is a Cherokee native, born and raised in Tennessee who currently resides in Virginia. He has followed the powwow trail for the last 13 years dancing, assisting vendors and singing with the different drums.

Last year Womble spent four months in Standing Rock, N.D., as Native Americans and others united in an attempt to stop the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which runs from the Bakken oil fields in western North Dakota to southern Illinois, crossing beneath the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as under part of Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The pipeline, they said, posed a threat to the region’s clean water and to ancient burial grounds.

Womble described his experience there as “where I saw many Nations coming together for a cause.”

When he is not on the powwow trail, Womble enjoys sharing his Native culture with Monacan youth and working with The Bear Mountain boys youth drum or teaching Native American traditions at the local culture classes. He also coaches youth basketball and softball.

Scott is a member of the Monacan Indian Nation from Amherst. She said, “I thoroughly enjoy teaching and sharing my culture with others.”

She credits much of her appreciation and understanding of her Native American culture to George Whitewolf, who was until his death in 2010, the assistant chief and spiritual adviser of the Monacan Indian Nation.

“When I was a child, George Whitewolf would always make sure I had transportation to and from our culture class, despite the fact that I lived over an hour away,” Scott said adding, “I look forward to learning about all aspects of life and different cultures with every step I take in this life. We are capable of spreading education, joy and respect so let’s take advantage of the present.”

Scott and Womble encourage everyone to come and be a part of this important part of Native American life. Listen, watch and learn about the dances, songs and drum music started centuries ago by the ancestors of today’s tribe’s people as it is carried on for the good of cultural heritage.

Admission is $10 for adults for a weekend pass or $7 for a daily pass. For children 12 and under and seniors a weekend pass is $10 or $5 for a daily pass.

Learn more about the event at virginia-american indian-festival.html.

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