Thunderbird Intertribal Powwow shares Native American culture
Kirby “Standing Wolf” Locklear doesn’t remember exactly when he became involved with the Thunderbird Intertribal Powwow, but he said he can narrow it down to somewhere within the first decade.
“I have been with the powwow for at least 20 years. I don’t know exactly when I got started, but I know it was definitely when it was still in the single digits,” he said laughing.
The Native American celebration in Niceville will host its 31st year, this weekend, Nov. 2-4, with events spanning from children’s crafts to dance competitions.
Children are an integral part of Native American society, and Locklear said that is why Children’s Day is his favorite part of the entire powwow.
“The thing I look forward to the most is the faces and the excitement of the schoolchildren when they show up for Children’s Day,” he said. “A lot of them don’t realize there are still Native American Indians around, so to see their faces light up during the dances and so forth I just enjoy it so much.”
Children’s day is specifically designed for school children as it is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday (today). Locklear said the day is set aside for local classes to use as field trip opportunities, but the general public is also invited to attend.
“Upon arrival they will be greeted with Native American dancers and drum groups and singers all singing traditional songs,” he said. “They will get to participate in the dances and can dance with our performer, Ed Wind. He will be leading and teaching the children in fun dancing and singing opportunities.”
Other children’s day activities include Native American crafts, exhibits from the Temple Mound Museum and storytelling.
“Storytelling is always a very big part of any Native American gathering,” Locklear said. “It is the telling of our legends.”
NATIVE AMERICAN VETERANS
The Thunderbird Intertribal Powwow has a deeply rooted connection to the U.S. Military. Locklear said that is because many of the members of the Thunderbird Intertribal Council are veterans.
“It is Native American tradition that we highly honor our veterans,” he said. “As a minority group, Native Americans have one of the highest number of service members and veterans because it is our culture to defend our country.”
Locklear himself is a 22-year veteran of the Air Force and spent a majority of his duty years at Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base. He now works as a defense contractor at Eglin and said the powwow is part of the military’s observance of American Indian Month.
“Usually, here on the base, we have different observances for different ethnic groups, and November is set aside for Native American observances,” he said. “As we got (the powwow) started 31 years ago, we have Native American tribes from all over the country that would be here at the base, so we open it up to all Native American cultures from west to east and north to south.”
Locklear added a Veteran Affairs service center will be onsite at the powwow throughout the weekend to assist veterans with any issues.
When it comes to the most celebrated portion of the powwow, Locklear said that would have to be the Grand Entry.
“I would say, if you’ve never been to a powwow before, please come for the grand entry on Saturday,” he said. “You will see veterans leading in the dancers, many different styles of dancing, and the amazing regalia worn by women all the way down to our tiny tots.”
More than 20 Native American tribes will be represented at the powwow, from all over the country, many coming to participate in drum groups and dancing competitions.
“We will have people traveling from as far north as North Carolina, as far west as Oklahoma, a big part of the group will be the Poarch Creek from Atmore, Alabama,” Locklear said. “We’ve got a new drum group, Red Boys, who will be coming up from Central Florida and one of our drum groups come from Atmore, Medicine Tail, and they bring a lot of their youth dancers with them.”
Besides performances, Locklear said there will be Native American vendors selling handmade items and, like any good gathering, there will be plenty of food.
“The most popular craft, of course, is beadwork. There will be a lot of pottery, flute makers, turquoise and silver and even an ironsmith,” he said. “There will be some textiles such as shirts, dresses and shawls that a lot of female dancers will wear, and there will be food.”
Everyone is welcome to take part in the Thunderbird Intertribal Powwow. You don’t have to be a Native American to take part, Locklear said.
“The reason we even exist is not only to celebrate our Native culture but also to be able to share it will non-Natives,” he said.
WANT TO GO?
Thunderbird Intertribal Powwow will be held Nov. 2-4 at the Twin Oaks Sports Complex on the corner of College Boulevard and State Road 85 in Niceville.
Cost is $5 for adults, and $3 for children 12-years-old and under.
Friday: Children’s Day 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Grand Entry 7-9 p.m.
Saturday: Craft contest, 10 a.m., Flute players, 12 p.m., Grand Entry 1 p.m., Intertribal dancing until 5 p.m., Contest Dancing 7 p.m. until 10 p.m..
Sunday: Church service at 10 a.m., Grand Entry 12 p.m., Dancing until 4 p.m.