James Walker has danced the grass dance since he was three.
The dance – performed at Native American powwows – is an important tradition for Walker, a North Carolina native, and one he hopes to pass down one day.
On Sunday, Walker and about a dozen other men, women and children waitfor the dance to begin. The handful of dancers are too few to be impressive – at least until the music starts.
As drummers begin pounding on their drums, Walker and the other dancers begin moving to the music. Their Native American regalia, consisting of brightly colored cloth, yarn and ribbon - becomes more vibrant as the dancers move to the music. The intensity of the dance matches that of the music, and the harder the drummers play, the faster and more forcefully the dancers move to the beat.
For a brief moment, anyone viewing the dance gets an awe-inspiring glimpse of the greatness of Native American culture as it was centuries ago when America belonged to its native tribes.
And for Walker, that’s a win.
“The fun is teaching other people that we still exist, and keeping our practices and heritage alive,” Walker, who resides in Dothan, said.
Walker and other Native Americans and history enthusiasts gathered at the MaChis Lower Creek Indian Tribe of Alabama Powwow this weekend. The event gave attendees the opportunity to experience Native American music and dancing and browse a variety of arts and crafts.
For Walker, the chance to dance with Native Americans from other tribes and learn their customs provides a great opportunity.
“When we get together and dance, it’s like a family reunion,” he said.
Steve Hammond, of Kinston, sold tanned animal hides and other Native American-style items at the event. Hammond travels to several Native American events each year.
Hammond said he feels his work in making stone tools and tanning hides is helping to keep the culture alive.
“My grandfather always told me I was born 150 years too late,” he said.
Donna Delgadillo, of Lawrenceville, Ga., traveled to the event with her children and grandchildren. Delgadillo and her family participated in the dance, and Delgadillo says traveling to powwows is an important tradition for her family.
“We just love it,” she said. “It’s become a part of us. We do it so they can keep it going with their kids. It’s important to know where you came from and pass it on to the next generation.”