Native American festival features Apollo couple
SALTSBURG: An Apollo husband and wife are the lead dancers for the fourth annual Thunder Mountain Native American Festival.
Terry and Shellie Reed also are Thunder Mountain tribe members.
The festival, which coincides with Native American Awareness Month in the state, is held by the Thunder Mountain Lenape Nation that consists of a group of families either by ancestry or adoption living in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The Nation has ties with other Lenape/Delaware people, such as the Eastern Delaware Nation, the Big Horn Lenape Nation and the Wyomink Shukuney Mawemin, who participate together.
Their festival includes storytelling, drumming, dancing, crafts and various vendors. New this year is a living history area with a wigwam and tepee. Many of the dances are open to the public and families are invited to join in.
The highlight of the festival is the "pow wow." Pau-wau is an Algonquin word that means "ceremony." Today's pow-wows are not ceremonies. They are a time for people to come together to sing, dance and celebrate.
"We have been involved for four years, and this year when our elders had a family emergency, we agreed to be the lead dancers," Shellie said. The Reeds met others in the Thunder Mountain tribe and were "adopted" into the tribe.
Shellie also has ties to the Cree and Lanape tribes and she is researching her husband's genealogy roots. Some tribe members have Native American blood, some do not. A sacred ceremony allows members to be "adopted" into the tribe.
The Reed's will wear their "regalia" for the festival. These are not costumes, but clothing created or given to the dancers. Each item worn usually has special meaning to the dancer.
"My headpiece is made of black horse hair and red deer hair. My leggings and apron are made of deer hide, and I even have deer toes hanging that jingle," Terry said.
Dancing around a ceremonial flame, the beating of drums signaled the start of the dance, and the Reeds danced an Honor Dance with other tribe members.
The Reeds own the tepee on display.
"We take it with us to pow wows and sleep in it," she said.
The festival provides an education for those unfamiliar with Native American Indian culture, the Reeds said.
"Many people accept the Hollywood image of Indians, and that's not accurate," Shellie said.
Shellie works in a local factory and Terry is a mechanic, and they spend much of their free time with other tribe members.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced the closing of Conemaugh Dam, where the festival had been held the past three years.
The Topper family of Saltsburg offered 17 acres of their land and neighbors pitched in to help clear the site.
"The local neighbors have been great," said Mollie Eliot, public relations director for Saltsburg-based Thunder Mountain Lenape Nation.
"I've been here three years," said Saltsburg resident Tom
Medlock. "I've learned about the Indian culture. It gives people more of an awareness of different cultures."