Below is a copyrighted Published Article from the Newspaper INDIAN COUNTRY TODAY. Article by Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today Newspaper June 3, 2009 Issue
Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia
By Vincent Schilling, Today correspondent
Story Published: Jun 1, 2009
Story Updated: May 29, 2009
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – When attending a pow wow, many are coming together for a celebration of culture, prayer, ceremony, songs, dancing and goodwill. To others, a pow wow is a gathering of old friends and a chance to reconnect with people you only see a few times a year.
However, for the many who attend the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia’s pow wow in Surry County, not only are they coming for some or all of those reasons, they are coming to experience an overwhelming source of spiritual energy and healing.
The pow wow is gaining a reputation as an event with incredible spiritual energy. Lynette Allston, chief of the tribe said their pow wow is more than a place to find friendship and camaraderie; it is a place to find a source of inner peace and reflection.
The tribe has more than rhetoric to back up the fact that their pow wow is a source of healing. Allston and others (some not from the Nottoway Tribe) say there have been occasions where spiritual speculation has become reality.
People who camped at the site have reported seeing otherworldly visions and hearing voices during the night. Others have had telling dreams leading them to the site of the pow wow before arriving, while others have experienced physical healings after dancing.
Allston admits the stories sound far-fetched. Nevertheless, her calm demeanor and intelligent social graces indicated a woman of sound mind.
“When you talk about this sort of thing, there is the proverbial caution sign that goes up. People might think we’re a little too eccentric.” Allston said. At the risk of sounding peculiar, she spoke about some of the unexplainable things that have happened at the pow wow.
“There was a woman, (before coming to our pow wow) who had a dream that she transformed to an eagle and she had flown over an area and there was a broken picnic table. She came to the pow wow, walked around and there was the area that had the broken bench. Later, I spoke to a parks and recreation official; I asked if there had been a broken bench there. He said, ‘Yes, we just removed that bench. It had stayed out there forever and we just removed it.”
On one occasion, a woman took part in a dance and expressed healing occurred shortly afterwards.
“The woman who had a mild stroke said she felt some relief after dancing,” Allston said. “She proclaimed to me, ‘I haven’t felt this good since before my stroke!’”
Another unexplained instance involved a woman who was camping the night before the event. She could not sleep and stepped outside of her tent. At the edge of the woods, she saw glowing apparitions of eastern-style carved totems. The following day, the totems were not there.
A traditionalist teacher and medicine person who was standing next to Allston, told her, “the earth is very warm under my feet; there is energy about it.”
Allston admits that this energy, felt by many who attend the pow wow, has a significant effect. Specifically, she related how the energy affected the dancers who performed and people who attended.
“The men especially danced with such passion, you could feel it. You hear the whoops and the yelps among the people there together from many Indian nations. The energy from combining all of the ancestry from many nations – there is just something that happens.”
Sharon Anderson is of Cherokee descent and agrees there is an incredible amount of spirituality. She attended for the first time last year. She said what she felt most was safety.
“For me, when I feel safe that is about as spiritual as you can get. The whole event was very spiritual to me. I am a Christian; I enjoyed the prayers that were said. I felt that I was connecting with something very ancient and special.”
Shirley Fudge from Surry County, Va. also felt a connection. “I felt so spiritual; this event was a prelude for me of going into a new season, a season of change, of loving your fellow man and forgiveness. I felt people connecting with the elements as the dancers pounded on the earth. It was the beginning of a new start for me, as it was also the time of year for me. It was the beginning of Yom Kippur.”
Fudge said though she has no formal proof that she is a member of the Nottoway of Virginia Tribe, she feels a distinct connection. “Although I can’t prove it by DNA, I’ve always known we were a part of the first people here in Surry County. I felt part of the footprints my grandparents lived in Surry County. The feeling of love and healing here is overwhelming.”
To add testament to the list of profound spiritual occurrences, Fudge was among a large group of audience members who saw an interesting message in the clouds.
“At the last pow wow, an interesting phenomenon happened. As we were lining up to go into the grand entry, there were beautiful clouds in the sky and several people looked up. The drums were starting; in the cloud formations above us was an eagle. It was an obvious shape that formed above us and the audience took several pictures. At that moment you could hear gasps and chatter among the audience members,” Allston said.
She admits that some of the stories told by participants may seem far-fetched. But she takes it all in stride. To Allston, the most important thing is what people take away from the experience.
“I think in this pow wow people come with a different frame of mind, a clarity of thought maybe. This is a place you come that your heart feels different. The first year we had the pow wow, the emcee called it the ‘water pow wow,’ because everybody was crying. People who had never been to a pow wow that were in the stands were crying. That is a cleansing, and those are the types of things that we have experienced.”
Though there are many reasons why someone may choose to come to any particular pow wow, one thing is certain; all are welcome at the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia’s, regardless of race, gender or spiritual practice. And if you come with an open mind, you just may have a profound spiritual or healing experience.