By Krista Duhon
MIAMI, Okla. — Since the days of his youth, Ottawa Tribe Chief John Ballard has appreciated the ceremonial beat of the center drum — a sound that draws tribal members together to celebrate, dance and honor their creator.
On Friday, Ballard stood in downtown Miami as tribal singers launched the city’s Native Oklahoma Weekend with the same sound and offered bystanders a glimpse into the heritage that envelops Northeast Oklahoma.
“It is the heartbeat of the Indian people,” Ballard said. “Everything starts with the beat of drum.”
Ron Sparkman, chairman of the Shawnee Tribe and chairman of the Intertribal Council of Northeast Oklahoma, led a council-sponsored opening ceremony and introduced the leaders of area tribes. Sparkman extended appreciation on their behalf and offered the council’s respect for the multitude of efforts that were put forth to create Miami NOW, which wrapped up Sunday.
“I am really glad to be here, and the people who put this event on have a good thing going,” said Chief Leaford Bearskin of the Wyandotte Nation. “This should always be a ‘we’ outfit. Not ‘mine’ or ‘yours’ or anybody else’s, but ‘we.’”
As Ballard clarified common nomenclature of Native American languages, dancers demonstrated the art of competitive dance. Among them were brothers Simon and Ray Washee, of Pryor, who compete as fancy dancers.
“I dance just about every weekend,” said Simon Washee, 14. “We travel to a lot of area powwows.”
Ballard said his objective over the weekend was to offer the public an insight and better understanding into “old style” powwow traditions.
“I want this to be fun, and I want to see the crowd get involved,” Ballard said.
His hopes were satisfied as dancers partnered with people from the crowd of spectators and danced enthusiastically on the streets of the historic district.
By Krista Duhon
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