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Native Americans gather in Floral Pk. for powwow

Thirty-one tribes for 31 years.

Native American tribes from across the country came together at the Queens County Farm Museum last weekend to compete in the 31st Thunderbird American Indian Mid-Summer Pow Wow.

The event brought together 31 native American tribes from as far as California and as close as Long Island to participate in the event, which featured three days of dance competitions and the showcasing of American Indian wares at the Floral Park farm.

“I’m always amazed by how far people come for the event,” said Louis Motsie, the organizer.

Hundreds of people attended the powwow and several, such as Clara Thompson of Jamaica, said it was an annual family event.

“I just think it’s neat. I love that I can bring my kids here to see this sort of thing,” Thompson said. “It really opens up their eyes to new things.”

Throughout the three-day powwow, dozens of native American dancers dressed in colorful traditional attire and displayed a myriad of dance styles in nine judged competition categories. Though the competition is popular, Motsie said the event serves a higher purpose.

“I always talk about identity, which is extremely important for our people to maintain,” said Motsie, a member of the Winnebago tribe. “This is a time for American Indians to come and connect with their roots, to embrace who they are.”

Motsie’s group, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, has organized the event at the Queens County Farm Museum since 1980. He said it is especially important for children and teenagers with native American heritage to learn and understand their backgrounds through attending events like powwows, which take place across the country during the spring and summer.

“In terms of tradition, it’s incredibly important because over time, unfortunately, so much of what we had has been taken away from us,” he said. “But these things need to be preserved.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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