Queens powwow draws native Americans from U.S., Canada

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Hundreds of native Americans from across the country, Canada and the Caribbean came to the Queens Farm Museum over the weekend to celebrate their culture and spread it to others during the 33rd-annual American Indian Pow-Wow.

The event started with a dozen native Americans simultaneously pounding a drum as they chanted, followed by dancers who ranged in age from 82 to a toddler sucking on a pacifier.

Louis Mofsie, a member of the Hopi and Winnebago tribes from Arizona, emceed the event.

“Powwow is a time where we get together to dance, sing, to eat, to make new friends and have a good time,” said Mofsie, whose Indian name is Green Rainbow. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re just so happy that we found a home here in Floral Park, Queens.”

Tribes represented at the powwow came from more than a dozen states, Canada and the Caribbean.

The powwow also featured vendors selling everything from wampum jewelry to posters of Chief Seattle to deep fried mushrooms and Indian tacos with chili, tomatoes, onions and cheese.

Marilene Orfanos, 17, of Flushing, said when she was younger she would go through the encyclopedia to read everything about native Americans.

“I’ve always really loved their culture,” she said. “I’ve been obsessed with it since I was little.”

Elaine Evans, who is one-quarter native American — her grandmother comes from the Chickasaw tribe in Oklahoma — said it has been 28 years in-between her visits to the powwow.

“I’ve always felt strongly about the Indian heritage that I have,” Evans said. “Now I’m bringing my grandkids.”

Edwin Cedeño, a Middletown, Conn., resident whose family comes from the Taino tribe in Puerto Rico, said he came to the powwow “for business and pleasure,” with the business being that he is trying to get one of his songs nominated for the Native American Music Awards.

“I got to represent my people, but we’re all representing ´╗┐here today as indigenous people,” he said. “When [Christopher] Columbus found the so-called New World, he ended up in my backyard.”

Louis St. Claire, 53, whose ancestors are from the Lakota and Taino tribes, arrived at the powwow from South Dakota.

“I came here because I’m trying to find out more on my mother’s side and her culture and her ways,” he said. “When you’re somewhere, you try to represent. I try to represent my ways, my people from the Pine Ridge” in South Dakota.

Mickey Sickles, a member of the Oneida tribe from Ontario, Canada, said he came to the powwow to display his pride for his tribe.

“I’ve danced since I could walk and I’ve supported all the powwows,” said Sickles, whose Indian name is Hunts for Fish. “The ones that can’t dance, I dance for them and for my people.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Updated 11:09 am, October 12, 2011
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