Wampanoag Tribe hosts Pow Wow under clear blue skies

Ceremonial dancing, always a highlight of the Pow Wow. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) hosted a pow wow Saturday and Sunday blessed by sunny weather.

By definition, a pow wow is a traditional Native American ceremony that features dance, feasting, and a blessing by a shaman for an event such as a marriage, a major hunt, or a gathering of nations.

Members of tribes from around New England joined in the festivities. The theme of this year’s pow wow was honoring the tribe’s military veterans.

The tribe gave Pendleton blankets to the Aquinnah veterans. “In the native American community giving a blanket is a way of honoring somebody,” said Bettina Washington, tribal historic preservation officer. “We gave medicine pouches to visiting tribal veterans as well.”

Douglas E. Vanderhoop, a former Vineyarder who now lives in Utah, was honored as one of the highest decorated veterans in the Wampanoag Tribe. Mr. Vanderhoop is a member of the Red Feather Society, the highest military honor that can be bestowed upon indigenous tribal members in the United States and Canada. The recognition goes to Indian warriors who were decorated with the military Purple Heart for wounds received in battle.

There was also a memorial time to honor Beatrice Gentry who died in July at the age of 102. She was the first president of the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribal Council, which was founded in 1972.