Thunderbird American Indian Pow Wow

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo
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It may come as a surprise to you, but New York City’s Native American population is fairly large– 75,000– though it’s just 1.9 % of the total Native American population in the US– 4 million as of 2010, the date of the most recent Census.

It may also surprise you to learn that New York City has pow wows, intertribal social gatherings that are typically open to the public. The oldest and largest of the pow wows, the Thunderbird American Indian Mid-Summer Pow Wow, has been held for the past 34 years; this year’s gathering was held last weekend at the Queens County Farm Museum.

Music is an important part of the pow wow, though drums were more prominent than reed instruments.
Music is an important part of the pow wow, though drums were more prominent than reed instruments.
More than 40 Native groups participated in Thunderbird, among them, Hopi, Cherokee, Apache, Taino, Maya, Shinnecock, Kiowa, Ojibwe, Seneca, Navaho, Choctaw, Chickahominy, Mohawk, Seminole, Sioux, and Blackfoot.
More than 40 Native groups participated in Thunderbird, among them, Hopi, Cherokee, Apache, Taino, Maya, Shinnecock, Kiowa, Ojibwe, Seneca, Navaho, Choctaw, Chickahominy, Mohawk, Seminole, Sioux, and Blackfoot.
Men & women performed a variety of dances, including the jingle dress dance, shown here.
Men & women performed a variety of dances, including the jingle dress dance, shown here. The dances are social, not ceremonial or spiritual.
Dancers compete for recognition and prize money; this dancer is performing the shawl dance.
Dancers compete for recognition and prize money; this dancer is performing the shawl dance.
While performing the men's fancy dance, an eagle feather fell from this dancer's regalia. When this occurs, a special ceremony must be performed, as a fallen feather symbolizes a fallen warrior.
While performing the men’s fancy dance, an eagle feather fell from this dancer’s regalia. When this occurs, a special ceremony must be performed, as a fallen feather symbolizes a fallen warrior.
The eldest warrior retrieves the eagle feather. This man's regalia was stunning, hand-stitched with beadwork that included depictions of his war honors.
The eldest warrior retrieves the eagle feather. This man’s regalia was stunning, hand-stitched with beadwork that included depictions of his war honors.

All of Francisco’s photos from the Thunderbird American Pow Wow can be found in this set on Flickr.

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Julie Schwietert Collazo

Julie Schwietert Collazo and Francisco Collazo. For more information, please contact us: e-mail: collazoprojects@gmail.com

One thought on “Thunderbird American Indian Pow Wow”

  1. I am to be leave I am part Chrokee, of Ala. I can see light and dark skin, some had white in part.

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