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Scappoose Boosters renew Native American focus

Mini powwow will feature drum circles and dancing


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Philip Archambault, NARAs Cultural Director has been with the organization for 31 years and is in charge of providing treatment to patients through ceremonies and traditional practices. The Scappoose Pow Wow has long been a local tradition for residents of south Columbia County, but has historically lacked focus on the Native American themes and traditions implicated by its name.

This year, the Powwow will have a renewed focus on the cultural history of Native Americans.

For the first time since the return of the Scappoose Pow Wow three years ago, event organizers have sought the help of Native American tribes and organizations to put on what will be billed as a mini-powwow, Sunday, July 14 at 1 p.m.

Siva Weilert, volunteer with the Scappoose Heritage Committee and the Scappoose Boosters, got in touch with the Native American Rehabilitation Association on Highway 30 near Cornelius Pass Road to seek help in holding a traditional powwow drum circle and dance. NARA’s Residential Treatment facility on Highway 30 is a substance abuse treatment center with an approach that emphasizes Native American traditions and spirituality.

Weilert said she volunteered at the Scappoose Pow Wow in 2012 and felt the event lacked focus on Native culture, so she decided to get involved in helping plan for an event that honors the traditions of local Native Americans.

“It’s important to educate the population as to what a powwow really is,” she said. “There’s an in-depth reason for why people do the things they do and we’d like to share that with the community.”

Jackie Mercer, NARA’s CEO, said powwows are great opportunities to experience a piece of Native American culture, but added that the events are not parties and are supposed to be traditionally based.

Philip Archambault, NARA’s cultural director, was willing to help plan the mini-powwow, but only under certain conditions. “When taken lightly, it’s sort of offensive,” he said. “We offered to help in Scappoose, but not if there’s a beer garden.”

Weilert said she identified the presence of alcohol at the Pow Wow as the main barrier keeping Native American organizations and tribes from wanting to participate in the event.

As a result, all alcohol sales and advertising at the powwow will be halted on Sunday, July 14, when traditional Native American demonstrations and ceremonies are held.

Archambault organizes all of NARA’s cultural activities, such as a powwow on New Year’s Eve at the Convention Center, as well as numerous fire circles and weekly sweat lodges. In a previous interview with the Spotlight, Archambault said he believes traditional native culture is being lost, partly due to reservation boarding schools having to continually decrease their focus on Native American coursework. NARA provides a way for Native Americans to reconnect with their cultural traditions, he added.

“We’re doing a traditional powwow,” Weilert said. “From what we see at this point, we’ll have five to seven drum circles and whoever wants to can come up and dance.”

Weilert also worked with Canoe Family, representatives of the Chinook tribe based in Bay Center, Wash., to hold a canoe ceremony and stick game demonstration on the Sunday of the powwow. Canoe Family will also help represent Scappoose’s Native American history during the Watt’s House heritage walk.

“Heritage walk is basically a display of historical images throughout the park,” Weilert said. “We’re working with the Chinook tribe to get some content about their history.”

Weilert added that there will be trivia associated with the heritage walk where prizes will be given out. “This is going to be a great event,” she said. “Pow Wow is trying to grow; hopefully we can set up an event people will enjoy.”

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