Henry Lee tried for years to get his veteran buddy David Taylor to come to one of the Native American Pow Wows he helps organize.
“I kept giving him excuses,” Taylor said, but one year he finally gave in and witnessed the series of ceremonies, drumming and dancing performed by Native Americans in full regalia.
He was hooked.
“Now he’s like a kid in a candy store,” Lee said.
Taylor challenged anyone to attend a pow-pow and not get goose bumps.
“Everyone should see that at least once,” he said. “That thing is so spiritual.”
Both residents of King and active in many veterans service organizations, Lee and Taylor bonded over a shared interest in helping fellow veterans on a more direct basis, often reaching into their own pockets to assist individuals with immediate needs such as housing or food.
They also try to help those veterans obtain or manage benefits from the notoriously bureaucratic U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“So many vets are out there in need and the government is not doing anything,” Lee said. “After a couple of times they lose faith in the VA system, and actually in humanity itself.”
The pair combined the two interests in organizing an Annual Veterans Pow Wow held to honor veterans and their families through the Native American rites.
The third annual event will be held June 17 to June 19, at Veterans Memorial Park, beginning at 10 a.m. each day.
Tickets are $8 for general admission and $4 for children ages 7 to 12 years old and seniors 65 and over. Admission is free to veterans, Gold Star Mothers and children younger than 7. Food will be available for purchase.
The pow wow provides an opportunity to provide resources to veterans and their families, but also addresses a symbolic overlap between two important but overlooked cultural groups.
“If anyone has been kicked in the dirt it’s the Native Americans and also veterans,” Lee said.
Also, if there is a culture that knows how to show proper appreciation for those who risk their life in battle, it’s the Native Americans.
“There are two things the Native Americans honor more than anything,” Lee explained. “The mother, the giver of birth,
and the warriors.”
Lee, who is of Cherokee and Chippewa descent, explained that there is no Native American word for “veteran.”
“That’s how we adopt “warrior,” the ones who fought for our country and freedom.”
At the pow wow, the participants will make a grand entry and establish the perimeters of a sacred circle, within which a variety of inter-tribal ceremonies honoring the warrior will be performed.
“We try to stay traditional with the true meanings and teachings,” Lee said, noting that the professional dancers, drummers and flutists brought in from as far as Florida are the genuine article, as is their regalia.
“They spend years making those things,” Lee said, describing one dancer’s dress adorned with 365 “jingles” that were added a day at a time with a prayer.
“Every piece of it has got a meaning,” he said of the pow wow in general.
Members of Rolling Thunder NC6, the Winston-Salem chapter of a national non-profit organization aimed at addressing POW/MIA issues, will perform a “missing man” Table Ceremony.
“It’s really emotional,” Taylor said.
In a more familiar ceremony, members of the local honor guards will perform a 21-gun salute.
“Each year it gets better,” Taylor said.
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.