Custaloga Town annual pow-wow draws big crowd

The De-Un-Da-Ga pow-wow occurs on Memorial Day weekend every year at Custaloga Town and it brings in as many as a 1,000 people. (By Kristie Milliren)

The 42nd annual De-Un-Da-Ga pow-wow was held over Memorial Day weekend at the Custaloga Town Scout Reservation.

The event was hosted by the Langundowi Lodge 46 and the French Creek Council. Langundowi Lodge is a result of the merger between three Boy Scouts of America councils and their lodges in 1972.

The De-Un-Da-Ga pow-wow occurs on Memorial Day weekend every year at Custaloga Town and it brings in as many as 1,000 people.

Pow-wow attendees came from all over the United States and represent one of the largest gatherings in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The goal of the pow-wow is to present a traditional northern style event centered around the Lakota traditions practiced at Porcupine and other traditional communities on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations today.

This event also serves as a memorial to honor the memory of those veterans and elders that have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The event takes place in The Arbor located at Custaloga Town which is a traditional style Native American dancing circle. Members of many different Native American tribes participate in the event every year. This year’s dancers came from the Lakota, Soiux, Seneca Nation, Kiowa, Onondaga, Cherokee, Crow, Delaware and Osage tribes.

Dancers were dressed in very colorful, traditional Native American clothing and performed traditional dances in the center of the Arbor. Many of the outfits consisted of feathers, animal hides, beads, bells and pray-fans.

On Saturday May 28, the pow-wow kicked off with the raising of the American flag, followed by a grass dancing session at noon.

The grand entry of the dancers occurred at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and event attendees were able to witness what traditional style Lakota music and dancing looked like.

Sunday May 29 led with a Ecumenical worship, followed by a craft contest in the Arbor. Drum call began at 11:30 a.m. which called the dancers to the Arbor.

Before any dancing took place on Sunday, an Eagle Staff was positioned at the center of the Arbor. Each feather on the staff represented a former member of the committee who has gone onto the spirit world. Following the placing of the staff, Grand Entry took place from 1:30 to 4 p.m. then again at 7:30 p.m. which had a focus on honoring our veterans.

The host drum circle was the Morning Star Singers who came from Ravenna, Ohio to attend the pow-wow. The guest drum circle was the MacKenzie River drums and they also attended from Ravenna.

Invited drum circle included the Red Bird Singers out of Akron and the Kingfisher Singers from Indianapolis.

Head Dancers were Tom House from Leicester, New York and Doris Denson from Midlothian, Virginia. Head dancers are responsible for leading other dancers during a song and often times dancers will not enter the arbor unless head dancers are present.

The whip-men were Leland John of Versailles, New York and Jackson Lamm of North Carolina. Whip-men are usually outstanding dancers who encourage dancers to get up and join the dances. Although they carry a whip, the position is more of just a ceremonial position.

The veteran coordinator was Jim Whitman from Du Bois.

Eyapaha, also known as Masters of Ceremonies, included Dan Paul of Pacific Grove, California, Frank Andrews of Albuquerque, New Mexico and Gary Davis of State College. Eyapaha act as general announcers of the pow-wow. They also provide and present the history of the De-Un-Da-Ga pow-pow.

Dancing was not the only thing present at Custaloga Town over the weekend. Many of the people present at the event could purchase a variety of crafts, pouches, jewelry, war clubs, pray-fans and pelts. Traditional Native American blankets and clothing was also available for purchase.

In his third year as youth pow-wow chairman, Josh Jaszemski was avidly serving food from behind a cafeteria counter to hungry event participants. “I enjoy being here, I like being a part of the traditions and the atmosphere,” said Jaszemski.

Matt Morgan of Conneautville attended the entire event over the weekend. Morgan is the top youth member and Order of the Arrow Lodge Chief until the end of the summer. “This is my troop’s tradition and my family’s tradition.” Morgan has attended the event for several years and loves everything about the pow-wow.

You could see a variety of people at the event. There were participants and spectators of all ages in Custaloga Town for Memorial Day weekend, which showcased traditional Native American dancing. The event has been held at Custaloga Town for the last 15 or so years but has been a tradition that has occurred for over 42 years.