CHARLES CITY, Va. -- Amid throbbing drums and the smoke of sage and sweetgrass, six Virginia Indian tribes came together Saturday for a powwow backing their fight for federal recognition, their first joint gathering in some four centuries.
More than 3,000 people attended.
"I'm overwhelmed. I never dreamed there would be this many," said Mary Wade, a member of the Monacan tribe and president of the Virginia Indian Tribal Alliance for Life.
The alliance was formed three years ago by the six state-recognized tribes to lobby Congress for federal sovereignty, a status that could bring millions of dollars in government grants for educational and economic development.
Last year, Rep. James Moran, D-Va., introduced a bill to recognize the tribes. The bill stalled in committee, with some in Congress saying it would simply open the door to casino gambling in the state. But the tribes hope to revive it and introduce a similar measure in the Senate.
The highlight at the two-day powwow Saturday was a dancing circle. Members of the Virginia tribes -- Chickahominy, Eastern Chickahominy, Monacan, Nansemond, Rappahannock and Upper Mattaponi -- were joined by dancers from Indian nations around the country, including the Oglala Lakota, Apache, Saponi and Cherokee.
Danny Garneaux, an Oglala Lakota originally from Nebraska, and Emma Kelsey, a Cherokee-Saponi, live in Norfolk and "powwow every chance we get," Garneaux said.