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Catawbas hold Rock Hill's first powwow - with a purpose

With drums, chants and colorful regalia, Native Americans danced their way around the Winthrop Coliseum on Saturday in Rock Hill's first Catawba Powwow.

The all-day competition brought to life a goal shared by members of the Catawba Indian Nation, based in York County and South Carolina's only federally recognized Indian tribe.

"We had a dream about 10 years ago and started putting it on paper," said tribal member Ronnie Beck.

Performers from many different tribes took turns showing off ancestral dances, backed by drummers chanting in native tongues. Teams competed for prize money totaling $10,000.

"We get to show non-Native Americans our way of culture," said 19-year-old Patrick Green, a Lumbee Indian from eastern North Carolina.

Green carried a staff tipped by an eagle talon and a necklace studded with black bear claws. In his hair, he wore ties made of otter fur.

Many dancers perform in powwows across the country. Bronson Haywahe, a member of the Assiniboine tribe, came to Rock Hill from Saskatchawan, Canada, to perform a grass dance meant to bless the ground of a new camp.

"It keeps us tied to who we are and where we came from," he said. "We dance and sing to express ourselves and the way we feel about being alive."

Catawba Chief Donald Rodgers said he wants to develop the powwow every year. The event was timed to coincide with Rock Hill's annual Come-See-Me festival.

Saturday marked a homecoming for Jered Canty, who grew up on the Catawba reservation east of Rock Hill and now attends school in Colorado.

The 29-year-old plans to attend the upcoming Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque. But Canty said performing in Rock Hill holds special meaning: "It feels better to be at home."

TODAY AT COME-SEE-ME

Tennis Tournament

8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Rock Hill Tennis Center, 897 Maplewood Ave.

Catawba Powwow

9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Winthrop Coliseum, 1162 Eden Terrace

Gift Shop & Cafe

11 a.m.-2 p.m. (Cafe starts 11:30 a.m.)

Woman's Club of Rock Hill, 607 Aiken Ave.

Sundaes with Glen & Mother Goose

2-5 p.m.

Glencairn Garden, Charlotte Avenue

Winthrop Woodwind Quintet

7:30 p.m.

Barnes Recital Hall, Winthrop University, 701 Oakland Ave.

Go to heraldonline.com/comeseeme for a complete festival schedule.

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