American Indians share their culture through Pow Wow

By Sandra Fischione Donovan

Miguel Sague of Verona is a member of the Taino tribe, the Caribbean Indians who greeted Christopher Columbus in 1492. So he has a ready joke about Columbus' arrival in the Bahamas, where he landed while searching for India.

"He was lost, and we found him," says Sague, a native of Santo Domingo, Cuba, and member of the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center since 1977.

While Columbus' voyages are known worldwide, information about the Taino tribe is not as readily available. But Sague will help familiarize people with his tribe Saturday and Sunday at the Council of Three Rivers American Indian Center's 30th annual Pow Wow in Indiana Township.

Sague will tell stories that are traditional to the Taino and other tribes. He will wear different costumes for each tribe, including the Senecas, who settled in this area, he says. Sague, medicine man for the council, will invoke the male spirit of life and energy, and the female spirit of Mother Earth and nurturing.

Sague's extended family also will participate in the Pow Wow, or celebration. His sister, Rosa John, and her husband, Melvin John, of Alberta, Canada, will act as masters of ceremony. The Johns and members of their family will perform various dances as part of the Kehewin Native Performance Troupe of Canada.

Russell Simms, executive director of the center, says the Pow Wow is important for a variety of reasons.

"It's a place where Native American people gather in fellowship, make new friends, share our culture and have fun," Simms says. "Because of who we are and how we do things and view life, we do not have a problem with sharing portions of our life. We invite the public to take part. We're trying to encourage the general public to participate so they can learn."

The Pow Wow will open each day with a grand entry featuring all native dancers. Among the entertainment will be drumming, Aztec dancers, a hoop dancer, and men's and women's fancy dances. Native American crafts will be featured, and vendors will sell Native American foods such as buffalo burgers, native chili, fry bread and corn on the cob. American fare like hot dogs and traditional hamburgers also will be available.

Proceeds from the Pow Wow will go toward the Council of Three Rivers center, a United Way agency that promotes the socio-economic development of 8,000 to 10,000 American Indians in the Pittsburgh area.

The center operates a Head Start program, a child learning center, a foster and adoption program, an elder program and employment centers in three states and the District of Columbia, among others. Some of its programs are open to people from non-Indian backgrounds.

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