Cape Cod Feature
- Places to Explore
- Fodor's Choice
Powwow, Wampanoag Style
Dancers and drummers re-creating ancient rhythms, and vivid deer-skin costumes decorated with colorful beads and bold plumage are a far cry from the fried clams, shingled saltboxes, and antiques shops that typify Cape Cod, yet they represent the very essence of a culture that has made this area home for thousands of years. It was the Wampanoag tribe who peacefully greeted, assisted, and befriended the Pilgrims who came ashore in 1620. And although their presence is often overlooked amid the luxury resorts and golf courses that dominate the town of Mashpee, the tribe continues to embrace and celebrate their ancestors' way of life.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow, held every year since 1924, is a lively showcase of the tribe's traditions. Open to the public, the early July powwow is a large gathering of local Wampanoags and numerous tribes from throughout the Northeast; some even travel here from the western states. Tents and tables fill the tribal grounds, selling everything from Native American foods to jewelry and T-shirts. A series of intricately costumed dancing and drumming contests takes place during the three-day festival, along with one of the most dramatic events—the fireball ceremony. This ancient healing ritual involves Wampanoag males in what looks a little bit like soccer—except the ball is on fire.
The Mashpee Wampanoag tribal grounds are in Mashpee, off Great Neck Road. For more information, contact the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council. 508/477-0208. www.mashpeewampanoagtribe.com.
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