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Hundreds turn out for annual celebration of Native American heritage

Gerard Dulac was pleased to welcome Chris, "The Butterfly Man," to the 48th year of the Laconia Indian Heritage Association's Labor Day Weekend Powwow, which is held at the Dulac Land Trust in Sanbornton each year. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
September 05, 2018
SANBORNTON – The Laconia Indian Heritage Association held its annual Labor Day Powwow in Sanbornton last weekend, and among the hundreds of participants and guests was none other than Sanbornton resident Gerard Dulac himself, the owner of the approximately 100-acre Dulac Land Trust where the Powwows and other Native American events organized by LIHA have now been held for 48 years.

Both of Dulac's grandmothers were of Indian descent, he said, and when his offering for use of the property to other local civic groups was turned down, he jumped on a suggestion that he allow LIHA to utilize the land.

"I was so happy when someone mentioned them. There's so much beauty out here, and I wanted some group to just come out here and enjoy it. This was the best I could ever ask for," he said.

Throughout the years, that offer has been greatly appreciated by LIHA, which then shares that appreciation with others. Scouting groups are invited to hold special activities on the property and in the early summer LIHA also hosts a Learner's Weekend for people interested in discovering more about the Native American culture. People who are members of the organization are able to camp seasonally on the property, and then of course, there is the annual Labor Day Powwow in September.

Richie Corso of Meredith is the vice-president of LIHA, and was excited about the upturn in the organization this year.

"We've been so active this year and hitting the fundraising aspect hard," he said. "We have our 50th anniversary coming up here soon and we want to be ready for it."

Among those initiatives was LIHA's sponsorship of the concession stand at two of the Hartwell Summer Concert Series events in Tilton this summer.

In addition to that and other fundraising, he said the group is always working on the land that Dulac has provided. There are the Arbor and vendor areas available for Powwow weekends, a kitchen, craft buildings and bath facilities that all require regular maintenance. In addition to that the property includes numerous campsites, memorials walking paths, roadways and a pond that must be kept up to snuff.

Those countless hours of maintenance are worth it all, though, Corso said.

During the Labor Day Powwow each year, they have not only attracted many Native Americans from near and far, they have also drawn in hundreds of others who simply want to learn more about their ancient culture.

"It's amazing! Through the years, we've seen over 4,000 license plates come through here from all over," said Corso.

Last weekend's annual Powwow once again attracted interested individuals and families from near and far. Among the many events they observed or took part in were a Mourner's Feast on Friday that included a candlelight vigil for loved ones lost. There was a Grand Entry each day at noon, dancing under the Arbor to the sounds of Four Wind Drums, along with vendors offering countless Native American crafts, books, hand-woven goods, rhythmic instruments and traditional regalia.

From 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday and Sunday, children were also invited to take part in a wide array of craft projects. Under the guidance of LIHA members, boys and girls could learn to make things such as models of tipis, dance sticks, dream catchers and leg bells. They were even given lessons on how to do intricate beadwork.

Each night over the weekend a second session of drum/dance sessions were held once again and on Sunday, all in attendance were welcomed to join together for a turkey feast.

Russ Shetenhelm and his wife Elly-O of Atkinson were dressed in beautiful Native American regalia, Russ's made by his grandmother he revealed, and were among the many who took part in this year's Powwow.

"We support all their activities and their Powwow each year because it helps preserve the heritage and keep the traditions alive," Elly-O said.

Corsi, who is not of Native American descent himself, said the traditions of Native Americans is the real focus of LIHA and anyone interested in their culture is invited to join them.

"I got involved in this through my wife and fell in love with it. The one thing I do now every year is make sure I get out there for at least one session of the dancing," he said. "It's an amazing culture. We have a good crew and a great board of directors who are working hard to preserve the Native American culture."

For those who want to learn more about LIHA, its history, scholarship programs that are open to all, or any upcoming events, please visit their Web site, www.lihanh.org.

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