Powwow will honor many tribes, one spirit

Published May 3, 2007

TRINITY - Sheryll Kremer had always heard tales about her Cherokee ancestors. Her mother had traced family roots back about a century to a union between a Cherokee woman and German man in rural South Carolina.

And Kremer, 51, says she's always been proud of her American Indian heritage.

So, last January, when Kremer learned about a historical lecture hosted by an American Indian group known as Spirit People, she decided to take part.

And it's changed her life, she says.

Kremer started attending the group's monthly meetings. And in January, became a member.

"This feels like family, " Kremer said, referring to the Spirit People. "It's a spiritual way of living. It touches my soul. It completes me."

Now, Kremer is looking forward to her first big event with the group, the three-day Spirit People May PowWow that could draw close to 3, 000 people to the J.B. Starkey Ranch in Trinity starting Friday.

Spirit People is an eclectic mix of folks from various American Indian tribes who gather monthly for praying, singing and drumming.

It's a fairly new group that formed about five years ago with only a handful of people. At first they would meet at a member's home on a horse ranch in Trilby. Then, they quickly outgrew that, and relocated to a patch of forest at the Starkey Ranch. More than 100 people show up each month for meetings.

For Spirit People, their sanctuary is the great outdoors, nestled among towering pines and sprawling oaks. Their choir is the squawk of nearby cranes, herons and eagles.

The land on which they gather is a "sacred space, " because the ground is blessed beforehand, says Pam "Waterbird" Davison, who serves as the group's spiritual advisor.

Many Spirit People members are not full-blooded Native Americans. Davison herself is part Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw. But, she was raised Southern Baptist and as an adult "decided to follow the traditions of my people, " Davison says.

Now, she can speak a bit of Cherokee and is married to the group's chief, Robert Lambert, who is known as "Buffalo Eagle."

Some members are not even Native American by blood, Davison points out. But, it doesn't matter because "all who come in a good way are welcome."

Organizers say last fall's powwow drew about 3, 000 people. And the big spring event is creating a buzz among Indian circles in the southeast and beyond, Davison says. Visitors are expected from as far away as Canada.

"A powwow is kind of like a family reunion, " said Davison. "We all get together to sing, dance, drum. We honor our great spirits, mother earth. We honor our veterans, our children and our elders."

The gathering is meant to create a peaceful space where "there's no prejudice. Everyone is there to have a good time, " said Justin "Healing Water" Lambert, Davison's stepson, who is planning to fly down from Canada for the event.

And just like the various lectures Spirit People offer to churches, schools and organizations, the group hopes to use this powwow as a way to educate others about Native American heritage.

Participants can get a feel for traditions as Spirit People transform part of Starkey Ranch into a 1700s Indian village, complete with authentic teepees. Folks will demonstrate how to create intricate, hand-woven baskets and beaded jewelry. Others will string together leather for moccasins and medicine bags.

Folks can sample authentic American Indian fare such as fry bread, Indian tacos, and buffalo and venison stew.

And various groups of dancers dressed in brilliantly-colored, beaded and feathered regalia will take part in the highlight of the event, the Grand Entry.

New member Kremer is eager about the upcoming event, her first. She'll be taking several days off from her nursing job to attend. And she plans to pitch a tent and camp out on-site so she doesn't miss a minute of the powwow.

If you go

Public invited

Spirit People of America will host a three-day powwow starting Friday. The event is free to the public. Parking costs $5. Proceeds will benefit both J.B. Starkey Ranch and Spirit People of America. Alcohol and weapons are not allowed. For information, visit www.spiritpeople.org or call Pam Davison at (727) 773-2161.