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Independence Day for the Native American - July 4, Labor Day and Veterans Day Customs

Updated on August 16, 2011
Benjamin West's "The Death of General Wolfe." (Photos public domain)
Benjamin West's "The Death of General Wolfe." (Photos public domain)

First Peoples and Native Americans

My favorite 4th of July occurred as a youth some years ago in Washington DC. On the mall, returning Viet Nam service men from all of our country's branches of the armed forces gathered with other people to celebrate the holiday. There was a gathering of Native American nations as well, but not yet formalized into a national Pow Wow. it was a festival among other celebrations.

A nineteen-year old US Marine came forward to the speaker's stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He was offically recognized for accomplishments in battle and then walked off to prepare for another presentation. In a few minutes, he returned in full southwestern Native American ceremonial dance attire and performed for the crowd with traditional music and dummers in accompaniment.

Would they laugh at him? Would they throw stones at him for being a member of the military during an unpopular conflict?

The crowd was stone silent until the young man finished his outstanding performance - he was a winner of many dance competitions - and then thepeople erupted into thunderous, long-lasting applause. I was heartened by the crowd's response, even though I did not yet know about my own native hertiage. I thought about the people that were forced back westward onto reservations, but whose descendants defended America anyway, in every war afterward, especially WWII and Viet Nam.

As a teenager the Marine had not only embraced a military duty, but the culture of his native nation along with that of non-native America. it was a day for me to remember.

Team Grass Dance


The Native American Indian Center in Central Ohio (NAICCO) and partner orgnizations sponsor regional Pow Wows on national holidays in Ohio.They are held alternately in local state and county parks, on fairgrounds, and at other large venues. The Native American Indian Center focuses on two large yearly Pow Wows that honor our nations veterans and workers on Memorial Day Weekend and on Labor Day Weekend. July 4th activities occur in smaller venues in Central Ohio and larger locations across the state.

After years of marching in 4th of July Parades and enduring the organizational convolutions of such events, I've opted for the Pow Wows, nature, doing some errands for a few senior citizens, and then enjoying nature with friends.

Native Americans from all over North America attend and compete in traditional dancing and drumming competitions. Native North American businesses from Canada and USA showcase their products and services, and this includes much more than the find arts and crafts most people expect at such an event. One newer offering included digital productions of traditional stry telling, dances, history, and crafts.

Native Americans own and operate the same types of businesses that all other Americans make a success -- Not only Casino Hotels, but large farms and other green industries, manufacturing businesses, environmental concerns, museums and tourist retreats, health services, and many others.

The Great Mohican Indian Pow Wow is held a few days after the 4th of July in Loudonville OH and the link is:

An additional Pow Wow is held yearly during the second or third week of July in Waterford, Ohio. Named Honor Our Veterans Pow Wow, it celebrates not only indigenous service men and women, but all American service man and women, past and present.

Pow Wows across the nation can be found at:, since 1996 and on several state and tribal websites.

Final Dance Competition - Washington State


Couples' Rabbit Dance

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    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 8 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      In the Wisconsin Dells just north of where I live the First People perform for tourists, but everyone who goes to see the dances, who listens to the stories, and who knows anything at all about First People, learns something new.  It's more than just a dog & pony show.

      In my family the legend is that we have First People blood as well, from the Trail of Tears, when one of our female ancestors was adopted into a family in St. Louis.  I don't know the truth of it, and my research leaves it an open question.

      Just the same, after I met other members of our family, people I didn't even knew existed until about 10 years ago, they also told of the same legend.

      Whether or not I have First People's blood in me, I have learned a lot about the truths of the First People, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  But I do know that in these times First People and immigrant-heritage people live together, work together and intermarry.

      I also found it somewhat interesting that so many Germans believe they are reincarnated First People.  Some of my relatives in Germany & Holland. whose families did not emigrate to America, actually know in their hearts that in a former life they were First People.  And to them, it's more than just some silly desire - it's a matter of fact, in their eyes.  Somehow, I can't bring myself to disagree with them.

    • Tater2tot profile image

      Tater2tot 8 years ago from ~~~

      Wow. I want to attend a Pow Wow. Those dances are amazing. They must work really hard because they are so perfect with the other dances and hitting every beat. I have a little Native in me also. But very little.

      Those pictures are absolutely gorgeous, I can see why you like it so much.

      great hub. You did a fantastic job and it was very interesting. Thanks for answering my request.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      Chef Jeff, thank you very much for adding your contribution to this Hub. It has brought insight for people to gather up and take with them. The Germans seem to know where we all came from, somehow - a little like the Aborignals' Dream time - passing back through time while still being here - I have had that experince as well.

      Tater2Tot - It was my pleasure to answer this request for you. The research into First Peoples around the world is never ending. I find that more and more indigenous people share some of the same blood characteristics - Oceana indigenous peoples and Native Americans (I did a few Hubs); particular relationship words are shared by Iroquois and Zulu. it is all jaw-dropping.

      Best wishes! Happy 4th!   

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 8 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Great hub Patty.  I am part Kiowa/Kansa myself, so I found this hub to be very interesting.  I love the pow wows I have been to in the past, which are a great all day event in my opinion. 

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from North America

      Yes, when I attend, I don't want to leave. Everyone is very friendly, sponsors, native performers and presenters, visitors, everyone - I've never heard a harsh word at one of them.

      A Methodist minister in western Ohio is part of a remnant band trying to purchases back some previously held lands around Dayton, Yellow Springs, etc. He is the descendant of a tribal storyteller and he does the stories himself in full native clothing and the face paint the signifies the story teller. His videos are very good as well. His voice is soothing and the stories fascinating.

      I'm 3/8 Mohawk, as far as I can trace.

    • stutin profile image

      stutin 8 years ago

      Right on! I am always taken by the wonderful history of Native Americans, I think it is great that they have their unique culture and sense of recognition in America

    • New Day profile image

      New Day 8 years ago from Western United States

      Patty, I grew up in Washington State and one of my earliest memories from 1st or 2nd grade (in the early 1970s) is when we all made Native American vests and were taught dances by one of the boys in my class - and his father. It was so wonderful to learn about this other culture. I still remember the impact of those lessons over 30 years later. New Day.

    • profile image

      Julian Weller  7 years ago

      I have been interested in the culture and history i have been to a pow wow in uk and enjoyed it but really would like to attend a pow wow in USA , hope it does not offend any one .

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from North America

      Hi Julian -

      That's really interesting. What native nations performed at the UK Pow Wow? There are also some non-native groups that study the traditional dances and cremonies and demonstrate them in full regalia - I've never attended one of those events, but have seen them on YouTube. One group is from a Scandinavian country, if I recall correctly.

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