Misericordia University Hosts ‘People of This Land’

Mike Gawlik, Reporter

Misericordia University hosted People of the Eastern Door, a non-profit organization that presented “People of This Land,” on Nov. 19, a play that recreated authentic native dances.

The people of the Eastern Door are Indigenous folks are dedicated to bringing authentic Native American presentations and gatherings/powwows to the Northeastern Pennsylvania area for the purpose of cultural education. The organization aids local communities by creating opportunities for the People of the Eastern Door to contribute to local charities and non-profit organizations.

Their committee consists of full and partial blood Natives representing several nations throughout the country and includes cultural educators, performance groups, veterans and first responders.

People of the Eastern Door educated Misericordia students and staff about Native American presentations and powwows, beginning with a grand entrance of song and dance through the crowd to the front of the stage. A narrator then explained the history of indigenous people and powwows, which bring people together to enjoy feasting, dancing, and singing. After, they showed a couple dances that would be performed at the powwows.

The first dance performed was a ceremonial and honoring dance consisting of five women and five men taking turns dancing to a beat. The second dance was the chicken dance, a solo dance for the male celebrating the interconnection between native people and this grassland grouse.

The group showed social dances with males and females on stage dancing with a partner to the beat of the wet drum, a little drum with water inside used in native culture. Depending on the noise the drummer wants to make, a cloth on top stays dry or the drum is flipped to make it damp for a different pitch.

The war dance, consisting of men only dancing in a circular motion, was performed after the social dance. War dances were used by early Choctaws to prepare for battle and are unusual in that the women join the men in dancing while, in most other tribes, only men take part in the war dance. After the war dance, the women appeared for the Eskanye song and dance where a singer sings the Eskanye while the women dance.

The next part of the performance consisted of the very fast-paced smoke dance used to clear smoke out of an area. Real smoke was used to show how it clears within seconds of the participants moving.

The next dance was a game called the robin dance which is like musical chairs without chairs. The woman dances in a circle going underneath the men’s arms held in the air. When the singing stops, the woman stops and the men lower their arms. To close the show, all performers appeared on stage and danced one last time for the audience.

People of the Eastern Door will host an Eastern Woodland Intertribal Powwow on June 3 and 4, 2023 at the Luzerne County Fairgrounds in Lehman Township. More information can be found on the Facebook and Instagram pages at People of the Eastern Door.