Chambers Farm Thanksgiving Pow Wow, Ft. McCoy, Florida

For approximately the past 13 years, when I could, I would attend the Chambers Farm Thanksgiving Pow Wow. It’s a great opportunity to visit with many of my friends that are vendors, performers, and/or attendees at this event, which usually has over a thousand people in attendance. We are all grateful to Michael and Mimi for allowing us to use their property and for them putting on this spectacular, educational, inspirational, and meaningful event every Thanksgiving weekend.

This year, I was determined if at all possible, that I would go. My friend Albert Gray Eagle and his niece Tori were driving from Oklahoma City to attend. Albert was performing twice a day playing his flutes. I hadn’t seen Albert and Tori since October 2011 when I stopped in Oklahoma City to see them and attend their Completing the Circle event. There is also an album with pictures.

So, on Tuesday, November 26th, I packed my camper van Molly, and headed north towards Fort McCoy which is between Ocala and Gainesville, Florida. It’s about 340 miles from home. I stopped every hour and a half or so to stretch, get a snack, and rest. It was not easy to drive due to my discomfort, but I was determined to do it. I drove about 200 miles or so and then stopped for the night and continued on the next day. I only planned on being gone for a week, so I only packed  a few t-shirts and two pairs of jeans. I didn’t take my computer since I thought I would be back the next week. But, as it turned out, I stayed out and camped on the way back and was gone about 2 1/2 weeks. It was a great trip.

On Wednesday, my vendor friends Bear, Paul, Jeff, and several others, arrived and began setting up their booths. I helped when I could and talked with them, catching up on things since I last saw them earlier this year. On Thursday morning, we found out that there was going to be a covered dish meal at about 4 p.m. So, I made a dish to bring, and we all met in an area surrounded by several campers and had a big feast. Great food, lots of variety. I think there were 5 or 6 turkeys, some baked others were deep fried. There was ham, stuffing, veggies, desserts, etc. No one left hungry. We were a group of mixed people and everyone got along. I met lots of new people I hadn’t met before.

The pow wow grounds and all around the circle have large trees with moss hanging down. I’ve heard from people over the years that they can feel the spirits of dancers in the circle and on the grounds. There is such a peaceful feeling on the grounds, especially when I look at the trees that have been there for generations. Pow wows have been held on this property for over 35 years.

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On Friday, Albert and Tori arrived. I was so very much looking forward to seeing them again. Albert and I talk on the phone frequently, but it’s not the same. He is one of my heroes. He has been battling his own serious health issues, yet he still does so much for others. Albert has the biggest heart and kindest spirit. We met at Chambers Pow Wow in November 2010. I had my 4 operations that year and was feeling really bad and in lots of pain. Albert had just finished treatments for cancer and felt about the same as I did, yet, he still performed at the pow wow. We had an instant connection when we met, and we have stayed friends over the years.

Friday morning Albert performed, then we hung around and visited during the day. Pam and Jeff arrived on Friday afternoon which was also great. It was their first time at a pow wow, and I was able to introduce them to my friends. Albert told me to be near the circle at 5:00 p.m. when he was to perform again. I said of course I would, I didn’t want to miss hearing him play the flute and hear the stories he tells about the songs. So, Pam, Jeff, and I set up our chairs on the outside of the pow wow circle, just behind the benches and waited for him to play.

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Albert Gray Eagle

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Albert began his performance, he played several songs honoring the veterans and soldiers. He is a Vietnam Vet. Then, after he played 3 or 4 songs, he said he wants to play a song for a special friend. Albert began to tell about me and my story and said that I am an inspiration to him and others. He used words that touched my heart such as courage and inspiration. I feel the same about him. He invited me into the circle and brought a chair for each of us to sit in. Then, Albert told everyone that he wrote a song called Carol’s Adventures that he wants to play. He also told us that he is one of a select few that was invited to write part of a soundtrack to be considered for a movie that is being written about Sacagawea. She was the only Native American Woman who served as an interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 and 1806. Albert said that the melody of the song he wrote for me, Carol’s Adventures, ironically fits with the ballad that was written for the movie.  Click here to hear Albert Gray Eagle playing the song Carol’s Adventures. It’s in the Chambers Farm Pow Wow album at the bottom of the photos with other videos.

IMG_2076I feel so proud that Albert was selected to write part of the song for this movie, and how cool it would be, and a huge honor, if his song was included in the winning song. And, the special song he wrote for me would be a part of it. I hope that Albert’s song is the winning theme song for the movie about Sacagawea. So, I sat near Albert while he played the song and I had tears in my eyes and love in my heart while he played. What a extraordinary and special memory for us, and I think also for those who shared it with us. Pam said she cried too, so I know I’m not alone in the emotion of this song that Albert wrote from his heart and spirit, just for me. I feel so very honored, not only that he wrote this song for me, but that he is my special friend. Since we both have serious health issues, we have lots in common, and we know how precious every day is. Song by Albert.

Albert introduced me to some of his friends at the pow wow that I had heard about over the years talking with him, but that I hadn’t met. We got to spend time together getting to know each other, and now I have a few more friends. During the next few days, we got to visit and get to know each other better. On Friday night, Albert invited Pam and I into the circle and we danced some of the songs. It was Pam’s first time doing it and I think she liked it. It was really a special time for us.

IMG_2061On Saturday morning, Albert performed again, and once again, among other songs he played, he played my song. How cool is it to have a song written just for me. Albert, Tori, and Donna, ate a few meals with Pam, Jeff, and me. Pam and Jeff brought some leftovers from their Thanksgiving dinner and I had some too. We spread them on a picnic table and others joined us, and we had a great feast for lunch with the leftovers.

During the 3 day event, there was storytelling, flute playing, other musical performers, drumming, grand entry dances, Intertribal dances, and other activities. There was also a campsite set up to show the various things that were used in the olden days. In addition, there was an area where children could do some crafts to take with them. One little girl made a necklace with Albert’s name and gave it to him. He was so touched by her gesture, and he put it on and wore it the entire weekend. He was wearing many items that children made for him over the years. Albert does a lot of volunteering with children, especially those with cancer.

Everyday, there is a ceremony where the flags are brought into the circle and songs are sung in honor of the veterans and soldiers. Native Americans always honor the veterans at the pow wows. They are treated with respect and honor and thanked for their service to our country. It’s really touching to watch the veterans proudly honor the flag and their branches of service.

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Donna and Albert

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Drummers playing

Grand Entry is when all of the Veterans and dancers line up to come into the circle to dance. It’s very ceremonial and also colorful. Each dance tells a different story.

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Carol and Bear

 

 

By the way, the weather was cold from Wednesday through Friday. At night it was in the mid 20’s to low 30’s, during the day it warmed up to the 60’s. I’m glad I brought a warm coat and gloves. It was too cold to sleep in my camper. So, I slept on the sofa in my friend Bear’s camper. He has a furnace so we had heat and stayed warm. I was parked next to his camper, which was behind his booth, so it was very convenient.

Pam and Jeff left on Saturday night and they told me they really enjoyed the pow wow and meeting Albert, Tori, and the others. I’m glad we were able to be there together. In August, when Pam and I started talking about the pow wow, it didn’t seem that I would be able to go. I’m so glad it worked out that I could.

Sunday morning there was more storytelling, flute playing, and dancing. In the afternoon, just as the pow wow was winding down, the event organizers did a few ceremonies thanking those who helped by giving them tokens of appreciation. Michael and Mimi who own the land and put on the pow wow told Albert, Tori, and me to stay by the circle. Albert was one of the color guards who retired the flags. Lots of the committee members and volunteers were called into the circle by name. One at a time, each was given a full size blanket and then went down the line getting hugs from the others. Albert and Tori were called, then a few others, and then my name was called. Boy was I surprised. I was also given a blanket, and I went down the line getting hugs too. I didn’t help much, so I was really surprised. Then we all danced in the circle, it was an awesome experience.

Albert and Carol

Albert and Carol

After the flags were retired, Rick Byrd the emcee asked Albert Gray Eagle, Head Man Dancer Burke, and Head Woman Dancer Juanita to come into the circle, then he asked me to also. He also asked the drum to play a prayer song for me and invited people to come around the drum to be part of the ceremony. Michael and Albert had evidently, unknown to me, asked the emcee and drum if a prayer song could be sung and drummed for me. They made time to do it before the pow wow ended. So, the singing and drumming began, and the 4 of us danced in the circle, while about 2ww0 or so people stood around the drum singing the prayer song. Then, I see my friend Bear coming towards us and he was singing at the drum for a while, then he came and took my hand and danced with us. Alvon the DJ went and told my friend Bear what was happening and Alvon watched Bear’s booth so he could come join us. I had tears in my eyes again.  Listen to Alvon Griffin on his radio station Two Worlds Indigenous Radio. He’s on Sunday nights from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Recently, Albert, Michael, and I talked about the prayer song, and what we experienced during the prayer song, and we all felt the presence of God and the angels with us in the circle. While we were dancing, which is really walking in rhythm to the beat of the drum, Albert told me he felt a someone walking with us. I’m sure it was a strong spirit if Albert felt it strongly. I felt a strong energy with us too, I know my heart and spirit were touched very deeply and I knew I was loved and not alone. Michael said he saw a light around us in the circle and knew the angels came and touched us. Michael told me the song is famous and called Pee Wee’s Prayer song.

What an extraordinary, memorable, several days it was for so many of us. It was hard saying goodbye to Albert, Tori, Bear, Donna, Juanita, and so many others. We all feel so blessed that we had this time together and we will always cherish it. As I was writing this story, I found it difficult to put what I felt during these days into words. It was such an emotional time for not only me, but for several of us, for some of the same and also different reasons. I’m so grateful that we were all able to get together and have this time, what a huge blessing. More pictures in an album. Even though I was in pain and took my medicine and rested when I needed to, the energy and love I got by being with everyone here recharged my batteries and energized my spirit.

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