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Plaza powwows  to aid veterans

CHARLEMONT — For roughly 40 years, Memorial Day weekend has marked the start of a summer season of Intertribal Powwows at the Indian Plaza, at 1475 Mohawk Trail.

But it’s also a time to remember America’s military veterans. This weekend, Indian Plaza owner Harold Roberts hopes the event will help raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which assists wounded military and combat veterans.

The Wounded Warrior Project, a national organization, assists thousands of veterans who have suffered a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, during their military service on or after September 11, 2001. Their programs range from combat stress recovery programs to economic empowerment, from adaptive sports events to family-support retreats.

“I’m a vet, too, and I know ... I’ve been through it,” says Roberts, a Vietnam War veteran, who has some Mohawk ancestry. Roberts was disabled in combat.

“It’s hard coming from the war. Your world is topsy-turvy.”

Roberts said his father began the powwows about five years before Roberts took over the family business — a gift shop that presented weekend powwows over the summer. The gift shop is now closed, as Roberts considers himself retired, but the powwows go on.

The word “powwow,” says Roberts, comes from an Algonquian word “pau wau,” which means “medicine man,” or “he who dreams.”

These Charlemont powwows are three-day celebrations, open to descendants of all Native American tribes. Events go on each day, Saturday through Monday, from about 10 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m. At around noon, tribal participants in traditional regalia participate in a “Grand Entry” parade, which culminates in a day of drumming, singing, dancing, storytelling and the sharing of native culture.

There is a daily raffle, from noon to 5 p.m., which Roberts says helps pay for wood for the fire and food for the drummers. There is a candy dance each day for the children, and guests may dance in the circle when there is an intertribal dance.

No drugs or alcohol are allowed.

Many of the powwow participants have set up booths with native goods for sale. Also, buffalo burgers and other foods will be available.

The powwow itself is admission-free. To help the Wounded Warrior Project, there will be a donation booth and a donation receptacle at the visitor information area.

“If I can get more people up here, to come to the powwows, that’s good. But, if I can do something for others, I’d really like that, too,” said Roberts.

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