Men dressed in brightly colored regalia and elaborate feather headdresses danced side-to-side in slow and graceful movements.
Metal jingle cones on women’s handmade clothes mimicked the sound of rain striking a tin roof as they clinked against each other.
The high-pitched sound of traditional Native American singing and rhythmic drumbeats echoed as about 40 men, women and children made a ceremonial grand entry Sunday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center during the 20th annual Four Winds Intertribal Society’s Powwow.
“I’ve been dancing since I was 2,” said Kay Kay Franklin, 29, an Arapaho Indian who wore a handmade bright orange dress adorned with elk teeth and intricately beaded moccasins specific to her tribe. “Just to hear the music and be able to dance; I’m really blessed to be able to do so because a lot of people don’t dance or aren’t able to.”
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Ray Duncan, chairman for the society and a member of the Cherokee Nation, said events like Sunday’s are important to preserve the culture and keep people from forgetting Native Americans’ presence in today’s world.
A sense of family, respect for elders, Earth and fellow man defines Native Americans, he said. Powwows show off the Indian tradition and heritage and dispel myths that Native Americans are savage, unkind and cruel.
“Everyone has a Hollywood vision of the Indian riding down half-naked on his horse, shooting arrows and screaming,” he said. “The community doesn’t realize how many of us are here. They pass us every day and don’t know we’re native.”
Andy Harlow, of Killeen, came to the powwow for the second year in a row to show appreciation for Native American culture.
“The outfits are beautiful. The dancing is beautiful. The people are all very friendly and very easy to talk to,” he said. “The historical and cultural aspect is interesting.”
Raised in a traditional family, Franklin attended powwows as a child with her grandmother and said she loves every aspect of her culture — from the language and singing to the intricate dresses and symbolic ceremonies.
“We are still very strong culturally and traditionally,” she said. “(It’s important) to see how special and unique we are and that our culture is still very present. It’s not dead. We’re keeping it alive.”