Seminole Tribe of Florida Fair & Pow Wow 2019

By Sandra Hale Schulman
- News From Indian Country -
The 48th Annual Tribal Fair and Pow Wow at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida was a riot of color, dancing, music, and films amid the construction of a huge new resort. The three-day cultural festival featured the Native Reel Cinema Fest, alligator wrestling shows, dance troupes from all over the country, musical performances and more.

Construction of the new multi-billion dollar resort with its 450-foot high guitar shaped hotel and 5-acre lagoon pool, new arena theater and 30 new restaurants has caused the pow wow to be moved around in recent years. It will all be completed by fall of this year.

The Hard Rock Guitar Hotel under construction.

The Seminoles ownership of the international Hard Rock chain has given them enormous financial clout and freedom, allowing the tribe to grow their reservations and support systems of education and healthcare.

This year the main powwow was in a new Event Center, a 3,600 seat venue that comfortably accommodated the hundreds of dancers and thousands of spectators. The wing outside of the Center is enclosed, carpeted, air-conditioned, and roomy enough to hold dozens of clothing, antique and jewelry vendors, as well as separate rooms for the Native Reel Film Festival and a photo-op room.

The Pow Wow Grand Entries were powerful and awe inspiring, as almost a thousand dancers, flag bearers, and Seminole Tribal Chiefs filed into the ring to the cheers of the crowd. Over the weekend there was a drum competition of northern and southern drums, a dance competition in northern traditional, southern straight, fancy, grass and chicken for the men and northern traditional, southern buckskin, fancy, jingle and northern/southern cloth combined for the women. Prizes for thousands of dollars were awarded.

Singers and Flag Bearers bring in the dancers during the 2019 Seminole Fair Pow Wow Grand Entry.

Traditional Seminole ways of life were featured in War Tactics demonstrations – the Seminole are known as the “Unconquered” Seminole Tribe of Florida, because the Tribe never signed a peace treaty with the U.S. Government – along with alligator wrestling, a clothing contest and art exhibit.

The Native Reel Festival, headed up by Everett Osceola, April Kirk and emceed by Brian Zepeda, brought in native actor Martin Sensmeier (who starred in The Magnificent 7 and will play Jim Thorpe in an upcoming Angelina Jolie produced biopic), singers Spencer and Doc Battiest, and two actors from the acclaimed 1988 film Smoke Signals – Cody Lightning and Simon Baker. Baker recalled how he initially didn’t want to play the nerdy role of Thomas in the film, preferring the tougher role of Victor, but director Chris Eyre insisted he was the right kid for the role. Cody Lightning said his experiences with bullying helped him play the wounded young Victor who struggles with his alcoholic fathers absence.

Award winning singer, songwriter, producer Keith Secola from Tempe Arizona provided music after the screenings that turned into high energy sing and dance along of his sly humorous anthems NDN Car and Frybread.

Award winning singer, songwriter, producer Keith Secola from Tempe Arizona provided music after the screenings that turned into high energy sing and dance along of his sly humorous anthems NDN Car and Frybread. Secola has worked with everyone from the late Floyd Westerman to Bonnie Raitt to The Doors John Densmore. Keith handed out free CDS and generously posed for pictures.

Smoke Signals screened on Friday, the 20 year old film holding up well with its messages of forgiveness and memory. On Saturday a series of short films included the unexpected Thunderdance, a sort of Stomp Dance done native style with swing music and couples hoofing it in the streets. A DreamCatcher Bio, the Canadian series that is not available in the US yet, focused on the history of the Seminole Tribe, showing how they went from “bingo to billions”, carving a prestigious life out of the swamp with archival photos and interviews with key Tribal Chiefs.

Martin Sensmeier, Keith Secola, Simonn Baker, Doc batiest, Cody Lightning, Brian Zepeda and Spencer Battiest.

Another short film, Christmas in Ochopee from Montana Cypress, was a visual pun filled comedy where an alligator head with an apple in its mouth is served to an unsuspecting guest at Christmas. Cypress also screened his new film Two Brothers, filmed in the Everglades.

The quality and quantity of crafts was exceptional this year, with antique dealers selling rattlesnake skeleton necklaces, vintage turquoise and silver, gorgeous Seminole patchwork skirts and jackets, and native beaded jewelry. Food was everywhere thanks to the frybread stands outside and the high end choices of Council Oak Steakhouse and the newly expanded Hard Rock Café with its rock memorabilia and steak burger room.

The Osceola Brothers, hard rocking siblings, and Grammy Award-winning country music singer Gretchen Wilson performed, capping off a colorful, energetic, inclusive festival Seminole style.

Support or NFIC. Thank YOU!!