Oneida Powwow a culmination of family and labor


By Travis Cottrell - Kalihwisaks

As the 41st annual Oneida Powwow weekend draws near one can start to smell the fry bread in the air, feel the vibrations of the drums, and heat from that unavoidable humid Saturday.  No doubt a few days out of the year that many Oneida citizens look forward to.  But what of the rest of the year? How do the vendors prepare their booths? How do dancers ready their mind and body to endure a weekend of dancing?

For one of the Oneida Powwow’s most popular booths the preparation begins months beforehand.

Doreen Perrote, whose family operates the Cornelius Clan Booth, begins meeting with her sisters in April to discuss costs and supplies.

“We have lists of what needs to be purchased.  Those lists call for prices.  We call Woodmans, Sam’s, or Maplewood and we order our food ahead of time.  Then we call and reserve the Cannery to cook our meat there.  Then we schedule someone to do the picking up and ordering also cleaning and cooking,” Perrote said.

As food prices steadily ascend the task of pricing and planning food purchases presents new challenges every year.

“Last year side pork was 3.89 and this year it is 4.29 so we try to adjust our prices to what we are going to sell.  It seems like every year we go up a dollar on something because the prices keep going up.  But we try to keep the prices as reasonable as possible,” Perrote added.

Meat used in the booth must be cooked at the Oneida Cannery, the Civic Center, or the County H building per health codes.  In addition at least one person working in the stand must be a certified food handler.

In an effort to increase customer traffic and ease through transactions the Cornelius Clan looks to improve from year to year.

“We used to do hamburgers but they didn’t sell so we got rid of that then we did nachos and those sold well.  We used to sell tea but that didn’t sell so good but lemonade and water did.  We used to do soda but you need some many containers and ice that it wasn’t worth it.  Every year we think of something different to make it more efficient,” Perrote said.

The stand sees a steady flow of customers on Friday, but Saturday is by far the busiest day, with Sunday being relatively slow.

“This will be our 30th year that we have a stand.  We always tell everyone to focus on cleanliness, hands washed and gloves, hair tied up, no sandals, and to be friendly and smile.  We get pretty busy so it’s important to work together,” Perrote said.

While vendors sell food, drinks, and handmade items around the outside of the arena, dancers don traditional regalia in the center.

For Oneida Smoke Dancer Kanani Nunies, the Oneida Powwow is a time for excitement.

“When I am around other dancers I get energetic because you just kind of pick up other dancer’s energy and energy from the crowd so it is a good feeling,” Nunies said.

Nunies dances regularly in traditional socials and ceremonies throughout the year.

“For me all the socials throughout the year are a sort of preparation for the powwow.  But I always like to speed it up and try and be creative with different moves to add to my dancing for the powwow,” said Nunies.

Enduring the July heat in layers of traditional regalia, dancers have to provide their bodies with the sustenance it needs to stay active.

“I have one outfit that is velvet, the material is kind of thin, but the thing is it has backing on it to hold the beadwork.  So that makes it thicker and heavier.  I wish they were a little more breathable because it gets hot.  After one dance it gets drenched and it is even heavier.  But you get used to it.  You just have to make sure you’re hydrated because it always seems like Saturday is the hottest day,” Nunies said.

Nunies aims to place in Smoke Dance competition, but regardless of the outcome she values the time spent with friends.

“I always like to find a really nice piece of jewelry that I want and I dance really hard so I can place and get that piece of jewelry.  But I always like to be with friends who travel from far away and eat lots of food.  It’s always more fun than competitive for me,” said Nunies.

The 41st annual Oneida Powwow will begin on July 5th with grand entry at 7:00pm.  On Saturday July 6th grand entries will take place at 1:00pm and 7:00pm. Sunday features a grand entry at 12:00pm.  Advanced tickets are now available at the Oneida One Stop.