by Stephen Margelony-Lajoie
The Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center (JWECC) closed off its Native Heritage Month by hosting Nikkomo, a pre-winter celebration, last Friday December 9, 2011. Nikkomo is one of many “thanksgivings” celebrated throughout the year that correlate with harvest times. It’s the final thanksgiving celebration of the year, signaling the beginning of winter and a coming together of people.
The night kicked off with socializing before a meal, which began after a group prayer. Some of the entrees included a dish called “Three Sisters” (which consisted of a combination of corn, beans and squash) and salmon with wild rice. All of the food was absolutely delicious and very well prepared by volunteers at JWECC, who made it obvious that they poured their hearts into making the meal and the night welcoming to all.
The night’s events continued with a drumming session that evoked a certain feeling of power and couldn’t help but grab everyone’s attention in the room. I couldn’t help but notice money tied to the drum and after a performance, I found out that the money wasn’t a tip like I had thought. The money was given by an audience but the money meant more than its materialistic worth: it represented the blessings and prayers of good fortune for the performers. The drum sessions continued and even had some surprising English lyrics such as “damn I’m screwed, singing the blues”, which is typical of a 49er, a night dedicated to playing forty-nine songs after coming back from war that usually consist of a fusion of traditional and English lyrics.
Before the night came to an end, the drumming was stopped and aprons were presented to quite a few members of JWECC. These aprons were a gift that represented the extraordinary growth a person had accomplished by helping out at JWECC, by growing more responsible while away from home and by showing substantial inner growth. It was a very sentimental end to the night and was continued by more drumming.
The JWECC sponsored an event that was both very fun and educational. For more information about the Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center, the center is found in Chadbourne Hall (located in the Central Residential Area) and, also, visit http://www.umass.edu/nativestudies/ for information about the Certificate Program in Native American Indian Studies.