LITTLE BOSTON — While pow-wows are not part of the traditional culture of tribes from the Northwest, but their purpose for celebration of life with friends is what attracted a local man to start one on the Port Gamble S’Klallam Reservation nearly 20 years ago.
The 18th Annual Stan Purser Memorial Pow-wow was in full swing last weekend, as the Purser Family hosted the gathering in the tribal gym. Stan started it as the Port Gamble S’Klallam Pow-wow in 1985, but passed away in 1987 and the family felt it was appropriate to name it after him.
The two-day event included activities for the kids on Friday evening and a potluck and inter-tribal dancing on Saturday afternoon.
Stan’s wife, Irene, was pleased with the drug- and alcohol-free celebration, even more so when there was enough food for everyone during the potluck.
“We always worry about enough food, but we always have food left over,” she said.
The voice of Tom McGrady, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara nations of North Dakota, boomed from the mic system throughout the gym as he directed events like the Grand Entry and drum circles.
“The Pursers keep to strict tradition for celebration — this is their gift to you,” McGrady announced at one point.
But there was a new twist on the grand entry this year, said Ellen Price, a Purser family member.
“His granddaughters carried the flags during the grand entry,” she said, noting that men usually carry the flags and staffs.
Abby Purser, Becky Charles, Kwa-Kwain Price are the third generation of the Pursers and were chosen to carry the flags to honor war veterans.
The Purser family has a strong military background, Price explained. Stan served as a Merchant Marine and his father, Edward Purser, was in both world wars and the Canadian army. Price said two of her brothers are decorated military men as well.
During the veterans’ walk in the center of the gym, men and women stepped up to honor those they knew or themselves as veterans of wartime. In the end, both young and old were asked to come out and honor the veterans by shaking their hands and thanking them for their efforts for the country.
Throughout the late afternoon and into the evening, the drum circles continued to provide the pulse of the event, as a variety of natives, from men dressed in full regalia to young toddlers with feathers in their hair, danced in the middle of the gym.
“I like dancing a lot but sometimes I get really tired,” said Cheryl Archambult, a great-granddaughter of Stan’s and this year’s Lil’ Miss S’Klallam Days as she took a quick break. Archambult spent a good majority of the day performing traditional hop-skip dance steps, where she would swing her turquoise fringed wrap that adorned her traditional native dress.
Dawn Purser, a granddaughter of Stan, looked on in delight as the dancers circled by.
“He always wanted to do this when he was alive,” she said about the event. “That’s why I think it’s so important to keep it going.”
Dawn Purser also noted how Stan loved kids and always gave away free treats from a huge candy-filled fish bowl he kept at his home whenever he saw kids playing in the neighborhood.
“When they give out free candy (during the event), that’s what reminds me of him,” she said.
Betty Cantrell-Forgey of Montana, a member of the Sioux and Gros Ventres tribes, was at the S’Klallam pow-wow for the first time.
“It’s not the number of people dancing,” she said, taking a break from dancing while wearing her green velvet regalia. “It’s the spirit of the people and the building.”