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Every dance a prayer
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 Blue skies and balmy temperatures welcomed the 200-plus dancers and attendees of the fourth annual Eastern Native American Charity Powwow at Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farm.

 The day of dancing and singing opened with the Grand Entry at noon, where flags representing different branches of the armed forces and the military conflicts of the 20th century - WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq - were posted around the circle. Veterans, police officers and firefighters were honored in the opening dance, lead by WWII veteran Jim Webb.

 Dancers, vendors and attendees came from across the Atlanta area and out of state, with one group originating as far away as Mexico City, Mexico.

 This was the fourth year attending the powwow at the farm for Ken Iron Horse, a card carrying member and second elder of the Four Winds Council of Madison.

 "Every dance is a prayer," he said. "The beat of the drum is called the heartbeat." He explained the dances were a way of thanking the creator and thanking the earth.

 Head Lady Gwen Babb of Monroe, crowned with a long queue of white hair down her back, wore a diamond-patterned "tear" dress representing the style worn by Cherokee women on the Trail of Tears, who repaired their clothes using flour sacks.

 She explained the shawls carried by the women dancers had emblems representing something important to the dancer. On a green shawl, which she called her warrior shawl, she carried military pins and medals of her family members who had served in the armed forces.

 Attendee Nana Byrouthy of Buckhead said she'd been going to area powwows for four or five years, though this was the first time she had been to Whippoorwill Hollow.

 Initially she went out of curiosity when she learned she might possibly have native ancestry, but over the years she had made friends and was attracted by the beauty of the different tribes coming together, she said. Her companion had more practical considerations in mind.

 "I'm just here for the tacos," he quipped.

 Food was an essential part of the experience. Carolyn Lowry gave a daylong demonstration of old-fashioned cooking, whipping up baskets of fluffy biscuits, bubbling pots of soup and smoky meats using cast iron Dutch ovens, wood fires and plenty of skill.

 "Anyone with a Dutch oven can survive out there as long as you can get a squirrel or something," she said.

 She explained how old time cooks measured whether an oven was ready for baking. When you couldn't keep your hands any closer than four inches from the oven because it was too hot, that meant it was about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, she said.

  The dances and songs continued throughout the day as attendees browsed vendor tents and food tents, or observed from the shade.

 Today, the hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with grand entry at 1 p.m.

 Admission is $10 per vehicle or $5 per person, with proceeds going directly to help Native Americans with diabetes and elders.

 For more information, contact Andy Byrd at (770) 601-0110 or Hilda Byrd at (770) 601-0109, or online at