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Bermuda Powwow returns

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Honouring the ancestors: Bermudian Patricia Raynor dancing at a Bermuda Powwow (Photograph supplied)

On the last day of her first Bermuda Powwow, Carol Wynne wandered over to the vendor stands. She wanted to pick up a special souvenir to take home to Massachusetts.

“But I didn’t have enough Bermuda money to buy anything,” recalled Ms Wynne, a member of the Wampanoag tribe. “I only had plastic.”

But Bermudian vendor, Patricia Raynor, stepped in to give her something special, a long blue feather.

The two became instant friends, talking about the annual powwow in Ms Wynne’s home town of Mashpee, and people they both knew from the Bermuda Powwow. “It was her friendliness, calmness and naturalness that I liked,” Mrs Raynor said. “She had no put-ons.”

“I just knew right away that I could talk to Patricia,” Ms Wynne said. “She is very friendly and hospitable, and very soothing to talk to. Talking with her is like talking to an aunt I had years ago.”

Their friendship continued over social media, and that summer Mrs Raynor and her husband Steven, went to Mashpee to stay with Mrs Wynne and attend the Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow for the first time.

People at the powwow welcomed Mrs Raynor and other Bermudians as long lost cousins.

Many people in Bermuda believe their ancestors were bought to Bermuda as slaves during the Pequot wars in the 1630s.

“The tribal leaders called the Bermudians into the middle of the circle and told everyone who we were,” Mrs Raynor said. “It was like your mother invited you over to have supper. It felt that comfortable. And people there kept saying we looked like their uncle or their friend.”

Mrs Raynor has attended the Mashpee Powwow several more times since 2012 and was eventually given a Wampanoag name, Blue Blanket.

“The medicine man said he saw a healing spirit around me that represented the blue,” Mrs Raynor said. “He also felt I had a very comforting spirit and people could talk and feel comfortable with me. That is where the blanket came in.”

Mrs Raynor said the name fitted, because she has been growing her own food since she was 17, and often providing healing herbs like rosemary to friends and family. And vice versa, Ms Wynne continued attending Bermuda Powwows, and staying with Mrs Raynor’s family and sometimes with the family of Sinclair “Brinky” Tucker.

She is here again for Bermuda Powwow 2018 this weekend at the St David’s Cricket Club.

Ms Wynne feels just as at home here, as Mrs Raynor does in Mashpee.

“I swear some of my friends and relatives from back home have carbon copies here,” Ms Wynne said. “That is our ancestors DNA travelling.

“That is why it is so important that we all stay together. That little DNA is in each one of us keeps saying, hello, don’t forget who you are.”

The friendship has been a healing one for the two of them. “In Bermuda, way back when, our ancestors couldn’t talk about having Native American blood,” Mrs Raynor said. “The government would have stopped them. But the information started coming out.”

The 57-year-old started researching her Native American heritage in 2007. Mrs Raynor said years ago, watching old cowboy and indian movies, she was always on the side of the Native American, without really knowing why.

“I think it was just something that came from my DNA,” she said. “That is the way it goes. That is how I felt.”

When she reconnected with her Massachusetts cousins, she felt like a circle had been completed. “I felt ‘I am with my ancestors. I know what my culture is’,” she said. “You just feel complete inside.”

She started dancing in powwows a few years ago.

“My spirit felt really good,” she said. “When I was able to get my regalia and wear it to a powwow I felt complete. You order it online from different people.

“You ask questions about who makes what. Believe it or not, the first ceremonial blanket I made was a dark purply blue.

“This was quite a few years before I got the name Blue Blanket. When I got my name everything came full circle.”

Now she’s proud that one of her granddaughters, Keyahanee Burgess, 10, dances at the Bermuda Powwow. The last Bermuda Powwow was in 2015. There was none last year because of the America’s Cup. “I have been looking forward to it,” Mrs Raynor said. “Nobody is happier than me when I get to a powwow.

“I like everything about it, the drums, the socialising, talking with my foreign cousins. Just being together is wonderful.”

Today, Ms Wynne says she still has her friend and cousin’s blue feather.

“I keep it in a special place on my bureau,” she said.

Bermuda Powwow 2018 is on Saturday and Sunday from 2pm to 6pm on the St David’s Cricket Club grounds in St David’s. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. For more information e-mail africanqueen7@icloud.com or call 338-2712

Frequent visitor: Carol Wynne, member of the Wampanoag people of Cape Cod and the surrounding areas in Massachusetts (Photograph supplied)