By ROSA MERCADO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- There are some who consider dancing to be a recreational pastime.
For many American Indians taking part in a traditional powwow at Austintown Fitch High School this weekend, dancing means a lot more: It is integral to the lifestyle of their ancestors.
The powwow, which is much like a festival, is open to the public. It began Friday and runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and Sunday. Organizers said the powwow is the first sponsored by Soaring Hawk Village and Cultural Society, an American Indian social group.
Toni Lee, who is second chief and Wolf Clan Mother of Soaring Hawk Village, explained that the powwow, which includes about 20 American Indians dancing, drumming and singing, brings together people from different tribes.
Lee, who also uses the American Indian name Mother Spirit Rider, said: "It's a coming together of people who care about things and care about each other. ... You get a very spiritual feeling when you do these powwows because of all the positive energy, and all the positive things that come out of this."
Lee, a Youngstown native, took on the American Indian way of life two years ago when she was adopted into the Lenni Lenape tribe.
"There are a lot of people out there that just want to say, 'I'm Native American and I'm entitled to this and that,' but that's not what this [lifestyle and powwow] is all about," said Lee. "This is not about profit, or anything like that. This is about being spiritual, learning, having fun and meeting good people."
John Shadow Eagle, a traditional dancer and storyteller from Kitts Hill, Ohio, has been involved in the American Indian lifestyle all his life.
"Dancing is a form of prayer for me -- the drum has to reach you," said Shadow Eagle, a member of the Shawnee Nation who has lived on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
He added that it's important to learn about the American Indian lifestyle before deciding to participate. "It's kind of like a book; you have to read it first in order to know about it."
John Kountz, chief of Soaring Hawk Village, said he learned a lot about American Indians from the Seminole Indians when he lived in South Florida. "I've been following my heritage since I was young," said Kountz, an Austintown resident, who also uses the name Spiritwolf.
Kountz said he and his wife, Cindy "Shewolf" Kountz, married four years ago in a traditional American Indian ceremony in Ohio.
Another powwow participant, Jeannette "Silent Deer Walker" Bartoletti, said that the American Indian lifestyle allows her to be closer to Mother Nature, and her heritage. "We live by the old laws called 'wampum' laws, and we do as much of the old ways as we possibly can," Bartoletti said.
For more information on the powwow or the American Indian society, contact Cindy Kountz at (330) 799-7962.
The festival also includes vendors selling food, and jewelry and other American Indian craftwork.