Interview with Powhatan Red Cloud-Owen
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Cloud-Owen: Well, I was dancing, I think, all my life, ever since I can remember. My dad was very traditional and he taught us from when we were very small, to start dancing. To give an exact age, I really don’t know, I just feel like I’ve been doing it all my life. And there for a time, I fell out of it—and then years later, I came back to it, and then I left it again. I’m back to it now, and I’ve been dancing now, probably twelve years now straight. I dance as a straight dancer.
As far as the drumming, I came by drumming as I was asked sit on a drum, the Falling Water Drum, and be a part of that some years ago. And I guess that’s where I was initiated into the drum. And after that I drummed with some groups once in a while, off and on, and I guess my passion was more in dance, when I would go to powwows. And then I started organizing powwows, and I did that for about twenty years now. So I guess this latest drumming part that I’m in now, is that an intertribal drum group was formed to go to England. We didn’t have a drum among us that was made up of all the tribes. We thought it would be a good idea to have one, an intertribal drum from the eight recognized tribes of Virginia, so we put out some feelers for guys to come and join if they wanted to, and as of now we have about six members—well, we have more members than that on the drum, but they are from six different tribes, that drum now. And we started practicing in January of ’06, and by the time July ’07  came about, we were on our way to England, we were pretty well down to about seven or eight songs that we could really do together, real well. And now, we’ve been asked to drum at some of the tribal events, some signature events for Jamestown ’07 as well as upcoming events that we’re planning to do. What else do you want to know?
Wood: How you feel about the importance of continuing traditions, like dancing and drumming.
Cloud-Owen: Oh, I think it’s very important. In this day and age, well, let me back up to that a little bit. It’s very important, I guess you could say, for better words, what I’m trying to look for, it’s the liquification of our people that have gone away from our customs, and our dances, and especially our ceremonies, which have been long gone with the coming of the colonists, 1607, the destruction of our ways, and our ceremonies have long been gone. But I think there’s a revitalization to this that’s coming about, in song and dance, and I think teaching the youth today, the young people, that we still have our tradition to hold onto, to be proud of, and all that we have left, really—our language is long gone as well, as well as many of our customs and ceremonies. But still, you know, we still have a drum, we still have dancers, we still hold some of these things close to us. And I think that getting the young people involved, and getting more and more people involved, even the ones that wanna come out that are older, to come out and join in, it just uplifts me as an indigenous person, it just makes me feel better—it makes my heart lighter. It makes me forget things from the outside world, and it draws me closer to my ancestors, to my people, to say yes, I’m a part, I’m different from somebody else, you know, I’m Indian, or I’m Chickahominy, and this is what I do. And I just feel it’s an important part of our being.
Wood: You said your dad taught you to dance, did you teach your son to dance?
Cloud-Owen: Well, you know, it was always there, and he attended an Indian school from a Title IV program that came about, and we had a little Indian school there at our Tribal Center, and we taught the children pottery, beadwork and leather crafting, and plus they had dances that they would learn. And he made his regalia, he made a regalia when he went to France to dance some years ago, I forgot the year right now. But he became a part of that, I don’t think he actually learned from me, but there were sometimes when we would actually go together and dance, and that kinda drew us together in a way, also.
Wood: Do you hope that your grandchildren learn how to dance?
Cloud-Owen: Oh I hope so. There was a time there that they really wanted to, and I hope they still want to, but it’s exposure that they get, going to Indian events, powwows or gatherings. My son has a busy life, with three children now—a little bit over a year old, one’s a year old. The other’s four or five, and the other’s seven, and they’re just caught up with the daily activities of what normal children do, but they live so far away, they don’t have that contact like we have it back here. So I hope there’ll come a time when they’ll have another interest in it, really wanna come, and their dad will take them to more powwows and Indian gatherings where they will really want to do it. You can’t make a child do this. They want to do it, like I wanted to do it. I wasn’t pushed into it—my dad thought, well, when we were ready to dance, we’d dance, and you know, I’ve always wanted to, so I always did.