Friday, November 22, 2013
By NATALIE WRIGHT
Gene “White Eagle” Allison, a member of the Red Hawk American Indian Culture Society and proud half Cherokee and half Irish American, dressed in full Cherokee clothing to speak at the Boardman library Nov. 7. He brought representations of Native American tools, weapons and other items with him for participants to view.
Allison’s discussion centered on many topics about American Indians, including modern and historical powwows, the relationships with nature and the land, hunting, planting, seasons, tobacco and other herbs as a religious tool and the camp as a family unit. He also spoke on many historical events, such as The Trail of Tears.
Allison told some traditional American Indian stories to illustrate many of his points. One story was about a beautiful maiden who, through the help of a nagging bird, discovers the ability to turn mud into pottery.
In addition to telling traditional tales, Allison spoke of his own journey to connecting to his American Indian heritage.
“I didn’t learn that I was part American Indian until I was 33-years-old and went to my first powwow,” Allison said. “I had such a great time and I just felt like I had come home. I called my father to tell him about it and he said, ‘Let me guess, you felt like you were home? Well, there is something I have to tell you.’”
From that moment on, Allison spent his life researching not only Cherokee heritage, but as many different histories of American Indian tribes as he could. He became involved in the Red Hawk American Indian Culture Society, where he is a storyteller and a powwow event organizer.
“We have powwows the third week in August every year at Mosquito Lake,” Allison said. “The public is invited to attend and it’s a great thing. There are so many nice people there and everyone is warm and welcoming.”
Allison spends much of his time traveling to schools and other community venues to speak about American Indian history and culture. In addition to the Boardman library, Allison recently spoke at Austintown, Canfield and Poland locations, as well.
“I love it,” Allison said of speaking to the public. “You tell kids something and you get this look and they see how you dress and have so many questions. It’s amazing. I love speaking to 80-year-old people and telling them to go to powwows and seeing them there for the first time. They make a point of telling you what a great time they had. Come to a powwow and you’ll meet a group of people like you’ve never met before: friendly, easy to get along with. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.”