A group of dancers enter during the 2018 Trail of Tears Intertribal PowWow in Hopkinsville. The 2020 powwow has been canceled due to the threat of COVID-19 and rescheduled for Sept. 11-12, 2021.

The grand entry, dancers and drum competition at the 33rd annual Trail of Tears Intertribal PowWow will have to wait until next year.

According to a Facebook post on the powwow’s event page, the Trail of Tears Commission decided the risk of COVID-19 was too great to host a crowd at this year’s event:

“Thank you everyone for your patience and feedback concerning our September 2020 powwow. Our community’s health and safety is our utmost concern, and we believe it is best to postpone this year’s powWow due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. We strive to maintain a healthy and safe event every year and we believe this decision is what’s best to keep our friends and family safe. We look forward to seeing everyone next year (September 11-12, 2021), until then stay safe and healthy and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.”

Timothy Moss, vice president of the commission and powwow coordinator, said in a phone interview with the New Era that the 20-member commission voted Tuesday evening to cancel this year’s event.

“It was under a lot of debate and discussion, but we actually just finished our final vote last night,” he said. “And, it was a majority vote to not have it.”

Moss said the members were considering those who are most at risk for contracting the virus.

“A lot of it was that we just didn’t want to be the cause of an uptick in the spread with our elders and the immune-compromised,” Moss said.

According to the Indian Health Service — the federal health program for American Indians and Alaska Natives — 463,650 Native Americans across the country have been tested and 30,987 have been positive. Of those, 1,469 tested positive for the virus in the Nashville area.

Moss said interest in the powwow’s drum competition has grown in recent years, ultimately drawing more Native Americans to the Hopkinsville event.

“We have a drum compettion that interest has increased for, and we’re getting more dancers to come back from tribes all over North America because we are one of the only intertribal powwows across the country,” he said. “We’re looking forward to representation of more tribes as the event grows.”

The new date of the powwow is Sept. 11-12, 2021.

Moss said the commission plans to still host smaller events and tours at the Heritage Center in Trail of Tears Commemorative Park, 100 Trail of Tears Drive. Weekly storytelling at the center is also still planned for November.

To schedule a tour, call the center at 270-886-8033.

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