Coweta teacher blends history with a cause: to help a student

For Welch Elementary School music teacher Melissa King, the inspiration to orchestrate Coweta County’s first Native American powwow came from her love of acknowledging America’s history and the desire to help a Native American girl in need. She pulled the large event off in record time and gave Coweta County residents in late November a glance of American history.

That help was on behalf of Veronica Geuvara, who is of Ojibwa decent and dances the Northern Traditional dance style. Now 13 years old, Veronica in June underwent 10 hours of reconstructive spinal surgery to correct scoliosis. King said producing the event provided a way to help with Veronica’s medical bills.

“Due to unfortunate circumstances, insurance would not cover the operation, so the family is paying out of pocket. The medical bills started to arrive and the total quickly became astronomical,” King said. “In honor of Veronica, I put on the benefit powwow called Nde N’keshkdaading in Ojibwa (‘Hearts that Meet’ in English). She is a very sweet and caring young lady who always brightens up the room when she enters. By looking at her, you would never have known that she was in pain due to her scoliosis, not even when she danced.”

It was in late July that King began her preparation for “Hearts that Meet.” She took flyers for the planned event to the several pow-wows she attended each month. Her attempts at attracting vendors and dancers was bolstered by the information she received from other powwow organizers, King said. She also used Facebook as a venue to get the word out.

“I’ve loved to dance since I was six years old and I love to go to powwows,” said King. “So why not do what I love and help somebody out. Once I got the dancers, musicians and vendors I found the (Coweta fairgrounds) location and sponsors.

King said she operated with a seven-person committee and received volunteer help from Coweta’s middle and high school students.

Considering that most powwow events are planned over the course of a year, King was pleased that Hearts that Meet came together in what was essentially four months. And come together it did.
Nearly 800 people attended the first of its kind event in Coweta. The day-long event included 30-35 dancers, 15-20 drummers and flute players, storytellers and a variety of vendors.

“Every year I include Native American heritage into my teachings to show all of my students various items such as, outfits, toys, drums, dance styles and music. I encourage my students to try and dance several of the Native American dance styles as well as to try to sing with the Native American drums,” said King. “My primary goal was to bring Native American dancers, singers, entertainers, and educators together for this one day to help educate the Coweta County students, parents and faculty members.”

For King, the first powwow is done but the second is already in the works for next fall.

“I’ve received excellent feedback from those in the school system who attended,” King said.”My students are still talking about it.”