THE POW WOW PATH LEADS TO FAMILY & FRIENDS DANCE COMPETITIONS BUILDS NATIVE AMERICAN PRIDE WITH TRADITIONS LINKING TO THEIR PAST !
Today’s POW WOW has evolved from a large homecoming celebration to categories, styles and competition. Dancers on the Pow Wow highway find themselves crisscrossing states and regions picking up rodeos as they go. For many it has become a lifestyle like a rodeo cowboy, with prize money helping to pay the way and always headed somewhere. For others, Pow Wow is family time when old friends get together, but Pow Wow also honors First Americans traditions, creating a spiritual link to their ancestors.
One Dancer at the San Xavier Pow Wow shared with me a horsehair braid he wears with his dance regalia. “My father was a wrangler and I often hope I will have a horse again like I did in my youth! This braid links me with all those hopes, feelings and connections to family and ancestors. The Poncas of Nebraska created the first powwow in the early 1800s, the modern day powwow developed among the Plains tribes during the 1920’s. The idea quickly spread and today members from tribes coast to coast participate in pow wows. Over the years, powwow have added contests or dancing competitively for prize money and today there are more than 300 pow wows each year, and the size and popularity of contests-some fill sports arenas! But the small, non-competitive and family-oriented events remain popular as well.
A powwow is a gathering of American Indians who come to dance, celebrate, pray, laugh and socialize. But for each person the meaning of the powwow, and their place in that ceremony, can only be defined by themselves.
For the hardcore powwow folks, the arena is a sacred but fun place, its heartbeat resides in the music. The songs are divided into two main styles, northern and southern. Northern singers have a higher pitch than the deep tones of the southern singers. Some songs have words while others are pure chanting. An honor song, for example, might be composed for someone who has recently returned from the military, or for someone who recently passed away. Other songs provide ladies the chance to ask that special man to dance. Yes, at powwows, songs for sweethearts are strictly ladies choice! It’s safe for anyone to join the dancing when the announcer calls for an “inter-tribal dance. There are some old favorites songs passed down from earlier generation. “Some songs are owned by one family”, other songs, “are older than dirt”! but today many drum groups are formed that use their own languages to create new dance songs. At San Xavier, Wild Band, Black Mountain Singers, Southern Comfort, Preying Eagles, Sage Point and Blue Thunder Singers fill out the dance card throughout the pow wow.
The popular Hoop dance, creates shapes in storytelling rituals forming the butterfly, the eagle, the snake, and the coyote, the hoop symbolizing the never-ending circle of life. Native American Hoop dance focuses on very rapid moves, and the construction of hoop formations around and about the body. The hoops used are typically of very small diameter 1-2.5 feet. In elaborate sequences of moves, the hoops are made to interlock, in such a way they can be extended from the body of the dancer to form appendages such as wings and tails. The hoops are often handmade by the dancers out of plastic piping though some are made of wood and wrapped in colorful tapes.
Native American Hoop Dance has been recognized as a cultural heritage, embodied in both documentary films and as a living tradition in formal competition. The most popular competition occurs annually at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. Up to 80 dancers have participated in some years, and the competitions have drawn as many as 10,000 spectators.
The first World Hoop Dance Competition was held at the New Mexico State Fair in 1991. The first World Champion Hoop Dancer was Eddie Swimmer, a Cherokee from Cherokee, NC. The venue was moved to the Heard Museum’s early February event in Arizona for the second event and the first adult winner of the permanent venue was Quentin Pipestem of the Tsuu T’ina Nation in Alberta, Canada. The hoop dance has evolved over the years by becoming faster and has incorporated many influences from outside traditional cultures such as the use of hip hop moves as well as the wide use of industrial piping to construct hoops that were once were made from reeds or willow branches. Hoop dance has gained a strong following as an increasing number of dancers tour the world.
Pow-wow, from the Algonquian word for a gathering of people, began to be used in Oklahoma around 1900. Soon the dance on the Southern Plains took the form of the traditional Straight Dance: traditional dancers move proudly and sedately. On the Northern Plains each tribe developed its own unique styles, such as the Northern Traditional. Over the decades other styles of both male and female dance movements and songs have developed: the modern Grass, Fancy and Traditional dances for men; the Shawl, Cloth, Buckskin and Jingle Dances for women. The Shawl Dance is the women’s fancy dance, with elaborately beaded or sequined tops and leggings. The dances continue to develop as more and more tribes outside the Plains tradition have begun to join in pow wows in order to make social connections with other tribes for friendship, trade and to be part of the Indian pow wow movement. Pow-wows follow a traditional form: they begin with a grand entry, flag ceremony, invocation; followed by a sequence of dances, dance contests, singing, drumming, prayers, speeches, and honoring ceremonies such as giveaways of presents. There are usually four dance contest categories: tiny tots; boys and girls; young men and women; elder men and women. They compete in Straight or Traditional, Fancy, Grass, Jingle and Shawl Dancing. The contests are judged by people knowledgeable in pow-wow style dancing, who are dancers themselves. Early pow-wows usually held dance contests, but without the cash awards of today. Pow-wows vary from place to place. In some areas a pow-wow is primarily a spiritual and traditional celebration, while in other areas it is a more social, secular and commercial event. Many pow-wows in Indian Country are not announced in the non-Indian media, and outsiders are rarely invited to some very traditional ceremonies. Indian people from many tribes gather from every direction to participate in the activities, to meet old friends and to be part of the culture.
Meanwhile in southern Arizona, the Wa:k Pow Wow held at San Xavier second weekend in Februrary is advertised as the largest gathering of Native Americans and I presume Pow Wow dancers because it does get a lot of dancers and lots of winter visitors turn out and watch. But better pow wows are held in Sells and Sacaton, both on the reservation, with fewer fences and more access to the dancers. The biggest is the Window Rock Pow Wow but pow wows trickle from two-year colleges like Pima College in Tucson, or the University of Arizona, Arizona State and Northern Arizona University all have their pow wows. The Casa Grande Odham Tash once challenged the bigger events but it has fallen on hard times, but other pow wows now flourish.
Quapaw Tribe Oklahoma is celebrating its 143rd Annual Pow Wow, July 2-5th, 2015 the oldest and longest running powwow. Today’s pow-wows are integral to today’s resurgence of Indian pride, and a primary way that Native people develop inter-tribal culture in a modern context without each tribe giving up its own unique identity. For urban Indians in particular, where Native culture is often very low profile, pow-wows are a way to develop a contemporary context in which each tribal culture can continue, and have helped to create the great movement that is shaping the indigenous revival of today. Understanding the modern pow-wow is central to recognizing the revitalization of indigenous culture with its values of respect for the earth, living in traditional balance and respect for the multiple of cultures.
Competitions are the main focus of the powwow for some participants, but other types of activities occur at various points during the event. Giveaways are common, and inter-tribal and special dances are interspersed throughout the affair, giving noncompetition dancers a chance to participate. Raffles are frequently held to raise money in support of the event or to help sponsor the next powwow. After the formal portion of the powwow, young dancers often get together in the late evening for a round of dances. The informal nature of these dances contrasts with the relatively rigid structure of other powwow dances. This is a time for celebration for young adults who dance into the early hours of the morning. Contemporary powwows play an important role in the social and cultural life of Native Americans. They are a celebration of heritage and tradition that has survived in a unique form apart from the daily lives of the participants. Powwows engender a sense of community and belonging among the people who participate. The music and dance are naturally dissemination because they are so visible, and recordings of powwow songs disperse Native American culture not only among Native American communities but also among people from other communities. All through the day, dancers perform demonstrations of various cultural dance styles in their native regalia. Women Dance Styles – Women and girls wear long-skirted fringed buckskin dresses decorated with intricate beading designs of beads, shells, and bone beads, carrying their feather fans and a folded fringed shawl for the traditional Women’s Buckskin Dance. The Women’s Cloth Dance is another traditional dance style. Regalia is made of cloth and styles vary greatly among the tribe. The feather fan and fringed shawl are also part of this regalia.
Young girls wear colorful cloth dresses with beautifully decorated colorful shawls worn over the shoulders for the Fancy Shawl Dance. The dance steps are intricate and spirited but always in harmony with the drum. The Jingle Dance is a colorful dance style originally from Canada, the regalia is colorful with beaded moccasins and leggings. The most unique feature of the regalia is the 365 jingles or tin cones that adorn each dress. Each cone represents a prayer and the total equals a prayer for each day of the year. This dance is a very spiritual dance for healing while the steps are quite fast-paced. Men’s Dance Styles – The dance styles for men are equally colorful and energetic. The first of these is the Men’s Traditional, a northern dance style. The regalia typically includes natural feathers, bustles and bone breast plates over leather. The dance steps are proud and they tell the story of the warriors deeds in battle. Another traditional dance is the Men’s Straight or Southern Straight Dance. This dance’s regalia includes the porcupine headdress with a single feather, ribbon work on the apron, vests, leggings, otter skin trailers and sashes. It is a story dance about the warrior’s hunt.
The Men’s Grass is an old dance style from the northern tall grass prairie regions. Regalia is brightly colored fringed yarn or ribbons that mimic the prairie grass swaying in the wind. These dancers created the dance circle by dancing the grass flat.
Men’s Fancy is a modern dance style, got jump-startered in the Wild West Shows popular at the turn of the century. Its regalia is colorful top and bottom, bustles adorned with feathers and bead work on the back and a smaller bustle on each arm. The dance pace is fast, steps are intricate and athletic. Whatever the pace, the dancer must stop with the last beat of the song.
In the past 32 years the Gathering of Nations has grown from an early, simple dream to one of the world’s most recognized annual festivals. From the beginning the concept has always been to produce an event where Native people can come together each year to celebrate and share culture, and a place where singers and dancers can feel confident that competition is fair to all. The last weekend in April the Annual Gathering of Nations Powwow is held at the University of New Mexico Arena (“The Pit”), in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at Avenida Cesar Chavez Blvd. SE (Hwy. 25, exit #223), earlier in the week the Miss Indian World selection is held as is the annual Trader’s Market. Everyone is welcome ! The Gathering of Nations is an experience for all 80,000 visitors, Indian and non-Indian alike and a huge contest for dancers and singers who compete for the $150,000.00 to be awarded! Over 3,000 indigenous Native American, Indian dancers and singers, representing more than 500 tribes from Canada and the United States come to Albuquerque annually to participate socially and competitively. Over 800 artists, crafters, and traders place their wares on display and for sale during the four day competition.
Hours:Thursday: 10:00am – 3:00pm: 7:00pm: Miss Indian World Traditional Talent Presentations.
Doors open at 6:30pm Friday & Saturday: 10:00am and never closes on the Pow Wow
Pow Wow Grand Entry: Friday Noon and 7:00; Saturday Noon and 6:00
The Gathering of Nations is the largest Pow Wow each year! But the NAU Pow Wow brings together many diverse cultures all living nearby and the mixture from the schools rich and diverse native American enrollment.
2015 Northern Arizona University Pow Wow
1701 S San Francisco St. Flagstaff, AZ 86011 USA
Contact: Sean Begay 928-699-1003 firstname.lastname@example.org
Fees: Adults $10 both days, $7 per day NAU Students with ID Free Kids under 5 Free
Camping: Quality Inn 2500 E. Lucky Ln Flagstaff, Arizona (928)-226-7111
April 10 – 11, 2015 NAU J.L. Walkup Skydome Bldg. 73 1701 S San Francisco St Flagstaff Arizona
Friday April 10, 2015 Gourd Dancing: 6:00 PM Grand Entry: 7:00 PM Saturday April 11, 2015 Gourd Dancing: 11:00 AM & 5:00 PM Grand Entry: 1:00 PM & 7:00 PM All Categories Tiny Tots Juniors Teens Women Men Golden Age Drum Contest Grass Dance Special In Loving Memory of Jonathan Yazzie Sponsored by: WarDance Etc., Yazzie Family, Friends, and Relatives Men’s Fancy Special Honoring our NAU President Sean Begay Sponsor: The Club HOST NORTHERN DRUM: War Scout, Sweetgrass Saskatchewan, Canada HOST SOUTHERN DRUM: Dark Horse Admission Adults—-$10 both days, $7 per day NAU Students with ID–Free Kids under 5
Every year, thousands of American Indian dancers, singers and musicians hit the powwow circuit in family-friendly festivals. Some of the biggest are held in Calgary, Denver and Oklahoma City. “These are full-out cultural events — dancing, music, food, fellowship and tradition, all combined in one,” says Paul Gowder of PowWows.com, which lists more than 1,500 events. “You come face to face with a living, evolving culture.” He shares these popular powwows with USA TODAY.
Crow Agency, Mont.
Now in its 96th year, this gathering is like a state fair for the Crow people. “It’s a complete cultural experience,” Gowder says. The August event includes a parade with participants riding horses elaborately decorated with beads and blankets. Perhaps most notable is the tepee encampment with up to 1,000 of the shelters. “It’s quite a sight. They call themselves the tepee capital of the world.” www.crow-nsn.gov/crow-fair-2014.html
Morongo Thunder and Lightning PowWow
This event (Sept. 26-28) kicks off California’s fall powwow season, attracting dancers from around the country. Based at the AAA four-diamond Morongo Casino Resort & Spa near Palm Springs, it offers a luxury setting. “You’re right there in a plush resort area. It’s well-run, and spectators love it,” Gowder says. It’s also one of the few places to see California bird singing and dancing, a distinctive regional style. 888-667-6646; morongocasinoresort.com/wp-content/powwow/pow2.php
4th of July Powwow
While most major powwows are in the West, this one on the Cherokee reservation is among a handful of top-ranked events east of the Mississippi. It attracts a wide following and offers a different experience. “The dance area is gorgeous, with mountain backdrops. It’s green and lush and a beautiful location — usually nice and cool with a mountain breeze,” Gowder says. 800-438-1601; visitcherokeenc.com
Hunting Moon Pow Wow
While a relative newcomer on the powwow circuit, this fall event (Oct. 17-19) has grown tremendously over the past several years and now is ranked among the top five in an annual poll on Gowder’s website. “That says a lot. It’s growing really fast,” he says. 414-847-7320; huntingmoonpowwow.com
United Tribes International PowWow
This 45-year-old September festival draws more than 1,500 dancers and representatives from 70 tribes, which makes it one of the biggest gatherings in the North Central states. “It’s one of the must-dos on the circuit. It wraps up a long summer of powwowing,” Gowder says. This year, it’s Sept. 4-7. unitedtribespowwow.com
Denver March PowWow
The powwow season kicks off every March with this event, which attracts a huge number of Native American drum groups. These organizations usually have 12 to 15 people with male drummers and female singers. “Some of them have big followings,” Gowder says. denvermarchpowwow.org
Post Falls, Idaho
The largest outdoor powwow in the Pacific Northwest attracts more than 600 dancers and an eager crowd. “It’s more of a traditional powwow,” Gowder says. “It’s the middle of summer and the middle of the season. The dancers dance on grass.” julyamsh.com
Marvin “Joe” Curry Veterans Pow Wow
Formerly called the Seneca powwow, this annual mid-July event recently changed its name to honor a tribal member who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. “It’s one of the biggest in the Northeast,” Gowder says. senecapowwow.org
Coushatta Pow Wow
Located near Lake Charles, La., Coushatta is one of the biggest American Indian events in the country. And while most powwows feature similar dance styles, this June event also offers a chance to see stomp dancing, a style popular among tribes in the Southeast. 800-584-7263; coushattapowwow.com
Gathering of Nations
The nation’s biggest powwow attracts more than 3,500 dancers and 150,000 spectators during the last week of April. “This is the Super Bowl of powwows. Everybody saves up to come to this one,” says Gowder, whose site offers live webcasts of the events. Activities include a Miss Indian World cultural (not beauty) pageant and even a long-hair contest. gatheringofnations.com
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