Pow wow is a gathering for Native Americans. I have tried to go a few years ago at Grand Ronde, Oregon Pow Wow, but it rained so hard, I was not able to take any photos. This time pow wow was indoor.
I took my monopod, a few lenses, eager to see Indian dancers.
There were drummers and some dancers, but no hoop dancer, nor hoop dance show. I guess I was really expecting to see hoop dance show, since there was not much info about the program – at least online- I did not know if any hoop dancers will come or dance during the gathering. I was there about 2 hours or so, my disappointment grew. But I can not really blame the Pow Wow, I should pay attention their program better; it was clearly stated “No Dance Contest”.
Years ago, ( in 2000 ) in Izmir Turkey, I have watched a great hoop dance show. I was in the base at that time Akin building where American military used to work; The 425th Air Base Squadron, Izmir, Turkey. It was a small group of Indian came from South Dakota for the show. There were two hoop dancer and spokesman name Steven ( he was the story teller, he did oral history before the show). There was an old man, as I remember he was extremely calm and a woman. I was very impressed with the show. I really wanted to see hoop dancer in US. 12 years passed, I have never seen it in a real ceremony, pow wow time. I have watched Totem, Cirque du Soleil show in San Francisco. There was a great Indian hoop dancer in the show.
At the Pow wow, some adults were dressed in traditional feathered headdresses, jingle dresses, women with beaded pink, purple and turquoise shawls. A few old people had their regalia, some with their thick tribal blankets. There were more children dressed traditional colorful clothes, walking around, dancing with the rhythm of drums. Their soft soundless moccasins were beating the floor, when adults joined them, bells on their legs were accompanying those drums. Some people had face painting. It was not too crowded, people came and go whole the time. People were wondering around the vendors who were selling mostly Native American jewelry and clothing. A few vendors were offering hand-made soaps, beads, beaded coin purses, feathered hats, Eagle feathers, as well as sage (for smudging), sweetgrass and bitterroot. Families like to eat fried bread during the pow wow. Outdoor vendors were cooking fried bread, Indians tacos, stew, Pow wow cow; which I have no idea what was Pow wow cow. You could also buy smoked salmon.
What was my observation about pow wow?
Since I am not native American, nor familiar much with this culture, my understanding of American natives is limited. Even though I live with an Indian descendent person. His grandmother was Indian. She ran away from Indian reservation from Florida to California. She told people she was Portuguese in order to prevent herself to send back to reservation. When Rob made his DNA search, he could trace his family history way back 1900. But he does not know any Indian language, maybe a few words of Lakota. He is not member of any tribes, so his connection to his roots is broken. I mostly know from what I have read a few books and watched some movies. I have visited some Indian museums, watched some documentaries too.
It seemed to me Indians like circles. People come to the stage area in circles, they shake hands, greet each other, walk and dance in circle. In the beginning of the Pow wow ceremony elders in circle preyed in their native language. I only knew the meaning of “Mitakuye Oyasin”. The phrase means “All Are Related”, it is a short expression for Everything is Connected belief.
There was no Hoop Dance, Fancy Dance, Stick Dance, nor any other ceremony dances such as; Ghost Dance, Gourd Dance, Grass Dance, Hopi Snake Dance, Rain Dance, Sun Dance, Stomp Dance, nor War Dance. it was more gathering for Indians, than dance competition or special show.
I did not find printed material around. There was no pamphlet, books, music, film CD or DVD.
I was hoping to see and listen a story teller. There was no oral history nor a story teller. Perhaps it does not happen in every pow wow.
I asked a few vendors if they knew what time will be the dance show? They kept looking at each other, and one of them told me;
“You know, people dance, Indian time”
I had no idea what was Indian Time means.
“What is Indian Time?” I asked.
One woman said “Like Spanish Mañana”.
They actually meant after all the talking done in the stage, people will come to dance.
Yes indeed, many times, an older person invited people to the stage to dance. As well as they asked drummers to join to play together.
I guess what I was hoping to see and what I was seeing was two different category of events.
It was my mistake, I should search for “Hoop Dance Contest” term..
Somehow I was more expecting an organized dance event. This was not event for the show. This meant to be being together for them. As an outsider I was just an observer, a person who takes photos and try to undertand. I respect their effort to keep their culture alive. Try to connect each other and stay sober, be aware of their land issues.
Through my lens I could see rough faces. Some dance as if they were not there, some with joy sharing with their kids.
We bought sage for smudging, ate fried breads, watched people dance. I took many photos of colorful costumes, as I was leaving, drums were still beating for friendly welcomes.
This video shows Nakotah LaRance who is a world hoop dancing champion. Cirque du Soleil “TOTEM”.
Regalia: In general, American Indians use the word “regalia” for traditional clothing which is used for ceremonial occasions.
A pow-wow (also powwow or pow wow ) is a gathering of North America’s Native people. Pow Wows are the Native American people’s way of meeting together, to join in dancing, singing, visiting, renewing old friendships, and making new ones.
Sage smudging: Native Americans use sage smudging ( burning the sage ) to drive out bad spirits, feelings, or influences.
Sweetgrass smudging: Sweetgrass smudge ritual is performed to correct the energy in a home, in an office, in an object, or can be in a person.
Mañana: In Spanish means “not today”. It could be tomorrow, or tomorrow morning, it depends on the situation. There is a subtle difference between “Tomorrow” and “not today”.
Hoop Dance: Hoop dance is an Indian’s way of telling stories through the body and the hoops creating different shapes which represent different animals and moves. The hoops in the dance symbolize the never-ending circle of life.
What is Pow Wow
The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde
The Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA) of the Northwest’s 26th annual New Year’s Eve Sobriety Pow Wow
Indian Ceremonial Dances
Nara NW Facebook Page