In July, my huband and I spent three weeks on the Blackfeet reservation. We were there with church volunteers and my friend, Patricia, where we were sponsoring some literacy and drug education programs. Plus, last week we were on the Crow reservation where we were again working with volunteers. Therefore, I thought you might like to hear something about the pow-wow, both the historical pow-wow and modern-day event.
The pow-wow — so much a part of the Western landscape and culture — attracts visitors from all over the world.
What are they all about?
Okay, let’s start first with the history of the modern pow-wow. Probably the early beginnings of the modern pow-wow has its roots in the summer/autumn gathering of the tribe. During the winter and spring months, the tribe would separate in their different bands to go their own way, to hunt and to prepare for the coming winter. Spring was of course devoted to gathering food and hunting. But in the late summer or early autumn the entire tribe would come together for ceremonials and religious renewal, as well as for cultural activities. It was a chance for young people to get to know other young people from other bands of the tribe, as well as for relatives and old friends to come together again. Often the Sundance was an part of the gathering, as well.
Today, at the modern pow-wow, you’ll see Indian and non-Indian people from all over the country enjoying the community and inspiring atmosphere of the pow-wow. Before we go any furhter, let me explain some terminology: there are some tribes (like the Navajo), who like to be referred to as Native Americans. But on the Northern Plains of North American, those tribes like the Blackfeet and Lakota, these people prefer to be called Indian. As one person put it to me, “I’m Indian and proud of it.”
Here in Los Angeles we have such a diverse and large American Indian population that if you were to ever attend one of our pow-wows, you’ll notice traditions being observed from all over the country. For instance, here in Los Angeles we have Aztec dancers, something one doesn’t see in the more northern pow-wows.
In the northern pow-wow, you’ll see the men’s Chicken Dance, something you won’t see normally in the Los Angeles Pow-wow.
There is much dancing and gift giving at the modern pow-wow. All ages participate and there is contesting within the different men’s and women’s forms of dancing. There are several different styles of men’s dances as well as women’s dances, as well. At many of the pow-wows in the west, you’ll also see the modern rodeo in action with some different aspects like the Indian relay race and the tepee raising contests.
There are food ventors — Indian fry bread is popular at all pow-wow’s that I’ve attended — and Native American jewelry of all kinds abounds. At the Blackfeet pow-wow there is the hand game and card games that continue well into the wee hours of the morning and at the Crow Fair pow-wow, one is treated to the sight of 500 or more tepees all set in the background of the beautiful Little Big Horn area.
Have you ever been to a pow-wow? If so, what are your observations? Are you thinking of attending a pow-wow? And if so, do you have questions you’d like to ask before attending? I will be checking into the blog all day long, so let’s start a discussion. I’d love to hear from you.
Here are three of us at an LA pow-wow, resting between dances. Patricia, on the left is a Traditional dancer, while Elaine and I are Fancy Dance dancers. As a note, each particular style of dance has its own regalia.
And for your info, all people are welcomed at the pow-wow, and many a romance has been sparked at pow-wow, both the historical, as well as the modern day pow-wow.
So come on in and leave a comment or two. See you later!