The last couple of days we have experienced the incredible drumming and dancing at the 60th Annual Eastern Shoshone Indian Days Powwow on the Wind River Reservation in Fort Washakie, Wyoming. More than 700 dancers and 15 drum groups. Honoured to be here.
What is a powwow? Powwow’s are very important social gatherings that play an important part in Native culture during the summer months. It is a wonderful cultural expression that reminds people of past stories and traditions, a gathering place for families and a beacon of hope for the future. Each has its own uniqueness, yet all have many similarities. Fry bread and Indian taco’s sustain the attendee’s, MC’s with the gift of the gab, fill the arena airwaves with what’s next, notes, descriptions and impromptu jokes! Dancers compete in the many different categories of expression and market stalls sell artisan crafts – intricate bead work, moccasins and ribbon shirts, jewellery, boned necklaces and tribal t-shirts.
They start with Grand Entry, honour songs and prayer. Flag bearers commence entering the arena, an honour given to a veteran, a respected traditional dancer, or a traditional elder. Then important guests, men dancers, woman dancers all process dancing onto the grounds. It is a wonderful feast of colour and celebration.
During the weekend, the dance competitions are accompanied by different drum groups – traditional, jingle, grass, chicken, fancy shawl and hoop (to name a few) and inter-tribal, a dance where all are invited, including visitors from other nations.
The beautiful Jingle dance regalia is adorned with metal cones that cause a unique sound as they shake together. These are made from 365 snuff or chewing tobacco lids! The origins of the dance are from a dream that an Ojibwe man had, which instructed him in a style of dress and dance that would heal a young girl. I have also heard it called a Prayer dance.
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