Top: Grand Entry, Middle and Bottom rows, some of our friends, dancers and drums.
For the past twenty years or so, this time of the year has always meant that every weekend would be spent at a Pow Wow, somewhere.
For those of you not familiar with the word, a Pow Wow, is a cultural celebration put on by Native Americans all across America.
The best place to find one, is in your local newspaper, or online, under any of the myriad of Pow Wow listings.
Some of the finest ones that we have been to and taken part in over the years, were at Colleges all across the country from Maine to Minnesota and from California to Florida, they are a joy to be involved in and to witness.
Most of these Native Cultural Events run from Friday thorough Sunday Evening.
The sights, sounds and smells found at a Pow Wow, are a delicious, delightful feast for the eyes, ears, and nose.
The Pow Wow incorporates much of the rich tradition and culture of the Host tribes and those who come to see it leave enriched.
Each day usually begins with a series of Native Pow Wow Customs, or Events.
First, the head spiritual leader will begin by removing any trash or litter around or near the circle, or close proximity, then he or she, will smudge the area, while working with the fire keeper.
When this has all been finished, the Head Veteran will begin assembling the dancers, flag bearers and others who will be coming into the circle, on the East side, for what is called the ” Grand Entry.”
The spiritual leader will now bring the group into the circle.
Once all are assembled in the circle, the Veterans song is drummed, followed by the Flag song and lastly by a prayer.
The drum group which has been chosen for the entire weekend event, then drums for the dancers who represent many Tribes and Nations, who will follow the Veterans around in the circle and out the East side.
When this dance is finished, the Pow Wow is officially opened and the celebrations may begin.
Often, there will be Special Invited Entertainers, such as singers, flute players or dance groups, who may perform during the day with the other traditional dances occurring in between.
The day will be filled with a wide variety of dances, beginning with the Flag song, then many others will follow like, ” the Jingle dance,” which is a specific type of dancer’s regalia/clothing, with tiny jingles sewn on the fabric, that makes a delightful sound as the dancer moves around, and both men’s and women’s ” Traditional dances,” ” the Round dance,” ” the Inter-tribals,” then later in the evening, many times there will be a special dance which is called the “ Friendship dance, ” which invites all those still in attendance into the circle to say hello to each other, or a Native ” meet and greet. ”
Some very tasty Native foods are usually on hand at each Pow Wow, from the very delicious Indian Tacos, or the ” Three Sisters ” of corn, beans and squash, to special local or regional items from an individual Tribe or Nation’s own menu.
There are of course, many vendors selling their own hand-made crafts, of leather, wood, clay, fabrics, metals and stone to share their own particular Tribal culture with you.
Often at the end of the weekend a blanket dance is done to collect money for the drum group, who might not receive a great deal of money otherwise, to help with their travel expenses.
After all of the goods have been sold, the dance prizes awarded and the last songs drummed, comes the closing ceremony which is a beautiful, somewhat bittersweet end to a wonderful joyful weekend for all who came.
If you have the time and the chance, I highly recommend you find a Pow Wow in your area and go have a cultural experience you are not likely to soon forget.
But, be forewarned, like the beginning of Spring and the awakening it brings to the world, your first Pow Wow may bring an awakening to your soul, and you will find yourself looking for them everywhere in the future~