My daughter’s boyfriend, Len, is half Native American. Len and Sue, my daughter, took me to my first Powwow two years ago. It was at the park downtown. I didn’t realize what an impact it would have on me. I didn’t know much about Native American culture until I attended this event. This experience led me to want to learn more about Powwows.
What I observed was how spiritual these celebrations are for the Native Americans. I was told they bless the arena because it is considered a sacred ground and should be treated with respect. The dance is an expression of cultural pride. The practice they have put into their dance started when they were young and each dancer has their own way of dancing. They have put much skill into them so they can stay in perfect rhythm, slightly bobbing up and down, stepping lightly, and swaying so the fringe on their regalia gently moves from side to side. Some of the dances are performed to honor the eagle or spirits of animals that they believe have special powers.
Len’s mom, who was married to a Native American for twenty years, told me that the singers at these powwows are very dignified and held in the highest respect. She said that without the singers there would be no dancing. The songs they sing are religious songs of joy and mourning. What I also found out was that the original songs were in the native language of the singer but as various tribes gathered, they would share their songs, usually changing the song so the different tribes could participate. Some songs today are sung using no words.
If you have never seen a Native American dressed in their regalia, it’s a sight that will take your breath away because of its magnificence. The women wear buckskin dresses that are fully beaded with many vibrant colors, long fringe, bells or eagle feathers can also adorn them. The beadwork is impeccable. The many hours spent sewing them on their regalia would make me tired. The feathers or leather used on them can be up to one hundred years old. The regalia worn by the dancers is very important to him or her for many different reasons.
I feel very honored to have experienced a powwow. They have such great pride and respect for their land, all animals, and a higher power. We could all learn something from attending just one Native American Powwow.