Powwow and the sacred soul of dancing


Since I moved to South Dakota, I have gone, in six years, to my fair share of powwows. Powwow is a time for socializing, seeing friends, making new ones, celebrating culture, and dancing.   Go to one when you can. You will learn so much of the beauty of our Native cultures and realize that school taught you nothing of the beautiful people who love amongst us with a rich and beautiful culture that is ages old and full of wisdom.  It is time for us to understand one another, even if we cannot completely heal the wounds of the past–a little understanding, a wish to sincerely learn, goes a long way.  Everyone is welcome at a powwow.

There are many beautiful dancers, and tributes to our Native American veterans. I recently went to the Arlee, MT powwow, and in the below photos you will see something of the spirit of these events.

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People camp out in tipis and tents, and the smell of delicious hot frybread and Indian tacos are in the air. It’s great for the kids as well. They love to dress up and dance and take pride in their culture.

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Then the drum groups beat a steady rhythm and the songs begin. The songs vary from tribe to tribe but the enthusiasm is the same: infectious and passionate.

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I shall let Native author Sherman Alexie finish this powwow treatise.   The poem is about forgiveness, but when to forgive?  How do we bridge the years of abuse by the US government?   How do we reconcile?

 

The Powwow at the End of the World

By Sherman Alexie

I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia
and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and abandoned reactors
of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after that salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
a lightning bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire
which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told
by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
who has three stories it must tell before sunrise: one story will teach us how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

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