Friday, February 3, 2017

The Anadarko Powwow

It is popular in rural areas to celebrate the town's past with murals
on the sides of buildings.  The quality of work by local artists on
rough brick and concrete is outstanding.

On a personal note, my broken tail bone has come a long way.  I only got in 42.2 miles of walking in January, but with a broken bone in my butt, I will call that passable.  Anyhow, while it’s still tender, I no longer have to sit on one cheek or the other, and am looking forward to some paddling time shortly.  Until then, share our trip with us last August to a powwow.

An afternoon cruise through town.  What else should we see but
an Indian motorcycle.

With the many Native American tribes that were forced to the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, it remains a rich center for passing on and celebrating their cultural rituals and heritage.  Much of this is done through the powwow.  There are many powwows held throughout the state, and around the country, for feasting, singing, socializing, competing, and even holding council meetings.  In late July, we had the opportunity to take the granddaughters to the Native American powwow in Anadarko, Ok.  It was day-long event that started with a parade, then broke into a number of activities such as singing, and dancing competitions that usually run well into the night.  There are also a number of vendors at any of these events that offer Native American jewelry and art.

The powwow starts with the parade.

After the parade, we attended a singing event.  The drum was set in the middle of the large room.  I say room, because in this case we had the use of an air-conditioned event building, which was welcome in the sweltering heat.  The drum refers to both the huge instrument, which must be four feet or more across, and to the group of drummers and singers that gather around it.  All the participants and spectators then ring the drummers.  One person will begin a song, which is drawn from well over a hundred songs, some contemporary, but many that have passed down through generations.  Then the entire group will join in.  With a dozen drummers in perfect unison on the drum, and all of them singing, it is an auditory experience that will not only fill a large room, but an entire arena later for dancing.

The regalia are beautiful.  I'll identify the
tribe where it's apparent.

The dancing begins as evening comes on and the day’s heating begins to cool.  The men’s fancy dance regalia are a sight to behold, as is the gorgeous and artistic beadwork used by both men and women.  The regalia, never called a costume, is not only beautiful, but the dancing is so energetic that it can’t be considered anything less than an athletic event.  Other dances include the stomp dance, shawl dance, jingle-dress dance, traditional dances, and the men’s fancy dance.  One of the most enjoyed events by all is the tot dance, when the smallest of children get to show how much they’ve learned of their rich cultural heritage.

The Arapaho Tribal Princess

Non-Native Americans are welcome to attend most of these events.  However, anyone attending should be sensitive to their customs and beliefs.  Some things reach almost a religious connotation, such as making the mistake of picking up an eagle feather that has broken off a headdress and fallen to the ground, or walking through the middle of a dance ring.  At most events, the program that is distributed usually warns of such cultural missteps, but if not, most Native Americans attending the event are welcoming and happy to take a visitor under their wing and explain what is going on.  This is a great opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation for the meaning behind the dances, songs, and activities.  You will undoubtedly wish to take pictures of individuals in their regalia, but again, be courteous and ask permission first.  This is simply good manners anywhere and with anyone.  I came home with a lot of pictures, and will share some of these for the enjoyment of many who have never had the chance to share in these events.

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