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NATIVE AMERICAN POWWOW DANCERS


Powwow Dancers-Percy Edwards, Jim Malatare, Jim Red Eagle, Don LaRoque & Magenta Spinningwind. © 2009 Becky Olvera Schultz
Pictured Above 5 Native Americans In Dance Regalia

Copyright Becky Olvera Schultz
Content may not be duplicated without permission from Becky Olvera Schultz.
Powwow Dancer Mickey Mason. © 2009 Becky Olvera Schultz
Mickey Mason (Caddo)




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Dance regalia worn by today's Native American dancers may reflect a particular tribe in style but many dancers' outfits are a combination of different traditions. While some dancers may have very traditional dance regalia, many reflect the modern world's use of sequins, synthetic fabrics and dyes, yarn and other less than traditional materials. However, whether the dance clothing is made of traditional or modern materials, the use of traditional decorative designs and symbols is still persistent (Ancona 1993:3).

Today's Native American powwow dance activities are divided into two types, intertribal (social dances) and competition dancing. When intertribal songs are sung, all dance styles, all ages and genders participate, Indian as well as non-Indians, may enter the arbor and dance (Roberts 1992:125). A popular dance for non-Indians during an intertribal is the Round dance. It is an easy dance to follow as everyone joins hands inside the arbor forming a big circle moving clockwise. If there are many people participating, an other circle is formed inside the first circle that moves in the opposite direction. The Round dance creates a simple and fun activity that brings both cultures together for positive interaction (Braine 1995:32).

Native American competition dancing became popular in the 1920's (Campbell 1995:7). Nearly all Powwows have dance competitions with cash awards in both the men and women divisions. Dancers participating in competition pay an entry fee and wear a number on their outf its. Many dancers simply dance because they enjoy it and do not participate in the competition. Money for the dance contest winners is provided by the powwow committee, but sometimes there are "specials", which are contests sponsored by an individual or outside group (Braine 1995:19,32).

The prize money from the competition dancing is an important factor in the popularity of the powwow. A good dancer can make a reasonable living by competing nearly every weekend during peak season, if he is willing to travel (Parfit 1994:6,94).

Sometimes during dancing at a powwow, an eagle feather may fall off a dancer's outfit. As soon as it is known a feather as fallen, all dancing stops, the arbor is cleared, and a special traditional ceremony is performed right then. The feather is treated like a fallen warrior whose spirit must be cared for immediately (Braine 1995:34). The ceremony is performed by four veterans who have earned the right to touch the feather--veterans who have earned honors in battle, The four veteran Native American traditional dancers perform the picking up ceremony and a veteran who has been wounded in combat is selected as the "Brave Man" to pick up the feather with another eagle feather. He then recounts a war deed or special military story of his service and then returns the feather to its owner. A gift is given by the owner of the feather to the veteran and the drum of honor for the service they have performed (Roberts 1992:5).

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BECKY OLVERA SCHULTZ
P.O. Box 217 Aptos CA 95001
831-688-0694
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Becky's Native Expressions Art Site

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