(The 2012 Pow Wow at CSU was held on Oct 27, 2012) So what was I doing to miss the first band at Road 34, a band which includes as one of its members one of the very pleasant new music friends I became acquainted with recently? I was watching people in traditional regalia, playing giant drums and dancing. The annual Pow Wow on campus this year was held in our newly renovated theater, a space which will take some getting used to, but I enjoyed being able to take decent pictures without getting in anyone’s way.
There were lots of dancers, though not as many in the less flashy men’s and women’s traditional styles this year. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come- the fancy shawl dance, jingle dance, men’s fancy dance and grass dance all look cool, but these dances aren’t as deeply rooted in old tradition, and if the ‘boring’ traditional dances die out, some day a new generation will have to go about resurrecting them from whatever bits and pieces folks still remember.
The ladies’ fancy shawl dance, which actually is supposed to tell a story about a butterfly, is every little girl’s dream dance, with a long fringed shawl that flutters and flows as the dancer sways and spins in time to the drums. If I was to take up any of these dance forms, this one is the dance I’d want to master.
But of course, for me, a 30-something woman, to take up any of these traditional dances, I’d have to accept that the normal age for people in this traditional community to start learning is much lower. The little tyke who emerged with the men for the exhibition fancy dance, one of my favorite men’s dances, was already learning how to move in his elaborate outfit, and by the time he is a pre-teen he may be an accomplished dancer. Some of the kids I saw at this pow wow were certainly being pressured by their folks to learn traditional dances, but for many of them, it’s just a fun, colorful, familiar aspect of their lives, one that allows them to be creative and active in public while wearing cool clothes.
There were actually a few people in the theater who are not members of any native tribe, far more than the past two years, and I think the balcony helped by allowing people who are not familiar yet with pow-wows to watch without feeling too much like an unwelcome outsider. This is one of the events I attend every year which does unfortunately perpetuate an “us versus them” dichotomy, but thankfully this year the prayers offered throughout the event were either less politically divisive, or not spoken in English, and a few female visitors joined in the round dance even without having shawls to wear.
The MC was clearly a bit uneasy when an eagle feather was dropped and the dancers & drummers started the ceremony which that unhappy accident enacted- this, like a few other ceremonies, is a private ceremony, one which visitors were allowed to watch, but which ought to not be photographed. Not all visitors, I’m sure, understand how important this privacy is, and throughout the ceremony the MC was reminding people not to take photos of it. (No, I don’t have photos of it, nor would I post pictures of this ceremony if I found some from a different photographer.) A few more years like this one, and the Pow-Wow at CSU really will be serving as a valuable ambassadorial event helping bridge traditional and contemporary cultures in this region.