Native Profile – Dora C. Birdshead
Dora C. Old Elk, up until this Southern Arapaho snagged me, now I’m Dora C. Birdshead
What is your nick name?
To family and peeps that have known me since birth; Sissy, to my homies; D.O.E.
Apsaalooke (Crow) and Ft. Peck Sioux
What style do you dance?
Northern Traditional Crow Style
Where are you originally from?
Where do you live now?
Gaithersburg, MD (Washington DC metropolitan area)
I’m a married woman these days!
What is your upcoming powwow schedule?
I don’t really have a schedule, if I have the money, then leave from work and it’s within decent driving distance, then I’m there. I usually plan to attend Stanford, GON and Crow Fair annually.
What’s your favorite powwows?
I’d have to say Crow Fair and Gathering of Nations, but I also love powwows where the communities are tight knit and invite you in like they’ve known you your whole life. I’ve made some lifelong friends by going to powwows in backwoods places.
Who are your favorite drums?
Blacklodge, Northern Cree, Midnite Express, Bear Creek, Stoney Creek, Warscout, Tha Tribe, Battle River, Mystic River, Mandaree, Night Hawk Jrs, Thunderhill, Meskwaki, White Oak, Red War Pony, just to name a few. I also had some awesome tapes that I completely wore out from Siksika, Southern Cree, Mad Dog (Crow Double Neat Jamz) and two Medicine Lake Singers- Chicken Dance Songs (loved it)
Who are other dancers you admire?
I admire all of the powwow families that are able to do what we all love! I often find myself daydreaming while at work, about which powwow I’m missing out on and who s all there. My all time favorite dancer is my big brother Leon Old Elk-Stewart. I strive to be the female version of him because we both love to dance our traditional crow style. I enjoy watching him because you can feel that he dances with his heart, he’s proud and strong and you can see how much he loves it. He dances the way I feel and not to mention, he’s captivating to watch! Also, I’ve always admired Jodi Gillette, not only for her beauty, grace, amazing beadwork, and style of dance, but for the woman that she is. I love to watch Toni Tsatoke swing her fringe; Rose Track float across the arena; and her man Wayne bust out some fancy footwork moves that I’ve only ever seen cartoon characters do; and Val Parker whose feet are faster than any Olympic gold medalist! I could go on all day, but I truly admire those that bring their own style to the arena, the ones that you can t take your eyes off of and are true to who they are.
Who helped teach you to dance?
My parents, Clayton and Georgianna have had the biggest impact on me and the way I dance. for as long as I can remember I’ve always danced crow style, they made sure we were out there as tiny tots and for every intertribal. I used to want to dance Fancy Shawl, so I’d be out there holding onto my fur wraps, fancy dancing in my Elktooth dress. This was back when we didn’t care that our bead work didn’t match, using a shawl with a big snow-cone stain wearing bushy braids that looked pretty at noon grand-entry, lol.
Who makes your outfits?
I make my own dresses, but my all time favorite dress (the red one) was made by a very close family friend: Crawford Reed. My beadwork is made by Janice Little Light and I’ve made a few of my accessories, some of my other accessories are made by Dan Addi. I’m so thankful for the people that have contributed to my outfits.
What transportation do you use to get to powwows?
We drive or fly, whatever will get us there. I had this cool little car I called the box (Scion XB), others dubbed it the toaster, crow-mobile, the clown car. That little thing had a great powwow life! We went coast to coast, north and south, it was a great powwow car!
Will gas prices affect your powwow schedule?
More like daycare prices! lol! I’m usually very determined when I have my heart set on a powwow, so no, gas prices won’t affect me going to a powwow. Sometimes you just have to go and hope that things work out and somehow they usually do.
Whats your favorite music? favorite artists?
I love what s considered old school hip hop (90s hip hop), R&B and country. My favorite artists are Nas, The Beatnuts, Tony Touch, DJ Premier, Biggie, Lauryn Hill, Mary J. Blige, A Tribe Called Quest, Wutang, Bustarhymes, Toby Keith, George Strait, Gretchen Wilson, Brooks and Dunn, Sugarland.
What other domestic skills do you have? Whats your day job?
Well, I’m house broken! Haha! My husband eats my cooking and thankfully, he isn’t a picky man. I can make a great pineapple upside down cake.
As for my day job, I’m a Personnel Security Specialist. I do background investigations for my agency.
What do you like to do when not at a powwow?
My world revolves around my daughter, Iliana. I like taking her places, teaching her new things and simply watching her explore her surroundings. I also like to spend time with my family, they’re a great group of people and we always have a good time together. My husband and I love going to the movies, I enjoy going to concerts and shows with my sister, and definitely enjoy working out in a Zumba or body combat class.
Whats your favorite food?
I love junk food! I’m always on a quest to find the best cheeseburger. I love a good New York Strip Steak, breakfast burritos and one of these days I’m going to learn how to make meat pies.
What advice would you give young people that look up to you?
Always look within yourself and realize what an amazing person you are and know that there s someone out there that looks up to you too.
What is your most memorable powwow moment?
OMG! I’d have to say Gathering of Nations 2009 .It was the first time I ever danced at Gathering and I took 1st Place in my category! I’ve always gone to GON as a spectator because I love to see so many of our natives in one place having a great time. I used to be too intimidated to dance there, but I finally bucked up and got out there. When I heard them call 5th place for my category and they didn’t call my name I thought oh well, at least I can say I finally danced at GON but then when they called my name for first, I screamed! It was 2:00am and I wanted to call my folks to let them know, but I didn’t want to freak them out with a middle of the night call so I had to wait until the next day to share my joy with them. It still makes me all giddy inside when I think about that moment. I even framed my winnings envelope because it was like my powwow dream come true!
What are your powwow pet peeves?
I’d have to say smelly outfits…haha! I know it can be hard to wash your stuff, but it’s a rude awakening of the senses when you’re jammin out and a wiffy outfit blows by you. Also, when people are 1/2 dressed in Grand Entry.
Things you wish you could take out of powwows:
It seems like there are so many rules these days. I miss the old school powwow standards…like what happened to the days of disqualifying yourself because something fell off of your outfit, especially during a tie breaker?
Anything you would like to share or want to tell people about yourself?
I feel like I’m a very blessed and fortunate woman to have such an amazing family, a strong culture, and a rich heritage. I’m extremely thankful for these many blessings and know that I wouldn’t be the person I am without them. It’s important for us to share in these things, take pride in who we are and continue to pass these things on to our little ones. We’re lucky that someone took the time to teach us these things, to help shape us and send us on our way, we need to do our part and keep our people, our ways, our ceremonies, thriving. Thanks to those that came before me, those that are here with me now and those that are still to come.
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