Dancing Our Traditions
Happy Middle of summer! Happy Pow-wowing!!
This powwow mom has been one busy lady! I am a director for a powwow dance troupe located in California. And we have been rehearsing for the State Fair. We were selected to be a part of the cultural arts section. And this led me to do some thinking about different tribal dances.
Being an urban Indian and living away from my tribal headquarters & tribal powwows, I’ve had to learn to ask questions about different dances and ask about the reasons why it’s danced. Not that I don’t already know – but just so I can have a more rounded view from different people who are of different tribes. Since our dance group is comprised of entirely urban Indians living away from our homelands – I decided to teach myself the proper way to dance these dances and in turn teach the troupe.
Bear in mind that a lot of our troupe dancers are young adults or teenagers. They again have limited exposure to these dances because of being urban and not on tribal lands or exposed to the society dances.
Some of the dances we rehearsed are as follows –
1 – Rabbit Dance/Candy Dance
2 – Spear & Shield Dance
3 – Scalp Dance
4 – Snake & Buffalo Dance
Now while to a lot of our Oklahoma Indians, where my tribes are from, these seem like bone head children dances. But if you’ve ever powwow’ed in Cali- you know these dances are not even in the dance vernacular. Yes some are society dances – but there are natives in Cali that have never even seen any of these dances before and when exposed to the dance were extremely shocked to see the beauty and the fun in dancing these dances.
This powwow mom spent a lot of time thinking about the performance at the state fair. Mainly because it is a time of the year where I can expose our group to new dances and spend the time to teach them with an expected goal of performing them at the fair. My main goal with this is to show our dancers that there is more to powwow than just the regular contest song and intertribal.
We stretch the limits with each of our troupe members. Those who think they are not leaders end up being great leaders. Those who think they are not able to dance on stage in front of hundreds of people can. Those who think they can’t speak publically end up speaking well in front of a crowd. It is a good learning experience for all who are involved and those who enjoy dancing in performances.
My thoughts throughout this entire experience is – what do I want to pass down to my children? As a mom of twin boys what do I want to expose to them? This is why I have come up with the specialty dances performed at powwows. So my boys and all of the others will be able to see that dance wherever they are and know what it means and be able to participate. I spent many months researching and talking to different people before engaging in these dances. And I’m fairly confident the dance participants get the idea and the meanings behind the dances.
So this powwow mom wants to know from all of you – what types of dances do you want to share / pass down to your children? How do you show them? Or what dances do you wish were danced at the powwow? Let me know!!
A sunny Cali powwow mom
PS – I’m attaching a picture of our group. Please excuse the Cantina sign! We had to get off stage quickly!!!
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