Native Profile – Rusty Gillette

Native Profile – Rusty Gillette

Russell Gillette

Rusty, “Hooves”


Dance Style

Originally from?
Fort Berthold Indian Reservation (Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara) North Dakota

Where presently living?
Falls Church, VA (Washington DC area)

Married or single?

Upcoming powwow schedule?
Hinckley, Cherokee, Four Bears 4th of July, White Shield, Shokapee, United Tribes, Black Hills, Manito Ahbee, Durant.

Favorite powwows?
I love all powwows because they all offer something different. But Gathering of Nations and Morongo are couple of my favs because its always vacation time when I go to them. And shokapee is a favorite.

Favorite drums?
Current favs off the top of my head: The Boyz, Midnite, Northern Cree, Bear Creek, Meskwaki, Poundmaker, Battle River, Mandaree, White Fish Jr, Bad Nation, Cree Confed, Mystic River, Young Spirit, Little Otter, Young Kingbird, Wild Horse. All-time favs: Stoney Park, Mandaree, White Fish Bay, Red Bull, Cathedral Lake, Blackstone, Eyabay

Who do  you consider good dancers in your category?
Everyone is good! There is no right way or wrong way to dance. There are a few rules of protocol to remember but we are not like rodeo where we have to do certain things to get a score and if we don't do them we are disqualified. As my grandpa said, “it's all in the presentation of the package.” certain people take to certain dancers for various reasons. Who is the best? You can make an argument for every Grass dancer in the world and no one is wrong. My heroes growing up were Jonathan Windy Boy, Wade Baker, Darrell Goodwill. There are a lot of moves done today that people think are “this guys” or “that guys” when really they were done 20-30 years ago by Jonathan, Wade or Darrell. I say that in a good way. Everyone is influenced by someone. They take it and make it their own. Put their own little flair to it. That's what makes them great. Because They made it theirs. Some people don't like it when others mock or imitate other dancers. But it makes me really feel good to see dancers do things I do. Because we don't own our moves or the way we dance. They came from somewhere. It was not ours to begin with. It's evolution. It's a good thing. New things are good. We need to evolve as Indians in a new world and so do our dances.

How do you train?
Mainly jump rope, play basketball, run. There is no workout that will focus on the exact same muscle group as Grass dancing itself. High impact step aerobics is pretty close. But that takes too long. I want a quick burn and be done. LOL even practicing at home doesn't justify wearing the weight of an outfit on different parts of your body like at a powwow. So even practicing in your own home is not as good as dancing at powwows. All in all, there is no better way to get in shape other than dancing itself.

Who makes your outfits?
My mom, Connie Gillette makes my cloth, and my beadwork was done by my wife, Jodi with a little help from her friends.

Transportation you use to get to powwows?
Depends, Chrysler Town and Country van, Honda Civic Hybrid, or i fly a lot in the fall, winter, spring because nothing is within 15 hours of where i live.

Will gas prices affect your powwow schedule?
No. It will only make things more expensive or else make me take the hybrid. lol

Favorite music?
Believe it or not, rap, r&b, hip hop, reggae. Favs are Jayz, Kanye, Rihanna, Tupac, Fugees, Black Eyed Peas, Wu-Tang Clan.

Other domestic skills?
Co-founder of Drumhop Productions and I'm also a graphic artist.

What you like to do when not powwowing?
Play basketball, being with my family. Support my wife and watch my kids grow and compete. I love to watch them succeed.

Favorite food?
Pizza, lasagne, cheeseburgers

Advice you would give to young people who look up to them?
That I am them. No better no worse.

Most memorable powwow highlight?
Winning a trip to Hawaii in the Midnight Special at Gathering of Nations, and also winning a car in Mandaree, ND.

Best dancing advice?
“You can't run with the big dogs if your going to piss like a puppy” Vince Gillette (father)

Powwow pet peaves?
People who laugh and make fun of other dancers because they're off, or they don't have nice stuff. Sometimes i wish i had the energy of some of those dancers.

Powwow memory you'd like to forget?
Seeing the true side of people when they lose. And some people don't lose very often. So you never see it. But I been at a couple powwows where things were inconsistent and you really got to see true side of people. It's easy to be a good winner. But you find a true persons character when they lose. I hate to see that.

Things I wish i could take out of powwows?
Politics. But politics is everywhere. Our government, our work places, even our schools. Politics is a social communication so there is no way around it in our powwow arenas. Because we have no guidelines in our dance competition, no definite criteria like gymnastics or rodeos, our system is an anonymous vote and their is no way to keep the politics out of that. lol

I answered these questions from a competitive standpoint. They're are many intangible reasons why we dance. And many dance for different reasons. I love to dance. I dance for a lot of reasons. Competition is a fraction of that. I love powwow people from every corner of the US. my travels have taught me a lot about tribes I didn't know existed. I am thankful for that. And thankful for being able to connect with so many great people because if I didn't dance, I would know none of you. aaaaaahhheeeeeoooooo (Ruben Littlehead style lol)

Last Updated on November 27, 2023 by Paul G

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