April 16th, 2015 Last Updated on: April 16th, 2015
Without a doubt, at every powwow, they will be noticed; the kid with a mismatched outfit and either Tandy Leather Factory moccasins or simply socks and shoes. Like all little kids, they don't care what they look like, how they come off to people or what they do – they dance simply to dance.
I was that child. I didn't come from an extensive line of dancers, no one in my family or anyone I knew growing up was a dancer. I don't even recall my earliest memory from a powwow, but my mother has the pictures to prove it. I started dancing at age four, I'm twenty three now and all I feel is how much I loved and still loved it; there was no greater or more powerful feeling than being in the circle and being surrounding by so much love and support.
The friendships and relatives I gained from powwows are, in most cases, closer to me than my blood relatives. That isn't simply because my family aren't powwow people, the connection is just there. I've received advice and outfit tips and encouragement from people that I didn't even know, but to this day, are the first people I greet at powwows when I see them. This isn't to say that I didn't face many adversities… Oh, did I, and lots of them. I was teased, made fun of, laughed at. I danced funny, I never stopped on time, I wore my leggings backwards, etc. All of which many of us have gone through and I guess that's what caused the desire to learn more and keep dancing came from.
I practiced. I watched videos of my mom recording me and that's probably what helped me the most, by being able to see what I looked like and fix anything I felt didn't look good. She also taught me to bead and sew when I was nine, a hobby that I've kept up since then, so I never want for beadwork or outfits because I have the ability and skill to make my own. It was always just her and I at powwows, even though I have two brothers, so when I go to powwows that she can't be at or isn't up to going to, everyone asks where she is and how she's doing. My summer memories are of just my mother and I, traveling to local powwows every weekend.
In South Dakota, or at least on my reservation, a few of our schools started an organization; Teca Wacipi Okolakiciye, where every school on the Rez came together once a month to have a powwow and took turns hosting at their respective schools. It was here that I grew the most – we had meetings and even sewing club to learn about what we needed for our outfits, as well as dance practice. We were able to gain friends from other schools, compete in categories by grade, hold specials and even compete for TWO royalty, which also gave many of us practice for larger pageants and powwows.
I was a member of my schools dance club from third grade until I graduated. During that time, I learned so much invaluable experience and I cannot thank them enough for everything each of the dance club sponsors, other dancers and committee members taught me, as well as so many others. I have many awards from these powwows, including 9-12 Grade Girl's Jingle Overall Champion in 2010.
I also never carried titles from the TWO organization, though I did try for them in my younger years, I did hold titles for my district, school and went on to become Miss Oglala Nation 2009-2010 and compete for Miss Indian World that year, the only Miss Oglala Nation ever to do so. Coming from a non-powwow family, I'm extremely proud to be able to say that.
My dancing has also taken me to New York City, to perform at the National Museum of the American Indian in 2009.
I was also honored to be chosen as Head Woman Dancer at last years Oglala Nation Fair, my first head dancer experience.
My message with this post is to encourage anyone who has ever wanted to dance, to just do it. Start now, ask someone to teach you, learn how to sew, how to bead, ask questions, be respectful and most importantly, do not let the criticisms of others break you down.
Tara Weston is enrolled Oglala Lakota from the Pine Ridge Reservation, she is a Psychology major and aspires to be a counselor. She is also a freelance photographer, videographer and blogger. Keep up with her on Instagram @rwxse.
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