22 September 2008

Birds Adorn Gard at Intertribal Wacipi at Fort Omaha

Garb adorned with bird objects of a typical yet distinct sort was prominent regalia for dancers at an intertribal pow-wow at the historic Fort Omaha parade grounds.

The pow-wow was hosted by the Omaha Tribe, native to this region of the Missouri River valley.

Wacipi at the historic Fort Omaha parade grounds on Saturday, September 20th.

Sylphian skies over Fort Omaha.

During dance after dance, carried by the steady drum sound, the regalia of the men had the standard objects. Each in the Young Buck dance had a feather bustle of a small or grand sized bunch of feathers on the backside, in a length that varied.

They had an eagle wing fan, and some carried a durable wooden staff decorated with dangling feathers, and one with raptor talons on the top.

The winner of the Young Buck dance – for all men - had a bustle with two rows of eagle feathers the outer row black, while the inner row, was a shorter bunch, white tipped with black. A set of distinctive feathers yellow tipped with black - the mark of the northern flicker – dangled from his headband, along with a small beaded dreamcatcher. a thunderbird was the prominent motif on his vest. He added sounds from his flute for the grand circle around the dance area, receiving accolades for his presentation of the heritage of the people.

Winner of the men's Fancy Dance, showing his skills at Fort Omaha.

Decorated outfits of two tribal elders, waiting to dance.

The Golden Eagle was the most prominent species featured. A ceremonial staff several feet tall at the announcer’s booth - adorned with the carefully tended head and nape, below which hung a dream-catcher and more eagle feathers - was kept in prominent display for the duration of the wacipi dances.

It was a grand day for an outdoor ceremony on the lawn of the central parade grounds at the fort, surrounded by a ring of trees, on an 80o day with some sylphish clouds.

People at the pow-wow.

First of the competitions was to select a new Princess, another young woman to represent the people’s tribe. Then a women’s jingle dance, and the women’s traditional dance with 30 women participating.

The birdly adornment was on prominent display for the men’s fancy dancers. Their moves and antics bold and quick, like a warrior. An outfit of dramatic orange was sprouting with feathery decorating for the single man in one of the dances. Mammal skins were also worn by a few.

Six drum groups were present, with turns taken for each bunch of about 6 men actively working the sticks banging at the big, tight-skin instruments beating as the heart of those gathered. There were several opportunities for everyone to join in with the dancing.

“We’re all native to this earth – everybody come and dance,” the event announcer said.

The people celebrated again, their tribal traditions.

For the Grass Dance, about 15 prepared participants moved to the steady sound rolling across the fort grounds. The people celebrated again, the tribal traditions for the people on the plains.

We are having a thrill from “people participating in our ways,” a tribal elder said in a recognition during the afternoon.

The women’s apparel had its own unique accessories, but this meant more jingles, turtle motif’s for the beadwork, colorful fabrics carefully sewn, and perhaps a single feather carefully worn. Many carried a wing fan during their performance, and the Princess candidates also had theirs.

Each dancer typically wore bells of various sorts on their ankles. It was a classic scene in the Indian way on the earth.

Each of the men had a head ornament. The feathered head-dress was – as it usually can be – distinctive with long wing and tail feathers presented in various ways, from the single row down the middle, or a few dangling towards the back. Some of the feathers had been colored to green, orange or yellow.

Among the appreciative crowd, when the dancer took a pause, adornments were carefully handled and prominently placed. An eagle feather bustle was carefully hung from the back of a chair. One man, held on his lap a short staff topped also with an eagle head, the piercing eyes and opened, raptorial beak still conveying the spirit of the winged ones, an essential feature of the day’s ceremony.

Ten years after its origins, 1878 Fort Omaha became headquarters for the Department of the Platte, hosting many a gathering of the native peoples of the distant lands, traveling to deal with the government.

“The historic parade ground and exteriors of brick buildings cannot be altered,” according to historians. The fort is now a Metropolitan Community College Campus.

A pow-wow for the Omaha Tribe is held annually, this year having the requisite booths, with edibles, crafts and trinkets to buy. There was also story telling, and a display of tribal pictures. Dance winners received gifts and a cash award. There several hundred people present.

A unique display of critters on the hood of a car at Fort Omaha on pow-wow day. There is also a dream-catcher visible behind the wind-shield.

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