30 September 2013

Intertribal Powwow Celebrates Tribal Culture

The resounding beat of the drum welcomed tribal members and quests to the 22nd annual Fort Omaha intertribal powwow held September 28th. On a languid Saturday afternoon under perfect blue skies, tribal dancers in their finest regalia danced to the beats provided by various drum groups for the different featured dances.

Tots to tribal elders participated in several types of common dances, including the men's traditional, the grass dance, the jingle dress (with its uniquely expressive sounds conveyed by the moving women), the men's fancy feather, and the women's fancy shawl where the draped fabric was spun and turned as if it represented the wings of a bird. The intertribal dances allowed every interested participant to step out around the dance arena.

As always bird material was an essential part of the regalia. There were grand bustles made of many feathers, appreciated bird-wing fans, and some thunderbird bead work. Other wildbird representations included a short staff topped by a raptors extended claws and a bird-bill flute.

One of the most significant features of the afternoon occurred when an eagle feather fell from a youth's regalia, and landed on the grass. A visitor noted the feather on the ground, and tried to return it to the dancer. What occurred next was a learning moment for the dancer and powwow guests.

All dancing activities were stopped, because the feather was "lost." It was then ceremoniously retrieved by a tribal elder, and in this case, a military veteran. It was a profound time, as the feather was given special consideration, with the tribal elder, along with others of the boy's family, "properly" returning the feather to its owner. Daryl Grant spoke to the crowd after he held the feather and "dedicated" it to the four directions ... east, south, west and north ... speaking unknown word at each of these four directions which are so prominent.

During this time, the master of ceremonies asked that no pictures be taken.

Once elder Grant finished, other tribal members approached the young dancer, shaking his hand, and in several cases, providing a monetary contribution. The youth and his grand-father walked around the dance arena, the feather held high so everyone present could recognize its significance. After the tribal actions to confer importance once again to the feather, a female elder present, brought forth the visiting woman who had tried to return the feather to its owner. A discussion ensued, and an explanation was given as to the action taken. There were more contributions made to respect what had happened.

It was primarily a learning/teaching experience. The result seemed to be that the people present had a better understanding of protocols and significance associated with the dance arena.

This was all done to respect the spirit of a single eagle feather.

Prominent at the announcers booth was a ceremonial totem staff, topped by the head of a adult Bald Eagle.

Regalia at the Wacipi that Included Items With a Bird Motif
Or were otherwise especially notable.

The women's Jingle Dance.

A vest showing Thunderbird bead work.

The theme of this powwow was "Paths of Courage" which included a presentation and dance promoting suicide prevention. Supportive funding was provided by Douglas County Visitor Improvement funds, and the Nebraska Arts Council.