A total of 67 Native American nations have called Oklahoma home. We spent an entire day immersed in the traditions and history of the area. We started at the Standing Bear Museum and Education Center. Standing Bear paved the way for native rights in this country.
Standing Bear was a Ponca Native American chief, who in 1879 successfully argued in U.S. District Court that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law” and have the right of habeas corpus. -Wikipedia
After the museum, we headed over to the Kaw Nation Pow Wow Grounds.
**The term “Pow Wow” is the white man’s version of the Indian word “pau-wau,” which originally stood for a healing ceremony conducted by the spiritual or religious leaders of various tribes.
It was a fun family event, and a first for all of us.
The evening started off honoring the veterans, and all “warriors” past and present.
* Pow Wows are inter-tribal social gatherings that began roughly in the 1880’s. This was at a time Indians were experiencing great upheavals in their communities, as those were the years of the assimilation era when tribes were being forced onto reservations, into more sedentary lifestyles, and families were being broken up due to the boarding school policy. By the 1960’s the federal government’s relocation policy led to large populations of Native Americans in urban centers and Pow Wows became an important way for Indians to stay connected to their tribal cultures and identities.
The Dance Regalia was stunning. Simply beautiful.
*In today’s world not everybody in Native societies possesses the skills required to construct dance regalia, and in fact most simply do not. Often dance outfits or elements of outfits are passed down; grandma’s moccasins, dad’s dance fan or bustle, or mom’s buckskin and bead-work. More often outfits are made by family members, purchased in the marketplace, or custom-made by professional artists. Far less commonly are outfits actually made by the dancer her or himself. No matter which way a dancer acquires their dance regalia, it typically takes many years to build a wardrobe of dance outfits (most dancers own more than one outfit), and is very expensive.
* For dancers, not only is the act of dancing that expression, but the wearing of dance regalia is the visible manifestation of one’s heritage. A dancer’s regalia is one of the most powerful symbols of her Native identity and in that regard it can be considered sacred. This is one reason why it is incorrect to refer to dance regalia as a “costume.”
The night progressed with dance competitions, a 50/50 raffle, and a contest for the best “Indian” joke.
**In the old days, the Pow Wow was tribal specific, and no women were allowed to actively participate. However, because the number of Native Americans has dwindled, different tribes often collaborate together to put on a Pow Wow to share in each other’s heritage, not only amongst themselves, but also the general public as well. In addition, Indian women are now an accepted part of the Pow Wow tradition.
If you plan on attending a Pow Wow, they do have rules of etiquette. We didn’t know that until after arriving. My big blunder was, of course, taking photographs. Here’s a link to the rules. I did receive conflicting information regarding taking photos, so I did my best to only include photos here, that I believe are OK to do so. I definitely don’t want to be disrespectful.
So, thank you to The Kaw Nation for a wonderful evening. I can’t wait until the next Pow Wow!
* Excerpt taken from the website, Native American Dance Regalia: The Art of Powwow.
**Excerpt taken from the website, Indians.Org.