I had an experience last weekend that sent chills down my entire body for almost 48 hours straight….and then left me with a life-long memory of a spectacular cultural event that stirred my artistic soul like few others I have ever experienced. You see, I love Native Americans; I am fascinated and moved by everything to do with Indians. I have read many books, collected picture books, taken photos myself, purchased rugs and jewelry and baskets as evidenced in my home where it all combines quite well with my own contemporary abstract paintings and my African collection. I am a mix and match, ecclectic decorator.
My generous daughter booked us for the Native American Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque for the weekend, then an extra night in Santa Fe before we each flew out to our respective homes – she to Vancouver and I to Denver. I was thrilled, to put it mildly. I had been to several small pow wows through the years but nothing approaching this magnitude. Nothing with the pageantry of this.
During the opening ceremony, 2800 Indian men and women representing dozens of tribal nations in full dress filed into the arena to an almost deafening beating of drums and singing coming from several points on the arena floor. It was thunderous – it was chilling – it was visually stunning! The variety of regalia was magnificent! The fine artistry of it all was evident in the feathers, the fancy beaded garments and moccasins, the jewelry, the headdresses, the belts and accessories – all were fascinating and endless in their variations. My first photo above was the very beginning of just one row of Indians – they came from all corners of the arena, marching down the stairs between the seats to the floor below. I had never before seen such a huge gathering of tribes – Navajo, Cree, Seminole, Crow…the list went on and on. There were Indian names I had never heard. The energy was palpable; the history was right there before us and the language lives. I was told by a Navajo gentleman sitting next to me that the secret parts of tribal dances are never performed in public; they are kept only for private ceremonies in their own communities. But there was enough revealed in both song and dance to keep us enthralled for hours on end.
For the next two full days and evenings, then well into the wee hours of Sunday morning the dancing and the chanting and the drumming continued. There are many dances! The rain dance, the grizzly bear dance, the fancy dancers, the jingle dancers, the chicken dancers, the southern dancers, the summer dances and the grass dance – it goes on and on. The toddler dances, the under 5 dances, the teenage girl and boy dances – then the young maiden dances and the Indian Princess dances followed by the bachelor dances. Prizes were awarded to the winners in all ages, from under five years to elders over seventy in all categories. Traditional gifts of thanks in the form of blankets, quilts, baskets and such are given to the extended family and supporters of the contest winners, as is the Indian custom. Winners are given gifts also, and cash prizes, and the great honor of being recognized by their peers.
I am filled with wonder and gratitude that I was given this experience. But then, if you knew my daughter you would not be surprised. She is extraordinarily insightful and generous; a believer in the priceless value of incomparable experiences, a world traveler, a fine travel photographer and a graphic artist. Her name is Kelly K. Heapy. Follow her blog at http://www.compassandcamera.com and here on WordPress and you will certainly see her professional photographs of the Pow Wow event.You can also find her photography on Instagram and Twitter, as is mine which pales by comparison…..
Jo Ann Brown-Scott, artist and author