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TrishD Offline OP
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This week's article is about powwows in our region. Have you been to one? What did you think?

Great Lakes Native American Powwows

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I have been to a few, being Native American. I have mixed feelings about them but overall, I think they are interesting and I like the music and stuff.


Barbara Sharpe

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Wonderful article, Trish!

I have been to many PowWows, but never to the Great Lakes. In the Pacific Northwest, I used to help my Salish and Swinomish friends out at their PowWows in the set up. It was great fun and I thoroughly enjoy the dances and everything.


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Phyllis Doyle Burns
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Barbara - I know that there are a lot of people who feel they are exploitative of Native American culture. I've been to large ones and smaller ones, and the smaller ones felt less so, but you're right, I think it could be a loaded issue.

Phyllis - I'm glad you had so much fun. Have you been to both outdoor and indoor? Do you know dancers who prefer one over the other?


Trish Deneen
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Given that they are generally "put on" by natives, I guess I don't think they are exploitive. For me, it's more that they've become commercialized.


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Yes, I can see that. I can remember years ago attending the Ann Arbor Powwow and seeing a note taped to the doors by (I believe) the NA student organization that put it on. They were apologizing for the cost of entry and stated that it was the facility that charged that money and not the organizers.


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Trish, a lot of the dancers specialize in a few dances and become very expert at it but still participate in all the dances. Do you know it can take up to a year for a woman to make and decorate her dance regalia (dress, moccasins, etc.) and the dress can have as much as 20 pounds or more of beads on it? shocked

Yes, some people do feel that PowWows are exploitative to Native Americans. However, what most people do not understand is that the PowWows are not put on for the benefit of non Native Americans - they are not performances for the general public. Even though most of them are open to the public, these PowWows are ceremonies that are spiritual in nature and each one is for a specific purpose, to commerate some event, holiday or person. A lot of these ceremonies are closed to the public because of the secretiveness of the sacred ceremonies and rituals.

Generally accepted rules at PowWows are to not applaud, do not point, do not take photos, do not approach the dance area, do not dance unless invited by a tribal leader and never join a drum circle unless invited by a tribal member of the drum circle. There are other common sense rules, but the purpose of pointing these out is to show that the Native Americans involved in the PowWow are not "performing" for us - they are conducting ceremonies for their own reasons. smile

Last edited by Phyllis, NA and Folk; 02/24/09 05:28 PM.

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Phyllis Doyle Burns
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Originally Posted By: TrishPagan&Great LakesEd
Yes, I can see that. I can remember years ago attending the Ann Arbor Powwow and seeing a note taped to the doors by (I believe) the NA student organization that put it on. They were apologizing for the cost of entry and stated that it was the facility that charged that money and not the organizers.


There is no place large enough anymore for the Native Americans to conduct their sacred ceremonies anymore - so they have to rent the large gyms, halls, buildings, etc. to accomodate all their peoples. In order for them to have to do this, they cannot shut out the general public, so they must have it as an open event. The cost of the tickets does go to the facility owners for usage of the facilities (restrooms, bleachers, etc.). Native Americans do not like charging people for the opportunity to watch their ceremonies - to do so would take away the spiritual aspect/meaning of it all. The vendors who charge for their foods and crafts are making some profit, but have to pay the facility owners rent for the space they are using - what little profit they get goes to replace the food and supplies they used up for the event. Ceremonies that are closed to the public are usually held on the reservations.

I have been to both indoor and outdoor PowWow's and I must say, the outdoor ones seem more spiritual. But, being indoors and hearing the beat of the drums is profound and the vibrations are felt in my soul.


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Phyllis Doyle Burns
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Phyllis,

The drums and singing are mesmerizing and I would always feel calm when listening. I have known people who have gone to sun dance and been to private powwows, and I have respect for the fact that they are dancing for a reason.

I agree about the effect of the music when you hear it indoors. It's still beautiful outside but doesn't have the same acoustics.

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Phyllis - I'd agree with you that the pow wows on the reservations are more spiritual. When I lived on the Saginaw Chippewa rez, they had a "public" pow wow on the campus of the local university, then they also had private, smaller ones. I much prefer those. It's very difficult to translate some native traditions to modern society and the pow wow, in my opinion, is one of them. We try, though. smile


Barbara Sharpe

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