Everyone who lives in the United States of America should attend a Native American Pow Wow at some point, not only because they're super fun and extra cool, but because you will see up close the deep reverence our original residents have for their land - and their history. As we all should.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Wacipi was held this past weekend at The Meadows at Mystic Lake, and was nothing short of spectacular. I hadn't been to a pow wow since my Augsburg College days, and my Mom had never been to one, so we changed that yesterday when I loaded her (and her new prototype leg!) up and headed out to Shakopee for a day of honoring the beautiful history of this place, as well as the beautiful (seriously, stunning!) people who taught it to us through their costumes, food, crafts, art, and dance. Wacipi (or Pow Wow) actually means "They Dance". And dance they did.
Collectively, the dancing looked to be one big sun dance, as the ominous morning clouds and wind soon cleared out and opened up to the bluest skies possible, and bright sunshine that caused the sparkling costumes to gleam even more brilliantly. A huge wind turbine stood tall above the American flags, showing that the Native people are still far more in touch with our earth and natural resources than our sorely lacking government.
We got to sit in the box reserved for the tribal elders (and handicapped people), and it was a front row seat to the grand entrance of all the tribes dancing in to the Pow Wow grounds. After a solemn prayer in a tongue I didn't recognize, but wished I did, an announcer introduced all the different tribes and dance groups, all with a sense of humor and fun, though the singing and chanting sounded pretty serious.
I left the box to get a closer look, and was suddenly overcome with emotion as I watched all the wonderful dancers file past with such regal dignity. I got choked up thinking about how poorly our government has treated Native Americans historically, and yet these tribes are still thriving.
They are keeping their traditions alive, and passing them down to generation after generation. And the way they honor the earth. And their ancestors. And the fact that they still allow the white man/woman to join them in their celebrations, forgetting what atrocities their ancestors committed and understanding that we all share this place together now, so we might as well dance. It was deeply, deeply moving.
The whole affair reminded me a lot of the Merrie Monarch Festival that takes place each year in Hawai'i, when its native people perform their hulas and stories for everyone in Hilo ... even the developers trying to turn sacred lands into golf courses or telescopes. We would be such a better country if we all recognized how truly spiritual and important the native teachings really are.
Here in Minnesota, the dances were broken up into categories like: Fancy Shawl, Jingle Dress, Golden Age, Chicken Dancers, Grass Dancers and all ages competed to be the best. Tiny kids in full regalia danced or were held by gorgeous women in their breathtaking costumes or regal men in elaborate headdresses that told their own stories. It was a true feast for the eyes in every direction one looked.
It was also a legitimate feast, as food vendors were lined up (at the bottom of a hill that gave me a major wheelchair pushing workout, but we did it!) to sell the native delicacies. Indian tacos were the big draw of the day, with several different vendors dishing them up, all with long lines. Indian tacos are just like regular tacos only they are served on crisp, airy fry bread. The same fry bread is also done up as dessert, with strawberries and cream or cinnamon and chocolate. I want more today, as typing this is making my mouth water. Wild rice hot dish, walleye sandwiches ... it was a true taste of native Minnesota.
Native crafts were also on display, with blankets, leather goods, and a whole lot of things done up in native beadwork. Mom and I each got a souvenir, and we will both wear them with deep pride, tell anyone who asks all about the wonderful Pow Wow we bought them at. We were honored to be there, and the jewelry will be a reminder to us both of a very special day we spent together honoring our state's native people. We'll be gushing about it for some time to come, for sure.
At a time when there is so much talk about immigration and walls and borders and all of that, I wonder how Native Americans can even stand to hear any of it. Our government STOLE their land, and did everything they could to eradicate any memory of them or their traditions. ANY citizen of the United States that is not Native American came from an immigrant family, and would do well to zip it as far as any negativity toward new immigrant families. And would do even better to lower your head in respect when anyone Native crosses your path, in both humility and in thanks - for not only sharing THEIR original land with us, but for doing it so beautifully.
I don't know how to say thank you in the Dakota language, so I looked it up and hope it's right ...
PIDAMAYA DO! to all involved with the remarkable Wacipi weekend! Wow.
*Yesterday was also the last day of Hearts Of Our People! I hope you made it to that exceptional exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
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