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Indians and Wannabes

Native American Powwow Dancing in the Northeast and Beyond

Ann M. Axtmann

Publication Year: 2013

Colloquially the term “powwow” refers to a meeting where important matters will be discussed. However, at the thousands of Native American intertribal dances that occur every year throughout the United States and Canada, a powwow means something else altogether. Sometimes lasting up to a week, these social gatherings are a sacred tradition central to Native American spirituality. Attendees dance, drum, sing, eat, re-establish family ties, and make new friends.

In this compelling interdisciplinary work, Ann Axtmann examines powwows as practiced primarily along the Atlantic coastline, from New Jersey to New England. She offers an introduction to the many complexities of the tradition and explores the history of powwow performance, the variety of their setups, the dances themselves, and the phenomenon of “playing Indian.” Ultimately, Axtmann seeks to understand how the dancers express and embody power through their moving bodies and what the dances signify for the communities in which they are performed.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-6


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pp. vi-vi

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pp. vii-ix

As a ballet dancer, I eventually chose bare feet over pointe shoes for perform-ing, teaching, and choreographing dance theater in Mexico and the United States. Writing followed close behind. There is no doubt that one can dance and write?move and think. This book is the result of a lengthy process of dancing, writing, and creating. From the outset, many people shared my journey....

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1. Bodies in Motion: An Introduction

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pp. 1-16

So the cycle has ever continued, and the way of the Sky World, the manito aki or Other World, is always renewed. It could be said that the Sky World is far from the Turtle Island, because understood one way that is true; understood from another perspective, of course, the faraway place is Dream time, the place the initiated enter during apowa or powwaw?a single person?s Dream-Vision or a ...

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2. A Polychronic Genealogy

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pp. 17-35

The natives of America thought of the cosmos as a unit that was throbbing with the same life-force of which they were conscious within themselves; a force that gave to the rocks and hills their stable, unchanging character; to every living thing on land or water the power of growth and of movement; to man the ability to think, to will and to bring to pass. This universal and permeating ...

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3. Inner and Outer Influences

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pp. 36-52

This chapter continues to trace powwow history. I examine the juxtaposition of Native American dance activities during the nineteenth and early twenti-eth centuries with events organized by outsiders in which Indians participated and were frequently a major attraction. Although colonialism devastated the lifestyles and much of the traditional culture of Native Americans, these did ...

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4. Traveling Circles

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pp. 53-71

I was still on my bay horse, and once more I felt the riders of the west, the north, the east, the south, behind me in formation, as before, and we were going east. I looked ahead and saw the mountains there with rocks and forests on them, and from the mountains flashed all colors upward to the heavens. Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, and round about beneath me was ...

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pp. 72-85

...1. Grass dancer Daniel Francis Dana (Penobscot) at the 2006 Annual Native 2. Grand Entry at the 1997 Annual Crow Fair Celebration, Crow Agency, Montana.3. The drum at the 1995 Schemitzun Feast of Green Corn and Dance, Mashantucket, 4. Intertribal dance at the 2009 Annual United Tribes International Powwow, Bismarck, 5. Non-Indian spectators at the 1995 Gateway to the Nations PowWow, Brooklyn, New York....

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5. Transcultural Beginnings

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pp. 86-106

...and are still here, especially when we see the children dancing.As they circle around the arena in the Grand Entry, participants produce a light up-and-down movement that draws us in. Moving with the drum, some danc-ers advance with two steps on the left foot, two on the right while others take one small short step to the right and then another to the left. Some emphasize ...

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6. Performing Race

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pp. 107-124

The question of my ?identity? often comes up. I think I must be a mixed blood. I claim to be male, although only one of my parents was male.Native American intertribal powwows are open, public sites where Indian and non-Indian dancing bodies visibly perform race in complex ways. I use the term ?perform race? to refer to all those who dance at powwows, although in this ...

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7. Contemporary Wannabes

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pp. 125-144

When non-Indians dance at intertribal powwows, what does their participation signify in the context of interracial and transcultural exchange? How do these people perform race? Why are some non-Indians so intensely invested in what could ultimately be called a game of dress-up? In this chapter, I explore how some of these individuals play Indian through dance at powwows primarily in ...

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8. Power in Motion: A Conclusion

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pp. 145-164

In this book I have suggested numerous ways that moving bodies perform and generate power. At powwows throughout North America, power is manifest in the longevity and constancy of Iruska and the repetitive actions and practices performed across centuries of Native American dance. It is also manifested in the ways that bodies in motion engage in space and in time and in the complex ...


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pp. 165-178


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pp. 179-186

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About the Author

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pp. 198-198

A.scnn M.sc. A.scx.sctm.scann has performed with the Joffrey Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, and many other dance companies. Her choreographic work has ap-peared throughout Mexico and in the United States. An independent scholar living in Maine, she has published in Dance Research Journal, Body and Lan-guage: Intercultural Learning through Drama, and the Mid-Atlantic Almanack....

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048642
E-ISBN-10: 0813048648
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049113

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 18 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 863157263
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Indians and Wannabes

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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Ethnic identity.
  • Indian dance -- North America.
  • Powwows -- North America.
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