restricted access 1. Bodies in Motion: An Introduction
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1 Bodies in Motion An Introduction 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 Dream-Vision shared by a community of initiates—and it is as close as the sky. Paula Gunn Allen, Pocahontas Scents of burning sage and sizzling venison burgers lift and linger. Piercing voices sing at the Drum. Dancers press, tap, and fly into the arena circle in flashes of blue, yellow, brown, and red, Hwe ya we ya, hwe ya hai—(ya!) It’s Schemitzun, it’s Indian country. Throughout the United States and Canada, thousands of Native American intertribal powwows occur every year. Many of us are familiar with the popular expression “let’s have a powwow” to refer to a meeting where important matters will be discussed. Yet in Indian country, a powwow means other things —an intimate tribal gathering, a massive dance competition for large cash prizes, or a memorial for a dead relative celebrated high in the Black Hills. Some see powwows as social affairs where people gather to dance, sing, drum, eat, reestablish family ties, and make new friends. Others confirm the central role of Native spirituality and sacred traditions. Powwows are typically organized around open spaces outdoors on Indian reservations and college campuses or in parks. In the winter, they are also held indoors at community centers, churches, and schools. Tribal nations, social organizations, families, intertribal communities, or college groups host these events often on holidays such as Labor Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day. Indians and non-Indians attend. Powwows usually begin on Thursday or Indians and Wannabes 2 Friday and end on Sunday, though they can also last for only a day or two. The most active powwow season is from early spring until fall. In this book, I examine intertribal powwows primarily in and around New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut and along the Atlantic coastline into New England. In this area of the Northeast, attendees enjoy a variety of activities : concession stands with food, artwork, and crafts; dance, athletic, and drum exhibitions and contests; and storytelling, hand games, musical entertainment , and Mexican Aztec dancers and other invited performers. Fund-raising events, all-night dancing and singing around a campfire, honoring rituals, and behind-the-scenes political, tribal, and community meetings are also common . In other parts of the country, powwow activities may include automobile, truck, and horse parades; princess pageants; rodeos and horse races; and traditional ceremonies such as giveaways, talking circles, and sweat lodges. Each region of the United States—in the woodlands, along the shore, on the plains, or in the desert—has its own complex of tribal and intertribal groups. Geography, topography, and traditional ways affect how people live, work, play, worship, celebrate, and perform culture and participate in powwow. Each powwow is distinctive. However, intertribal powwows throughout Indian country share many characteristics and reveal expressions of Native worldviews that offer us revolutionary ways to live in diversity and in peace. My own interest in powwow began on a hot, dusty June afternoon in Brooklyn , New York. As I watched Native dancers join the Grand Entry of the powwow , tears came to my eyes. Here, I thought, is the very meaning of a dance that is personally, socially, politically, and spiritually relevant. I was fascinated by the dancers’ drive and expertise, and several questions came to my mind: Why is this dance so compelling? How do powwow dancers express such meaning and beauty? What do their dances signify for the communities in which they are performed? Later on, the production and diffusion of power became a major concern: in other words, why and how does this compelling performance genre draw us into its circle again and again? These queries coincide with my conviction that the performing arts serve a purpose beyond entertainment or pure artistic beauty. At powwow, this function might include spiritual worship , the affirmation of individual and community identity, social and political change, and the survival of a people and their traditions. Powwows Are Everywhere Inspired by my first experience, I started to go to more powwows. Investigating anything and everything on the subject...


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Subject Headings

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