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• Chapter Thirteen Allen’s Pow Wow and Carnival Saturday, August 23, 1969 The Reynolds Carnival, with their usual little hardscrabble collection of rusty, run-down rides, half-dead animals, and creepy carny workers, had set up at the Allen Pow Wow every summer for fifteen years, not that the Allen community officials hadn’t tried to get a decent carny comp­ any instead. All the more respectable outfits were scared to death of the Indians that made up the majority of the crowd, so every year the creepy Reynolds Carnival workers drove their gear-grinding old trucks pulling rusty sideshow setups and diseased sad-eyed animals in wired-­ together cages two hundred miles from the nearest sizeable town to set up on the sun-dead grass outside Allen town. The pow wow and carnival lasted only two days because neither the town proper nor the paying customers could stand any more fun time than that. The Red Birds had played for the dance in the Allen Community Center every summer for several years with no untoward aftereffects, so they were asked back again. Melvin and Sonny, Clayton and Sissy arrived just after noon, and for once Sonny hadn’t minded showing up ­ early. He had a date, a hot one he said, blowing into his palms, then shaking them furiously while he jumped up and down. Sissy guessed that his date wasn’t Speedy. First they set up their equipment in the echoing room that doubled as a community meeting place and a basketball court for the town-­ sponsored team in the winter, locking it up afterward with the key­ provided by the pink-faced mayor, a bustling fat man who ran the ­ local equivalent of a grocery store. The pow wow dancing had been running for an hour or more; the crowd at the arena fence had already seen the Opening Prayer, the Flag Ceremony and Prayer, the Veteran’s Dance and the Men’s Traditional Dance, where the long-tailed bustles of feathers sometimes held a red feather, a signifier that the dancer was a veteran who had been wounded in action. When Clayton and Sissy and Melvin 140 Chapter Thirteen gently pushed through the crowd to the fence, the Women’s Traditional was in motion, ladies dipping and swaying in place, their outfits heavily beaded in red, yellow, blue—even hot pink and purple—following their motions, while the Tater Creek Singers’ padded drumsticks Boom Boom Boomed. “Look, look,” Melvin nudged Sissy while pointing with his lips. “Ain’t that Agnes Bear Claw? You’d think she’d be too old for this.” “Yeah, that’s her,” Sissy said. “She must be—what—close to ninety.” “I hear the younger women wish she’d give it up,” Melvin said. “She always gets the prize. I think it’s sympathy.” They watched as Agnes stood in place bending her knees to the rhythm. “If it wasn’t for the drum, we could probably hear her knees pop,” Sissy said. “Have some respect for a wise elder,” Melvin said. “Sometimes people aren’t wise elders. They’re just old,” Sissy said. The dance ended with Agnes walking up to take her prize, then the drum struck up an old-time dance, rarely performed, the Rabbit Dance. Wana Wagni kte eh Cante sica yaun sni ye-eh Toksa kiksuya he waun kte eh Hiya ah—hiya ah yo—oo Sissy spoke a little Lakota—cikal—as her dad would say, so she followed the words of the song about a man leaving his lover and telling her not to have a sad heart. This was a couple’s dance, a social dance, not competitive. Sissy wished Lawrence and Lily had gotten back in time to attend the pow wow. She walked away from the dancing over to the carnival area, through grounds already littered with soda pop bottles, dis­ carded candy wrappers, wadded-up napkins, and here and there a beer bottle or can. The pow wow was supposed to be an alcohol-free event, but it never really was. Tinny music came from the merry-go-round where a few mothers watched their children going around and around and up and down while they glanced back over their shoulders to the dance arena. As she passed a shooting gallery with dirty stuffed toys dangling from the roof edge, she saw a carny with greasy, choppy-looking hair wearing a stained wife beater shirt leaning on the counter while he...


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