Indian Dance

American Indian Heritage Month

When I enrolled at Clark College I filled out some form that asked my ethnicity and I put American Indian. Now I’m on the diversity mailing list and have gotten more mail than a person taking a single class for one quarter could possibly need.

I got a letter inviting me to try out for head dancer at the Clark College Pow Wow and when I told Bob, he said: "Cool. Are you going to do it?"

And I gave him a funny look because (a) I’ve never been a pow wow dancer, (b) pow wow isn’t part of my tradition, and (c) I’m not even a dancer in my own tribe’s tradition. Still, it was nice to be asked.

We went for Indian tacos before the pow wow and I was a little worried because there were only about 20 people and I thought, Oh no. Low turnout. My fears were unwarranted. The gym was more than half full. And those people are sad they missed out because the Indian tacos were awesome. I’ll omit any discussion about the fry bread controversy since it’s so yummy but if you’re interested start here. Also there was a tiny riot when late in the night the frybread ran out.

I love pow wows. My first favorite part is grand entry. It starts with Indian veterans and there’s always at least couple ancient elders, usually tiny, who stand so tall and so proud and are so completely confident and in charge. There is no way to watch without feeling a tug in your heart.

Last night was no exception. They followed grand entry with an hour of talking into microphones that sounded like the grownups on Charlie Brown. Everyone got to say something. Too bad most of it was unintelligible. This situation was made worse by all the dancers wearing bells on their shoes or jingle dresses and jumping around. I understood little except that this is part of a Title VII program — some sort of federal education funding and Indians.

They talked about Indian Heritage Month and read some sort of proclamation from President Bush. Possibly this. I like the part that goes, " … we honor the generations of American Indians and Alaska Natives who have added to the character of our Nation." I sat in the bleachers and said, "added? Are you kidding me, added?" The person reading the proclamation said he was going to skip the part about money and I said, "Yeah, how about settling Cobell?” the Indian trust case that doesn’t seem to have a chance of being settled. My dear husband encouraged me to relax and perhaps keep it down a bit

The MC was fantastic, as they usually are. He said, "We used to get just a day. Now, we get a whole month."

My second favorite part was the kid in the bleachers who danced during the opening songs, with a light saber.

My third favorite part was the tiny tots. Seven and under kids dancing is the cutest thing you’ve ever seen in your life. There was a little girl who looked like the Indian version of Little Miss Sunshine. I had my fingers crossed for a Super Freak moment.

Probably the highlight of the night was the drumline group of non-Indian sixth to eighth graders who set up their drums and joined the pow wow drum for a song. The first round didn’t completely work but the second round they were on fire. But no dancers. The MC asked them to play again and asked the dancers to get out there. Some of them balked but he would have none of it. "Make something up," he said. At least half of them got out there and went for it. It was really, really cool.

The next dance was Intertribal and the MC called the drumline kids out and asked them to dance. A nice moment and when you think about it, this is what heritage month should be all about.

I know a lot of people worked hard to make last night happen so huge applause from me. Super fun time.

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