|Fancy Dancer at Red Earth Festival|
For those of us who remember “Westerns”, the image of a pow-wow is a circle of Native American tribal leaders called to resolve a problem. For Native Americans, its root is from the Algonquin word “pau wau” referring to a gathering of spiritual leaders or medicine men. But today, it refers to a gathering of both Native Americans and others to dance, sing, socialize, and honor the tradition.
|Laketa Pratt 's Buckskin Doll|
|Chase Earles - Caddo piece|
While exploring the arts and craft section, I met three tour agents from Germany who were thrilled to be there. As children, they all read books by Karl May, a German author who wrote a series of books about Chief Winnetou, fictional chief of the Apache Tribe. One agent said he would receive a new book every Christmas and birthday and he was fascinated by The Old West. Because of these books, many Germans still come to the Southwest on their American vacation and the Oklahoma City Tourist Office promotes its destination throughout Germany.
A grand parade each morning brought several hundred dancers into the arena, led by an elderly honor guard of veterans, the highest honor of a warrior society. This year, members of the Seminole tribe carried a traditional staff with eagle feathers in front followed by the American and Oklahoma flags. Singers sang in their native tongue to a deliberate drum beat. Women’s dresses swayed easily to the simple steps. Children followed in native regalia. Young male dancers swirled and jumped. All stood in a circle as the Native American Flag Song was sung honoring the American flag.
The dancing soon began, with four contests each for men and women. All hoped to win a cash prize up to $1000 for first place. A special family prize of a quarter horse was donated by the R. G. Harris family - one of the emcees and a former fancy dancer - and given to the best fancy dancer. Eric Oesch, director of the Red Earth Festival, admitted their prize money can’t compete with those offered by pow-wows sponsored by tribal run casinos but it was enough to draw a good crowd. Most were dancing for the tradition even though their native garb easily cost hundreds of dollars.
|Jingle Dance Dress|
Past and present day life played out in the civic center as a painted warrior pushed a baby stroller, a father used a Q-tip to paint his child’s face, and at the food court, a young Fancy Dancer was more interested in finding pizza than an Indian Taco. A man from Dallas seated next to me asked, “Is this your first pow-wow?” He had just begun exploring his Cherokee/Choctaw heritage and enjoyed attending pow-wows on the week-end. There are many to choose from in all 50 states. Four other pow-wows were advertised on the Red Earth week-end, including one in Texas. I replied, “yes, it’s my first pow-wow but it won’t be my last.”
Contact Red Earth Festival - Red Earth Festival Site
Contact Chase Earles - http://www.caddopottery.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/caddopottery