Native American Powwow History-3

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Grand Entry, Fresno New Year's Eve Powwow

Native American Powwow History, Page 3

Vendors often camp next to their booths. The majority of vendors are Indians who are traveling the “powwow trail”. They sell their artwork as well as supplies for making accessories for dance outfits such as hides, feathers and beads (Braine 1995:13).

Originally powwows occurred mainly on reservations, but in the last 25 years they have taken place in a variety of locations such as colleges, convention centers, public parks and fairgrounds. The resurgence of the “Indian Identity” in the last 25 years or so has greatly contributed to the popularity and the continuing evolution of the contemporary powwow. Estimates point to about 90% of all Native Americans attending or participating in powwows, which indicates that the powwow is an important part of their lives (Parfit 1994:6:98,112).

In the 1950s urbanization and the continued expansion of contact between and among Indian communities helped the growth of the powwow, as it became a common meeting ground for Indians of all tribal affiliations. The powwow circuit continued its development in the Plains area while Indians in urban areas began planning and establishing their own powwows. For Indians in smaller communities outside the Plains, the powwow emerged as a viable means of Indian expression. Having lost many old traditions, the powwow established a new tradition for Indians (Iverson 1998:136).

The 1980s and 1990s the powwow was established as a national Indian institution and a symbol of Indian identity. A Southern Cheyenne, W. Richard West, Jr., stated, “Dance is the very embodiment of indigenous values and represents the response of the Native Americans to complex and sometimes difficult historical experiencesÂ…The dance of native peoples is thus both a vital means of surviving culturally and a powerful expression of that survival (Iverson 1998:179).”

These gathering of Native Americans usually occur on weekends. Spring and summer are peak season but powwows occur all year round, even during Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays. Memorial Day weekend is an important time of the year for powwows to honor Native American veterans (Rendon 1996:19).

The busiest powwow season is between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Many Indians spend the entire summer traveling from one powwow and/or rodeo to another. This powwow traveling season is referred to as the “powwow trail”. Many Indians are not only dancers and cowboys, but arts and crafts vendors who setup booths to sell they own handicrafts or that of friends and family. These families and friends often travel with the dancers/cowboys to help man the booths. Powwows often host all Indian rodeos (which also have vendors) that are sponsored by the Indian Rodeo Cowboys Association. Natives that are both dancers and cowboys compete in both events, having access to thousands of dollars in award money during
powwow season (Braine 1995:11).