Interview With Northern Traditional Dancer Percy Edwards

Interview With Northern Traditional Dancer Percy Edwards

Northern Traditional War Dancer

I met Percy long ago and have enjoyed photographing him at several different powwows over the years.  Recently, at the Stanford powwow, we had a nice visit and I thought it was time to feature him on my website.

PWP: How long have you been dancing?

PERCY: 10 years

PWP:  Do you dance for competition?

PERCY: No. I don’t do it because I think if I start doing it, it’s gonna become a job and not fun.

PWP: You describe yourself as a Northern Traditional War Dancer. Can you elaborate on that?

PERCY: Yes, a Northern Traditional War dancer has an eagle bustle on back and we have leggings and angora and their certain things that make a Northern dancer and we’re the oldest style of dancing.

PWP: What are your personal reasons for dancing?

PERCY: I dance for the people and for the kids and get them out there dancing and I’ve mentored several kids over my short tenure, it’s an excitement I have and I love it.

His wife Shelley adds: He really enjoys getting the kids out there dancing with him. Sometimes he looks like the Pied Piper out there with a bunch of little kids following him around.

PWP: About how many powwows a year to you attend where you dance?

PERCY: Fifteen.

PWP: Which states?

PERCY: Washington, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Nevada.

PWP: Do you have a favorite powwow?

PERCY: Yes. Pechanga. 60,000 people and you dance on golf greens.

PWP: You mentioned you now have ten different dance outfits. Do you make them all yourself?

PERCY: Yes. But my mom did my beaded vest.

PWP: Do you get your native blood from your dad or mom, or both?

PERCY: Both. My mom is Sanpoil and little bit of Nez Perce and my dad is Arrow Lakes. Colville Confederated Tribes, its twelve different bands put together.

PWP: When someone asks what’s your nation,what do you tell them?

PERCY: Colville.

PWP: Can you describe some of your outfits and is there a story behind the creation of each one?

PERCY: My first one was a dream and it went from there. It was a badger. It was like four days in a row I was dreaming of dancing. I had paint on my face and I was dancing with the old ones. Every single night was the same dream. And finally I woke up Friday morning and turned to my wife and said, “I’m going to start dancing”. I saw the dream and I made the dream. It was a badger. It happened to be we were heading for Wyoming and I saw the perfect headdress pelt; the badger was perfect and I just went from there. And my brother, his first advice was, “Don’t copy anybody”. And that is one thing I didn’t want to do. I make all my war clubs, everything, and dance sticks. I have about sixty war clubs.

PWP: Do you have a favorite dance outfit?

PERCY: My cougar.

PWP: When you dance at a powwow, how many different outfits to you usually dance in?

PERCY: Two. It depends if it’s a three day or if I’m the head man I’ll do three outfits.

Here are a few of Percy Edwards’ dance outfits:

See more of Percy’s outfits at these links:


Categories: Powow Dancers

About Author

Becky Olvera Schultz

Becky Olvera Schultz is an artist and photographer whose background includes journalism, advertising and marketing. She has been in involved with the powwow circuit for several years, participating as a vendor and as a member of powwow planning committees. For more information on Becky, visit her art site at