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Blackfoot Pow Wow.

Pow Wows are a lot more than just a bunch of people gathering together to dance in elaborate costumes, plumage, and beadwork. They are big social events--a time to schmooze and catch up with friends from different tribes. Lots of socializing takes place and even some matchmaking! Hand games are played to the background pounding and pulsating sound of drums. Large communal feasts are a regular part of the event in Canada. One family will sponsor the traditional meal with native food like beef stew, bannock bread, bulberry soup and pemmican.

Many colorful tee pees are erected around the Pow Wow grounds. Each tee pee is hand painted with special designs and images that belong specifically to a family. These designs are considered to possess protective powers and may not be used by anyone without receiving the family's permission. These images come from dreams and visions and are handed down in transfer ceremonies, from one generation to another. Bad things have been known to happen to people who have abused this unwritten code of etiquette and respect by using these designs without proper permission.

The Pow Wow begins with the grand entry: the Native and Canadian flags being carried into the center of the arena by a procession with the Chief leading. Lots of pageantry prevails. The flamboyantly dressed dancers follow the Chief into the ring. An opening prayer is then given by one of the Elders. And the drums begin to pound ... with a sound so deep, the pounding penetrates your body. Once the dancing begins, an air of solemnity sets in. Everyone becomes serious and suddenly reserved.

The dance competition is for prize money and dancers from other tribes travel far distances to participate in the hopes of winning the pot. Dancers in various categories are called into the arena and take center stage in their elaborate regalia. The Prairie Chicken dancers, the Jingle Dress dancers, Fancy Dancers, Traditional Dancers and Shawl Dancers all make up this flamboyant and colorful mix. The elaborate and embellished Native attire makes any Hollywood set look boring. The intense colors and bold patterns are a feast for the eyes. The elaborate patterning on the beadwork is either floral or geometric. The men look incredibly regal in their buckskin dress and war bonnets accented with eagle feathers cascading down their back.

The jingle dresses make clinking sounds as the dancers dance daintily on tiptoe with their beaded leggings.

The Pow Wow goes on through all hours of the day and night and lasts for several days with the drum beat never stopping. It's a constant circus of noise and activity with a great time had by all.

Michelle Newman, an artist in San Antonio, Texas, conducts workshops on silk painting around the world.
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Author:Newman, Michelle
Geographic Code:100NA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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