Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pow wow: surprises and memories

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

The Grand Entry
The powwow is organized by Wunk Sheek, a UW-Madison student group that promotes awareness of indigeneous issues and cultures. The event is free and open to all, said Emily Nelis, a Wunk Sheek leader and one of the event’s coordinators.
“This is a student-run event that’s for everyone,” said Nelis, a junior at UW-Madison who is a member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe. “We want to reach out to students, but it’s also for everyone who wants to learn something about us as Native Americans."
Visitors to the powwow can expect exhibits and demonstrations, arts and crafts, and traditional foods. But at the heart of the event is music and dancing, which go hand-in-hand to create a powerful cultural experience, Nelis said.
“A powwow could not happen without the drums and without the dancers,” she said. “You have to have them both, you can’t have just one or the other.”
While the majority of drum and dance participants are Native American, “We get a lot of visitors who want to experience it, so the crowd is a good mixture,” Nelis said.
“It’s just something you have to see for yourself. There are so many cultural experiences for people who may not have been to a powwow before.”
We often attended Ho Chunk pow wows in Wisconsin Dells, and I went with Steve Payne to the big Indian Summer festival years ago in Milwaukee. The weather yesterday kept us from going to the Alliant Center, but today was sunny and perfect for an outing. Our friend Ralph in the Dells, a tribal elder, was often one of the veterans who carried in the flag and colors for the Grand Entry there, and one of the surprises of the day was to see him representing the Ho Chunk nation in the color guard today. Ralph is approaching 80 and we were happy to see how well he held up during the long Grand Entry ceremonies. Outside the arena we ran into a friend from the little railroad, making it a "small world" kind of day.

Before the Grand Entry today there was a presentation by a large group performing an Aztec-based Matachines dance. During my summers in Mexico, this dance was performed in front of churches early in the morning of major feasts. It brought back good memories.

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