June was a full month and July is even fuller!
On July 2nd I attended the Wildhorse Powwow at the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla outside of Pendleton Oregon. I had hoped to talk to three people I have been corresponding with at Umatilla via text, email, and phone.
One person was one of the emcees for the event. He was kept busy the five hours I spent at the event. Another one had been spending time with his family, and the other wasn’t attending the powwow until the next day. Since it had been a spur of the moment idea to attend, I hadn’t asked them ahead of time if they would be there. That’s on me.
When I arrived the vendor booths were just opening. I wandered among the booths ogling the pretty jewelry and I did go home with a pair of studs with various colors of stones. I also brought home a beautiful rain/wind proof jacket that was designed by a family from the Warm Springs. I had a nice chat with the gentleman selling the coats. I liked the bright colors, but it was the paint brush flower on the back that pulled me into the sale. That wildflower is my favorite.
I finished looking at the vendor booths and they had started a singing competition. The contestants could us a hand drum if they wished and could only sing two verses of a song. They sang in their language and then the translation in English. I thought some of the songs were prettier in their own language. There were two young boys about seven and eight who sang. The emcee kidded with them they were a bit young to be singing such a sad love song. The emcees with their witty comments and introductions were fun.
After the singing the dancing began, with first the flags and Grand Entry where all the dancers enter the dancing area. Wow! So many people and beautiful regalia!
While I like the traditional dances, my favorites are the women’s fancy dance where they dance with more energy and use a shawl like wings of a butterfly. These dresses and shawls are colorful.
I like the men’s chicken dance. This dance the men where elaborate regalia of feathers. They squat and bob their heads like a bird. Each has their own little movements that defines them individually.
I also like the jingle dancers. Their dresses have rows of cone shaped metal jingles that make noise as they dance.
The dancing starts with the children and then the elders. It is wonderful to see families during the procession and when the children were dancing, many parents were by their sides to make them comfortable.
The men’s fancy dance is an array of flying colors! My video is not very good and I couldn’t figure out how to edit it. But here it is:
The beat of the drums feels like a heartbeat. I find the music soothing and enjoy it as much as the dancing. The comradery of the dancers, the grandmothers, mother, and fathers helping the young dancers with their regalia, and the overall feeling of joy and gratefulness that they are here and can dance as their ancestors is why I enjoy watching the dancing. And is one of the reasons I like to have Native American characters in my books. Their resiliency, adapting to technology but not losing their sense of self and their people, and their wit all show that they will be here long after many other cultures have been absorbed into a mix of many cultures.