AUBURN, CA, U.S.A. – OCTOBER 17, 2021
What a treat! A fundraiser for the Sierra Native Alliance, today’s Big Time Pow Wow was a special experience. I was only able to stay for a few hours, but what a rich cultural experience it was.
The event began around 10am, with California Native Dancing and M.C. Razzle Dazzle. “A ho!” he told the crowd, is the only way to show appreciation for California Indians – no clapping allowed! In between dances, Razzle Dazzle told the occasional joke about fry bread or Indian time, and encouraged the youngest dancer to dance when he felt the time was right.
The dancers were followed by the Gourd Dance. The dance is a man’s dance honoring tribal leadership and warriors. It is said to originate with the Kiowa and Comache People. Native American veterans took part in this dance, shaking their gourd rattles to get rid of anything negative in the arena. Besides the gourd dance, the MC spoke of other teachings and beliefs.
“This is our church,” he said. “We don’t go into buildings, we go outside…” He talked about bringing one’s problems here and laying them down and going away feeling better. At various points, he mentioned healing from substance abuse and historical traumas, as the mesmerizing rhythm of the drums continued.
I spent awhile perusing the Native handicraft vendors. A pair of beaded earrings was particularly calling to me as I inhaled the cleansing smell of sage everywhere. Meanwhile, dancers from many tribal nations assembled their regalia, did each other’s hair, tightened their cowbells and more.
The Grand Entry
Soon announcer introduced the head staff event leadership, and then the Grand Entry came around noon. There were host northern and southern drummers, with several men drumming one one huge central drum. Regardless of the tradition, the Native American drum is always be treated with respect as a sacred object or entity. From what I understand, nothing is ever placed on the drum, nor does anyone ever reach across it. The Bear Springs Singers added the vocals, old as time, it seemed.
At that point, the crowd stood as the eagle staff was carried into the circle, followed by the various dancers. As per the tradition, the dancers move sunwise—clockwise—around the arena showing off their regalia and their dance moves. There are many different styles of pow wow dancing, from traditional to fancy and more.
After several dancers, I needed to head home. The three hours had gone quickly and while I would rather get a higher perspective next time, I am pleased with a number of the images I made.. I will definitely block out the whole day next year!
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All photos are copyright Chris Allan 2021 and cannot be used without my written permission. Please contact me for usage rights. Thank you for reading my blog post “Big Time Pow Wow.” To learn more about me and my work, please see my About page.