Ive always had a fondness for Pow Wows ever since I was a little kid. Perhaps it was the bright elaborate costumes or perhaps it was the food or maybe it was the hard pounding of the drum and the high pitched singing that accompanied the beat? But again, maybe it was the smell of burning sage wafting through the thick summer air that brought a sense of calmness and easiness?
I never knew then, the different types of dances; from Fancy Dance & Grass dance to Traditional and Jingle Dress. I didnt even know there were ceremonial dances until I was a pre-teen! My mom married an Osage. They called him “Big-B” but his name was Byron. He was big alright, but I dont mean tall or muscular! Perhaps he should’ve become a Fancy Dancer! But I digress! I spent the summer with my mom and Byron during the summer I was 13. It was during this summer I discovered he attended the Oklahama Ceremony Circuit. Pending on the families that were being honored we would travel to Pawnee, Anadarko, Chickasha, Shawnee and even Pawhuska, the home of the Osage. I met a few friends along the way and would always be happy to hang out with them while Byron danced. My mom would give me a few bucks to grab a coke and meat pie when hunger set in but most of the time, you could find me sitting cross-legged outside of the dance ring watching the dancers which were typically all dressed in Traditional regalia. The Fancy Dance outfits were worn during Pow Wow contests and non-ceremonial gatherings which are more known to the public eye than Ceremonies.
I havent been to Ceremony since I was a young teen. Mom and Byron split up and that pretty much put an end to hitting the circuit although from what I understand, Big B still carried on with his tradition. There are also several Nationally recognized Pow Wows including the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, NM, Grand Rapids Pow Wow in Michigan, as well as The Marvin “Joe” Curry Pow Wow in Salamanca, NY and of course the Shinnecock Nation Pow Wow in Shinnecock Nation, Hamptons, NY which celebrated their 76th annual Pow Wow after a two year hiatus due to the pandemic.
It was pleasant to see so many patrons come to celebrate our history and culture although Pow Wows were first organized in the South West. It was almost nostalgic smelling the burning sage, people enjoying Indian Tacos, listening to the blistering pounding of the drums and Native singing. But the one thing that I really enjoy and proud to say is that people of all walks of life, not only come for the food, dancing and singing, it’s also a place where you will find people at peace. No one is being a belligerent drunk and although the event is drug-free you may just walk into a small plume of pungent smoke which is always a welcome smell, at least for me!
Here is an abbreviated gallery of the 76th annual Shinnecock Pow Wow. Visit www.robarmstrongphotos.com for full gallery.