Thursday, August 10, 2017

Pow Wow at Fort Duchesne

The Pow Wow grounds sit off just the highway, the main thoroughfare
connecting Salt Lake City to Steamboat Colorado, it is a two laner, a
narrow road that runs through the rez. It has a large Pow Wow ground,
planted in grass this year and large shade arbor forms a semi-circle
around it with an opening on the east side where the flagpole sits. It
is a level area, and scattered around are campsites, where native
people and some visitors from around the world have come to take in
the Pow Wow this year. Just to the south of the Pow Wow circle are the
stew stands, temporary indian cafes set up to serve hamburgers,
lemonade, indian tacos, coffee and lost of fry bread.

On the North side of the Pow Wow arena there are many small shade
covers set up, where under them people have come to sell jewelry,
bones, hides, t-shirts, sandpaintings, pottery, and trinkets of all
sorts. Some camp next to their site with license plates from Montana,
New Mexico, Wyoming, Washington and Oklahoma. They have all their
goods layed out for anyone to come and see.

A young mother, a Ute woman brings her small child to the shade arbor
surrounding the Pow Wow circle. It is July and she has spent some
hours sewing a dance outfit for him. It is a small one, since he is a
year and half old. She never learned to dance herself, her family
never taught her, but she wants her son to know all about so she is
going to have him grow up in the way of Pow Wow traditions so he can
grow up to be a fancy dancer. She sets up the camping chairs in the
second row, and prepares to stay there all day. It is early afternoon,
the grand entry is at 7 tonight, but there will be intertribal dances,
where everyone who comes can get out there and shake a leg.

A drum group, River Cree from Enoch, Alberta, a small place west of
Edmonton in Canada gets here after driving 21 hours straight. They
find an open spot under the arbor to sing for the next four days.
There is room for fifteen drum groups to sing here. Word has spread
the prize money is going to be as high as $30,000 this year, so the
best dancers in Indian land are on the road to compete and dance. They
have to be here by 7 tonight for Grand Entry. The are coming with
names like Blackbird from Macy, Nebraska; Leaf from Standing Rock,
North Dakota, Denny from Rocky Boy, Montana and Largo from Coyote
Canyon. They will join the Windyboys, Sammaripas, Eaglechiefs,
Cesspooches, Blackhairs, and so many others who have come to dance and
see other wearing their new outfits and beadwork made over the long
winter. The River Cree boys go to the North side of the arbor and find
a good spot, they bring their chairs and set them up then they then go
to find an open stew stand to eat some frybread and a cool drink.

An extended cab Chevy truck with a horse trailer is parked next to a
stew stand on the East side, on the side of his shade covering it says
Silvereagle. A Navajo guy in a baseball cap is stepping out of the
horse trailer carrying flour for fry bread. He has an easy smile, his
name is Clinton Jim. He came with his wife, two sons and daughter and
they are serving frybread, mutton sandwiches, Navajo tacos, Navajo
burgers-a hamburger sitting in a piece of frybread served with green
chili. He comes from Eastern Navajo, a place called Crownpoint. This
is how he makes his living, he is headed to Taos next week, and then
to Dulce at Jicarilla Apache, then to Ohio for the Sac and Fox
celebration in the next month. He looks at you with a smile and asks
how you want your food and they make it fresh for you while you stand
there. There is line at his stand full of brown faces waiting for the

Mexican Bob comes up and though he is 62, he hasn't gray hair on his
head and he has been hauling shade and setting up arbors for those
coming to camp. He has lived among the Utes for twenty years or more,
his face is golden brown from working a lifetime as a landscaper in
the local area, everyone knows him. He is thin, agile and moves like
someone half his age. His real name is Pete, he says someone named him
Mexican Bob a long time ago and the name stuck. He was born in Los
Angeles a long time ago, moved with his father to a mining town and
met his wife working as a migrant worker, and he came to this place
and now it is his home. He has son who is six years old that follows
him around closely, he wants to be just like his dad when he grows up
he says.

A young man, a new dancer makes his way around the arbor to families
setting up their chairs, putting in their water coolers and snacks for
the long day ahead. He is from Reno, and is learning to dance, can
someone help with how to tie a roach on, and he doesn't know how it
stays on top of his head so it doesn't fall off when he is going to
dance. A guy from Lapwai steps up and shows him to run his hair
through the top and to braid his hair to make it tight on his head. He
learns from someone who has been dancing a long time. He tells him
when you are ready come back to us and we will make sure everything on
your outfit is fastened on tight. You lose points for losing part of
your stuff when you dance and it is bad luck.

The announcer for the Pow Wow, the MC steps up to the mike and tells
everyone that Grand Entry is at 7, but that drum groups can gather in
fifteen minutes to sing an intertribal song to warm up their voices.
By the way he says, at the last Pow Wow someone lost their husband and
at the end of the Pow Wow no one claimed him. He says he brought him
along just in case his wife is here. Anyone that wants him can claim
him at Lost & Found. He would like someone to take him home, so he
won't have to take him back to Canada with him.

Let's see it's time to find a spot around this place to sit and watch.
Oh, yes, there is a place right behind the young mother. She is
sitting there in the shade, her son dressed to dance; he wears a
silver concho belt. I know it well since I made it for him. The drum
groups bring in their base drums and the sound of beating drums is
heard around the arena.

The MC sends out word and the drums gather in the center of the Pow
Wow arena, there are eight of them from many different places. They
set up their chairs all together. They are going to sing a song all
together, all eight drums. They sit down and in anticipation of what
is to happen the sound of eagle bone whistles resound throughout the
Pow Wow grounds. Dancers and singers run to the arena and a crowd
gathers to see these drums sing altogether. The arena fills with
dancers, young children, older women in traditional buckskins, young
men with large feather bustles making noise as they walk from their
bells ready to dance. Old men with their traditional outfits, grass
dancers and a lot of others who are not dressed who want to step into
the circle to take part in this beginning.

Just then the song starts and a the wail of the singers of all eight
drums sounds out.


The song beings and the Fourth of July Pow Wow at Fort Duchesne


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