Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

POWWOW on Any Weekend Night of the Year, Native Americans Gather Somewhere to Celebrate Their Culture in Dance and Song

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

POWWOW on Any Weekend Night of the Year, Native Americans Gather Somewhere to Celebrate Their Culture in Dance and Song

Article excerpt

HUNDREDS of feathers and colored ribbons swirl from his body as Adrian Moore responds to the beat of the drum with an athletic and vigorous dance. He and several dozen other native-American dancers in the Pawnee Roundhouse spin and prance in a wide circle while singing fills the night air.

"On any Friday or Saturday night somewhere in Oklahoma, there's a powwow going on," says Donny Hamilton, a Cheyenne and Apache seated with his family at the outer edge of the circle. About 200 people are gathered here this night.

Although started several hundred years ago by Plains Indians, powwows now are held in almost every state, with dozens held on weekends across the United States in the summer months. Over the last decade, the number and size of powwows have increased because of the surge in Indian pride and cultural awareness.

"Powwow" comes from a Narragansett word meaning "medicine man." Today, a powwow is a community celebration of Indian ideas and culture in dance, song, drum, crafts, and food.

Merle Boyd, second chief of the Sac and Fox Nation, from Stroud, Okla., sings and drums at powwows. "We go to the drum in an atmosphere of friendship to please everybody there," he says. "The drum and songs have a healing effect. You can come here with emotional and personal problems and be helped."

Some powwows are competitive, offering prizes to the dancers. This past fall, the Pequot tribe in Connecticut - flush with millions from a new gambling casino - sponsored a powwow with $200,000 in prizes, the highest purse ever offered at a commercial powwow. The Sac and Fox Nation holds a noncommercial powwow each summer that attracts up to 1,000 dancers.

In South Dakota each summer, a Sioux powwow attracts dancers from all over the US and offers $100,000 in prize money. Mr. Moore, a Pawnee teenager, says he made $1,000 dancing at powwows in 1992. …

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