Powwow

By Clyde Ellis; Luke Eric Lassiter et al. | Go to book overview

CLYDE ELLIS


1.
“The Sound of the Drum Will Revive
Them and Make Them Happy”

For one weekend every August the Tulsa Fairground teems with thousands of people attending the Intertribal Indian Club of Tulsa’s annual powwow, known as the IICOT POWWOW of Champions. There’s big money on the line in every category, and champion dancers from across the Southern Plains are there, joined by a large contingent of dancers from other regions who stop over at IICOT as part of the powwow circuit that hits its peak in the summer months. Billed as the second-largest powwow in Oklahoma after Red Earth, and voted the top large powwow for four consecutive years by Nartive American Times readers, the IICOT dance has gained a reputation as one of the region’s best. For a small admission fee ($5 for the 2005 powwow – the club’s twentyeighth), visitors can take in some of the finest singing and dancing on the Southern Plains (as well as the tastiest funnel cake in northeast Oklahoma) at an event that captures every bit of the contemporary powwow’s power and spectacle. Best of all they can do it in the air-conditioned comfort of a ten-acre indoor arena.1

Inside, visitors can browse several dozen booths whose sponsors offer everything from arts and crafts to information on bone marrow transplants in Indian country. Afternoons and evenings become a jumble of events filled by hours of dancing, giveaways, and contests. Neighboring tribes host afternoon Gourd Dance sessions, visiting princesses and other powwow royalty are introduced and given prominent seats at the head of the arena, families ask for time to hold giveaways to acknowledge friends and relations with goods and monetary gifts, and dancers of all ages rush back and forth from the bathrooms to check their look. Elders open each dance session by praying over the assembled throng in their native languages, sometimes slipping in the English words “Intertribal Indian Club of Tulsa,” “Jesus Christ,” and “weekend.” Some of Oklahoma’s most prominent powwowers serve as head dancers and head singers and lend status to a dance that, despite its prominence, must compete with other powwows for participants.

A tag team of informative and entertaining emcees – also stars on the

-3-

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