Powwow

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

RENAE WATCHMAN


12.
Powwow Overseas:
The German Experience

My anticipation of going to a powwow transcends borders. Here at Stanford I eagerly await the annual Mother’s Day powwow; I also travel across the San Francisco Bay to the Oakland Friendship Center for Thursday night dance practice. I love to attend the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, and I frequently find myself back east at Schemitzun in Connecticut, which is always fulfilling. During the summer months I absolutely must travel home to the Dinè reservation and attend the traditional powwows and ceremonies before heading north to Canada for their traditional and contest powwows.

Visualize the bustle of pre-powwow jingles and bells, a master of ceremonies (MC) calling for warmup songs by the various drum groups, the activity of vendors selling their wares, and the anticipation of Grand Entry. Now imagine the pre-powwow mixture of noises – conversations, the sounds of dancers and drums – in German!

I attended contest powwows in Germany, organized by Germans with attendees who are German. At the first powwow the MC imitated typical powwow discourse verbatim – “Testing, testing, eins, zwei, drei.” And “Grand Entry in 20 Minuten!” He even cracked jokes: “Ja, Ich bin Indianer…Meine Urgroßmutter war eine Cherokee Prinzessin, Aye!”1 That Germans can adopt and use “Aye!” correctly is astonishing and reveals their attention to detail. Needing to recompose myself I returned to the parking lot, crowded with vehicles marked by elongated, white, rectangular German license plates and sporting bumper stickers in English that read, “This car stops at all Powwows,” and “I like Indian Powwows.”

Contest powwows continue to grow in popularity in Germany, and today there are approximately 120 powwow dancers and fourteen drum groups in the country. Powwows are still relatively unknown in other parts of Europe, though some dancers can be found in Poland and the Czech Republic. The cultural transfer of powwows to European soil thousands of miles away is contributing to the transcendence and globalization of an event whose origins are rooted in Indian country.2 Since the opening of its borders, the former East

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