Saturday, November 12, 2005

Thoughts on the Powwow

I had initially included these thoughts with the previous post, but I thought that sort of lessened the point on Rosa Parks so my reflections on the Powwow will be a separate blog entry.

As I announced yesterday, the American Indian Center of Chicago was having its 52nd annual Powwow Convention this weekend at the UIC Pavillion near, of all places, Greektown. I was interested in going, though I have had some tripidation about going to such things in the past because 1.) sometimes it smacks of tokenism (Look, Mommy! An Indian!...No, Junior, don't touch the Indian!), 2.) becomes a flea market for non-authentic Native American junk (Dream catchers are for suckers), or else 3.) it devolves into tribal superiority contests (T-shirts that say Siouxperwoman) and petty bickering. All of which, I think, ultimately defeat the purpose.

This was one of the best inter-tribal Powwows I have been to, however. Maybe this is because there is not a large Native American population in Chicago, so most of the people who come do so because they honestly want to participate and reverence Native American culture(s). There were quite a few tribes represented, from Sioux to Navajo to Cherokee to Muskogee.

There were some excellent artisans there, not just the brick-a-brack bead work you sometimes get. There was nearly continuous tribal dancing and costumes on the floor. The majority of which were plains Indians. They are big into the bright colors and feathers. (Cherokee have never really been into that as far as anyone can tell.)

I had some delightful conversations with a few folks here and there. I even ran into a Cherokee elder with whom I bantered a bit in Cherokee. (I'm rusty.) There seemed to be a great spirit of unity among the peoples, which is something that you do not necessarily run into at inter-tribal events. I found it quite refreshing to be in a huge Pavillion with hundreds of people who, like myself, do not have any arm hair.

Perhaps the most entertaining thing was the food vendors. This pavillion was UIC's basketball arena, so the little food stands were all selling Native American food. It was truly amusing to watch the flaming WASP folks being told that there was only fry bread and no french fries. No wonder Indians never took a shine to farming cattle. Buffalo burgers are truly much better than beef in flavor.

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