Sometimes when you are attending an event like an Indian powwow you observe a participant that is so perfectly matched to the event, it is like time travel. Such was the case at the Shoshone/Bannock powwow in Ft. Hall, Idaho. This man so epitomized the spirit of the warriors of old that he seemed to be a conduit between the past and the present. One could easily believe that he was riding out of his camp that morning over a hundred and fifty years ago and rode right into this gathering today to the amazement of both him and ourselves.
He rode in on the tail end of the parade as one of the last members of the procession and as he appeared time seemed to stand still. It was as if he had just stepped through a portal from the past and found himself in the strangest of circumstances. He rode at the crowd brandishing his lance. He yelled in his native language, he chanted, he swung his horse around in circles lest anyone try to sneak up behind him. And people believing that they were seeing someone unbound from modern conventions scrambled out of his way. His actions appeared to be those of a mid-1860’s warrior rather than someone participating in a parade at a modern-day powwow.
It was a spectacular presentation of a person completely in touch with his history, his culture and the spirit of the event. It was as if he were chosen to be the one that Brings Back The Past.
Up on the Wind River Reservation where the Shoshone Arapaho hold their summer Powwow at the end of June the sun burns bright in the afternoon sky. The dancing has been going on for hours and it is nearing the time where dinner is calling. The bleachers around the arbor are full with dancers catching their breath and enjoying a much desired rest and break before the evening dancing and festivities begin again.
The sun being down near the horizon has a few moments to shine in on the people at the far end of the eastern seats dazzling those seated there with its magnificent power. It is still hot and direct and blazing in that last bit of glory before ending this day. It seems to want to challenge those resting to one last battle before sliding down behind the mountains, calling it an end to this days sunshine.
Those at rest know that this last battle will be short-lived, so it is better to yield this last challenge to the sun and simply accept the loving warmth it provides as soon twilight will be here closing down the day with its soothing blues and purples and final darkness.
This elder has faced this challenge before and knows there is no shame in submitting. This small defeat is welcome. Tomorrow is another day.
Dancing at the powwows is one of the most important parts of the event. It is a time for addressing the spiritual needs of the dancers, displaying the regalia that is most significant to them and for pure enjoyment in participating in their culture.
Painting one’s face had great cultural significance and has deep meaning depending on which aspect of the culture the wearer wants to honor or display. It ranged from the simplest single stripe to several different colors each representing a different meaning and is one of the most important ways of stating their individuality.
This image of Raul Figueroa was made at the New Beginnings powwow held in Denver, Colorado in early May 2016. It is part of an ongoing project titled “Modern Portraits of North American Indians”, and is a celebration of the continuance of the Native American culture as it is being presented at this time in our society.
Half Yellow Face (or Ischu Shi Dish in the Crow language), (1830? to 1879?) was a distinguished Crow Warrior who is probably best known for his role as one of the six Crow scouts serving with General George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry during the Battle of The Little Bighorn. He was attached to Major Reno’s force and thus survived the battle. Due to an earlier death than the other five remaining scouts, White Swan, White Man Runs Him, Hairy Moccasin, Goes Ahead, and Curly, he is the least known member of the Scouts even though he was a “pipe-carrier” and believed to be the leader of the scouts due to his prestige, experience, and age. He led a fascinating life and if you consult Wikipedia and search for Half Yellow Face you will find an extensive history and links to other sources of information describing him and his life.
The photographic image above is of a modern Crow warrior wearing the regalia of Half Yellow Face at the gathering of the Crow tribe called Crow Fair. It has been enhanced to show the power, mystery and honor that is still attributed to this hero of the Crow tribe to this day.
There, way off in the distance, past the lodges, past the meadows, past the trees, past even the clouds, there is something important happening. Some arresting movement, something that makes one pause, something that bears close scrutiny and causes both woman and horse to stop and watch intently. Is it real, or is it perhaps a vision. Maybe she’ll tell us when she talks her dreams. Until then we can only see her and wonder what it is that she sees, there out past the clouds.
This is a portrait is of a woman on horseback in the Sunday morning parade held during Crow fair. The original photo was taken during the 2014 fair. It has been enhanced to appear as if it is a painting in the style of the old masters and was done to bring out the beauty and strength of the subject and to feature her regalia in the best possible light. Be sure to click on the image to see it full size on your monitor.
One of the highlights of the Crow Fair is the parade that is presented Sunday morning. To put it mildly it is spectacular and that is an understatement. Nearly everyone who has brought a horse to the fair enters the parade and is assigned to a category they wish to participate in. Categories included were “Women’s Old Time Saddle”, “Men’s War Shirt”, “Women’s Nez Perce”, Women’s Buckskin”, “Women’s Elk Tooth”, “Teen Boy’s Reservation Hat”, “Men’s War bonnet”, and many more. Each category shows off different aspects of traditional dress. The woman in the image above was entered in the “Women’s Buckskin” category.
Crow Fair, called the “Tipi Capital of the World,” is an annual event held the third weekend in August on the Crow Reservation at Crow Agency in Montana. It is one of the largest Native American events in North America and is run by a committee of the Crow tribe. There can be over a thousand teepees set up during the fair, along with parades, powwows, rodeos and other events too numerous to mention. To see more posts about Crow Fair simply type in CROW into the search box at the top of the page and hit enter. There are dozens of posts about Crow Fair with many pictures to show all aspects of the fair. Also be sure to visit our sister site http://www.OpenChutes.com to see more posts of Western Events. OpenChutes is a blog exclusively dedicated to Powwows, Rodeos, Cowboys, Indians, Indian Relay Races, Mountain Men, Rendezvous and any other western event that may occur in the Rocky Mountain West. Enjoy your visit.
Regalia is the term most used to describe the clothing and accessories worn by Indians during their ceremonies, competitive dances, and other events. It can be made of exclusively natural materials such as were used by their forefathers including feathers taken from birds caught by the individuals, leather from animals they killed themselves, beads obtained from traders or others, or any kind of item gathered and used by the individuals. This is often referred to as traditional regalia.
Other regalia may be made from newer less traditionally sourced materials such as modern manufactured beads and buttons or any type of adornment that can add to the look of updated regalia worn by individuals.
There is no right or wrong type of regalia worn and used today. In the past, new items such as small mirrors or new pieces of cloth obtained through barter or trade with other tribes or individuals before the trading of newer items began, were soon incorporated into regalia and displayed proudly. Todays use of new fabrics for streamers and accents worn in the regalia of Fancy Dancers today is not only considered acceptable but necessary for the look of the outfits worn by these dancers today.
Above is a beautiful example of a Buffalo headdress seen from the back so you can appreciate the adornments and beadwork of a spectacular example of craftsmanship and traditional styling. This was seen at the 2016 NCIPA powwow in Ft Collins, Colorado.
This image is a photograph processed in various types of software to bring out the beauty of the various items used in its creation. We’ll be bringing you further examples of incredible regalia in future posts.