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.