We went to a powwow recently. It’s one of the bigger powwows in our part of the country and it was thrilling to see how many people showed up. The arbor was crowded and even in the high dry heat, people were enthused and excited.
There’s something about a powwow that stirs me. It’s not just that I’m a Native person. It goes far beyond that. No, there’s something elemental in the sound of a drum, the high voices of the singers and the dancers celebrating the power of the earth.
That’s what powwow’s all about. Celebrating the power of the Earth, the harmony of the universe, the unity of the people and the nurturing hand of Creator on everything we do. It’s where the songs get their power, and where the dancers draw their energy.
Sometimes it seems like we’ve lost part of that. The huge competition powwows draw competitors attracted to the big payouts. There are long lines of tables where people sell artifacts, t-shirts, regalia, souvenirs and a lot of things unrelated to the nature of the powwow. Sometimes, it seems like it’s all about the money.
So it was refreshing for me to see a young man dance. He was about twelve and he wore a blue grass dancer’s outfit. The porcupine headpiece he wore was elegant and dipped with each step he took. Each step with the twin crutches he needed to get around the circle.
See, this young man was handicapped. The cerebral palsy or the polio he was afflicted with had robbed him of the full functioning of his legs. But he was out there moving with the beat of the drum, and each step was hard, a struggle. But he danced.
It brought tears to my eyes to see that. It made me proud. It made me remember the true nature of powwow and in turn, the true nature of the traditions we Native people cling so desperately to. A staunch pride coupled with deep humility – and the incredible life affirming strength that comes from that.
I watched that young man dance and it affirmed my life and my struggles. He was no quitter. He was a warrior in the truest sense of it. He sought the sacred union of the physical and the spiritual and he showed me in each turn of that circle, that nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible.