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Each summer sees a weekend exodus of Indian people traveling the Pow Wow trail
Every summer, beginning in May or June and continuing until late August or early September, thousands of Indian people become nomadic for the weekend. Following the pow-wow trail has become a summer event that captures the time and interest of dancers, singers and spectators alike. There are several pow-wows in this province, neighbouring ones and the United States that have become well-attended annual affairs.
Tents, teepees and trailers become the weekend home for young and old alike. Often pow-wows will 'have attendance figures well into the hundreds.
The organization and planning for such an event is a great responsibility, which takes many hours of work and time. The pow-wow committee must prepare long hours for the event. The big top, camping area, food arrangements, water supplies and many other needs must be provided for. Prize monies, give-away gifts, a public address system, ground police, an announcer and judges must be obtained.
The duration of a pow-wow is usually three days. Camping day when everyone arrives is usually a Thursday or a Friday. Often many people will entertain themselves with the traditional hand-games. Children play and visit and sometimes chase the always-to-be-found dogs that seem to gather at any event.
The ancient traditions are not forgotten. A pipe ceremony will take place with the men of the reserve and visitors. A flag-raising ceremony allows veterans to participate. The flag will be lowered before the supper break.
When, the pow-wow begins, the announcer calls for several warm-ups in which young and old dancers participate. Semi-final competitions are held every night and the finals on the last night of the pow-wow. Warm-ups and competitions take place alternately until the dancing ends late into the evening.
In the morning, the loud voice of the announcer often wakes those who have slept in. Rations are handed out to visitors and includes meat and other staples. The endless energy of children is in witness as they continue to run and play all day until they are told to sleep.
A give-away ceremony is held on the last day of the event. The pow-wow committee dances in a
On occasion special performers attend. They are called upon to entertain the audience with their performances. A collection is taken for the individuals.
The dancers outfits are testimony to the intricate beadwork, skilled featherwork and patient sewing that must go into making a pow-wow outfit. The dancing symbolizes many years of patient learning and practice that a dancer must undergo before he or she becomes accomplished.
The final competitions are held on the last night. They are exciting and interesting events. Judges often have difficult times choosing a winner for all, competitors are excellent dancers, keeping perfect movement and time to the drumming and singing. Prize money ranges from about $25 for the youngsters to several hundred dollars for older dancers. Occasionally, the winner will receive a trophy as well as prize money.
The pow-wow will end late Sunday with some visitors returning home that night. Others stay and obtain an early start in the morning. The people return to their homes and jobs for another week. More often than not, they are off to another pow-wow the following weekend.
Everyone goes home tired, but happy. The activities and dancing has taken its toll on everyone. It has been an opportunity to watch or participate in ancient Indian traditions and a chance to visit old and new friends.
LADIES GET LESS
If anyone has been closely noting the prize monies offered at various pow-wows, they would have noticed the great discrepancies between men and women's competitions. At a recent Saskatchewan pow-wow, the men's fancy dancing competition offered $300 to the winner, while in the same competition for women, the prize was only $125. A greater difference was in a Montana pow-wow, where the men's prize was $600 while the women's was only $125.00.
Why this great difference in prize money? Surely, the women deserve equal reward for their winning efforts. The men do wear feathers and this makes an outfit more colorful and eye-catching. Yet the intricate beadwork and sewing on a women's costume is equally as colorful and eye-catching.
Some may argue that men's dancing is more active and lively. Yet many of the young women are dancing just as actively with as much footwork and movements in time to the music. One would imagine it takes just as much skill to learn the dance.
With bright and fancy feathers and loud bells, the men do make more sounds during the dance.
However, winners are judged on movements, steps and rhythm rather than the amount of noise.
Perhaps it is the age-old tradition where women remained in the background. However, one should remember prize money and competitions is not a tradition and has only started recently.
Some may argue against competitions in the first place. Many disagree with this system and feel some dancers are attracted only by the prize money. If this is the case, the money should at least be equally distributed in male and female competitions alike.
Youngsters, newly learning the dance, are painstakingly doing their best. Boys and girls alike try hard. Yet prize money is sometimes higher even in this age group. It must leave some female youngsters wondering why they get less for their winning efforts.
It appears to be a rather confusing issue with no one having an answer as to why this difference exists. Those who disagree with this difference will be pleased to know at the recent Saskatoon Urban Indian's Association Pow-wow, the prize money in all categories was equal. Perhaps others will follow suit.