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Life On The Trail

"Hurry up! We've got to make Grand Entry"

These are the most frequently heard words of family members following the powwow circuit during the summer months. Suddenly it is already Thursday and everything you planned to do during the week now has to be done in a couple of hours: fix the blow outs; iron the scarves; and untangle the yarn of the freshly washed grass dance outfit.

Most families travel the powwow circuit from mid-June to mid-September. These are the months that children do not have to worry about going to school. And, those people who have chosen the profession best-suited to powwow-that of a teacher-do not have to worry about going to work. This is a time for enjoyment, a time for visiting and a time to replenish one's spiritual well.

For most powwow folks, a powwow weekend begins on Thursday. This day entails sleeping in for as long as possible, then getting up and trying to accomplish everything at a million-mile-an-hour pace. The dancing outfits must be packed, along with the camping gear. And, the weekend groceries must be bought on the way out of town. To perfectly complete the task, the toilet paper must be forgotten, again.

But, finally, everything is loaded up and ready to leave. You are right on schedule and it's bright and early, only 6:00 p.m.

"Everybody get in the van! Let's go!" Dad gets the driver's seat, Mom the passenger seat. Grandma gets a chair in the back with Auntie. The two teenagers make room on the bed for the two kids, leaving enough room for the baby. Grandma's "babysis" gets the freedom of the van. If she wants to sit with you, you better make room or deal with Grandma.

So, like most powwow families, there is an average of nine people per vehicle-that is unless you are in a drum group. Then, the number of

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Life On The Trail

people who can fit into a vehicle whether it be a car, van or truck is unlimited.

It is late in the day and everyone is starving. Of course, there is no time to stop and eat so out comes the highway steak you have ready. There's nothing like a baloney and cheese sandwich, on the dry side, washed down with the pop that is sure to be on hand. This is the essential diet of powwow singers and bachelors traveling the circuit, especially for those who are slightly broke, which is most often the case.

Finally, it is Grand Entry time. There was barely time to set up camp and the beds will be made sometime later in the evening. You take your designated position among the other dancers. You wonder if you have put everything on properly and hope you look proud and dignified, not silly and the object of a quiet joke. And, you have a trail of your personal tribe dancing in behind you, making silly faces and trying to dance in the opposite direction as they half listen to your commands.

Isn't it strange how kids act as a magnet attracting dirt. The minute they are washed up, wham! dirt just magically appears.

Then, it is Sunday night and they are about to announce the winners. You sit nervously, as do the other dancers, trying to look calm, as if it is no big deal if you do not place. Inside, you know you are counting on the prize money to pay some bills and get to the next powwow. You wonder, "Are we going to stop and eat before we leave, or do we pull out the highway steak again?"

Your category is up, third place has already been announced, it wasn't you. Second place goes to your friend from down south. "And the first place grand champion goes to..." Yes! You jump up, run to the announcer stand, shaking some hands along the way. Congratulations. Thanks. Where are you going next weekend? Not sure yet. You? There's a powwow down south, I'll probably head there. O.K. Maybe I'll see you there. Sure thing.

You pack up and head home. It's almost dawn and you still have an hour and a half to drive before you are home. Everybody else is sleeping and you wonder why you just didn't leave in the morning. Finally you get home, get everybody inside and leave the unloading for the morning.

And, suddenly it's already Thursday.