Powwow brings both social, spiritual benefits
The American Indian dancers moved with skill and reverence in their colorful regalia. Around them, in a circle, were booming drums. Gladys Ray, absorbing it all with experienced eyes and ears, nodded in approval. "Powwows are spiritual. Powwows a...
The American Indian dancers moved with skill and reverence in their colorful regalia.
Around them, in a circle, were booming drums.
Gladys Ray, absorbing it all with experienced eyes and ears, nodded in approval.
"Powwows are spiritual. Powwows are social. Powwows are fun," the Fargo resident said.
The 15th annual Woodland and High Plains Powwow was held Saturday at the Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse at Minnesota State University Moorhead.
Upwards of 4,000 people were expected to attend throughout the day, said Gus Claymore, one of the event's organizers.
The event -- sponsored by Concordia College, MSUM and North Dakota State University -- drew American Indian dancers and spectators from across the Upper Midwest and Canada. It also attracted many from other backgrounds who wanted to learn more about powwows and American Indian culture.
That cross-cultural blending also won Ray's approval.
"We want to include our non-American Indian brothers and sisters in this sacred event," said Ray, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe who has lived in Fargo for 50 years.
Ray was honored at the powwow for her contributions to it and also for her support of American Indian heritage, projects and events.
Some people have misperceptions about powwows, said Ray and Abner Arauza, one of the organizers of Saturday's powwow.
For instance, everyone, including tourists and sightseers in street clothes, can dance in a powwow at specified times.
And the powwow's full significance often isn't appreciated, Ray said.
Yes, she said, powwows allow participants to meet old friends and make new ones.
But powwows also provide spiritual uplift, she said.
The circle is an important symbol to American Indians, she said, so dancers in the center of a circle, surrounded by another circle of drums, carry great meaning.
Ray, 71, who used to dance in the Woodlands and High Plains Powwow, didn't do so this year after being slowed by a fall.
But the powwow still brought enjoyment and spiritual nourishment, she said.
"There are no spectators at a powwow," she said. "Just by being there you're a participant."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530