Fred Hill’s up to his old tricks trying to make us try something new. Is Fred a pan-Indian? He likes the Canadian hand drum singing, so there will be a “three-man, open-handed hand drum contest” at the tribal longhouse later next week. There will be an “open clown dance,” in which dancers make light of the pow wow tradition by dressing down and dancing funny, wearing fluffy bedroom slippers or whatever. Fred said, the clown dance has to do with putting away the old and bringing out the new, so there is a spiritual aspect even to comedy. The message is, “don’t take yourself too seriously”. Just because you don’t have fabulous regalia is no reason not to jump in and have fun. The kids need to know that. Participating is the best way for kids to get familiar with the Indian songs and forms of music. Songs are effective for internalizing the language. Jess Nowland sent me a comment: “The last song is called ‘waako weecu’ – ‘now we are going to quit’. Funny story about how that song came to be, perhaps that why it has survived as long as it has!” Thanks for correcting your elder, Jess. Like Coyote, I have to say, I knew that!
The powwow starts Thursday evening December 30 with social dances, like the eel dance, etc. The eel dance can be like “crack the whip.” Perhaps they’re going to make people change partners until they end up dancing with brooms. On Friday evening, there will be competitive dances and a special for “tiny tot” dancers. On Saturday, there will be a noon New Years Day dinner. Don’t be just a spectator iske kala iinim.
Getting together with the people used to be the reward for completing the seasonal obligations, winding up the prescribed hunts, drying the meat, tanning the hide. That was the very nonmaterialistic motive behind Indian doin’s and celebrations. It was a joy to be in the company of one another. No nuclear family unit would dream of spending a holiday by themselves unless they were in mourning. Families were at one time rather isolated and would have to put some effort into traveling to even a local gathering place. We still find apples and oranges in our presents, because fresh food was at a premium back then. Those were the days. My grandfather was the custodian of the family pencil, and he said, “Nobody erase either.”