The Last New Millennium First People's Powwow


The Thunder in the Desert Powwow began in the year 2000, with a 12-year plan to celebrate and welcome the 21st century. Last week marked the last gathering in Tucson, Arizona.

In acknowledgement of the power of four, Thunder in the Desert was planned to take place four times, every four years, in 2000, 2004, 2008 and this year's finale.

From Indian Country Today's Sun Sets on New Millennium First Peoples’ World Fair and Pow Wow:

“Native Americans felt it important to commemorate this special time in history to celebrate our continued existence and to recommit to carry on our tradition of beauty and culture,” [organizer Fred] Synder said.

This pow wow was both special and traditional in that it provided time to renew thoughts of old ways while joining in dancing, singing, visiting, rekindling current friendships, and making new ones....  “Literally, this event is an all volunteer organization that dedicates three years into planning these ten days of presentations,” said Synder.

...the fun began with an Electric Pow Wow and a traditional Social Pow Wow featuring flute players and aboriginal dancers representing Aztec, Ecuadorian, and Tlingit cultures along with Zuni Buffalo and Eagle dancers and hoop dance performances — all of which lead up to late afternoon gourd dancing and an official Grand Entry begun as the sun began to sink in the West to end Day One...

As a closing comment, coordinator Carole Garcia thanked participants by noting: “It is an honor you have chosen to be with us at Thunder in the Desert and thank you for keeping our children dancing."

Here is a great short video that captured Coloradas Mangas, lead dancer:


And here are just a few of the many gorgeous photographs taken by Lightning Horse during all 10 days of this event. Head on over to the Thunder in the Desert on Facebook to feast your eyes on rest of the images. Maybe even feel a bit of that Tucson sun!

#PowwowWednesday: The Cabazon Indio Inter-Tribal Powwow 2012


This past weekend, the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians hosted the Cabazon Indio Powwow XXX in Indio, California. With 65 participating tribes, the annual event was packed with more than 450 dancers and 6,000 attendees.

We spotted the powwow on Indian Country Today and found this fantastic clip on YouTube of the MNX Crew providing an inter-tribal dance song:

Over on we came across a beautiful photo set of the powwow's grand entry. Here are a few of the vibrant moments caputured by photographer Crystal Chatham:

Check out all the photos at Cabazon Indio Powwow Grand Entry.

#PowwowWednesday: Northern Cree at San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ Powwow


Sure we're letting #PowwowWednesday take a break until the powwow trail gets busy again the new year, but we had to bring you this new video of Northern Cree knocking the moccasins off the crowd at the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians’ Powwow recently.

As Indian Country Today put it in Northern Cree Blow The Roof Off the San Manuel Pow Wow, "you can practically feel the place vibrating with energy, passion and excitement."

We feel it and know you will too.

#PowwowWednesday: Closing Ceremony


At the end of the day at the powwow, before or at sunset, the closing prayer is given and the final song is played. And with the slowing of powwow season in these autumn days, #PowwowWednesday will take a break until the trail gets busy again in the spring. Hoka!

Take off your hats gentlemen and hear the Saturday closing song of the 9th annual Muckleshoot powwow from Northern Cree:

#PowwowWednesday: Northern Cree


Their 37 albums in almost 30 years have garnered them multiple Grammy, Juno, Nammy and CAMA nominations and wins, but it's at the powwow where Northern Cree are a legendary force.

Founded in 1982 by brothers Steve, Randy and Earl Wood, the group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, but these days includes members from Frog Lake, Onion Lake, Samson, Louis Bull and the Poundmaker Cree Nations.

Strong role models, the group live by Steve's words "“If you believe in yourself, who you are, where you come from, your culture and more importantly your language, it will take you to places you have never even dreamed of.” It's brought them great respect and success over the years and it's imposible to imagine the powwow trail without them travelling it.

So we're celebrating this #powwowwednesday with a Nothern Cree playlist! Enjoy:

#PowwowWednesday: Young Faces of the 2011 White Eagle Powwow


The children and youth at powwows are always a delight to watch. Their learning, their celebrating, their carrying of our traditions. 

Flickr user InspiredinDesMoines captured these images of some of the young faces at the 13th Annual White Eagle Powwow in Waukee, IA. The powwow is held in honour of the memory of Ralph Moisa (aka White Eagle) - a young man from the area who died in 1995.

Check out the complete photoset on

#PowwowWednesday: Video Art of Menominee Nation 2011 Powwow


Todd Spurrior/Destination X Ride produced this visual documentary from the Menominee Nation Powwow this summer.

At 14 minutes long, it's an immersive and artful mix of the dancers, the drum, the singers and the sunlight that filled the weekend. Beautiful.

Menominee Nation 2011 Powwow_ from DESTINATION X RIDE on Vimeo.

#PowwowWednesday: Final Song of the Pala Powwow 2011


Often on #PowwowWednesday we focus on the dancers (who could resist?) but this week we listen to the music.

At this summer's Pala Band of Mission Indians' powwow, Young Spirit Singers performed the final song. Those gathered joined in and AmigoKandu captured the powerful voices and drum well:

For more great powwow video, visit

#PowwowWednesday: Portraits from Pine Ridge Powwow


It's #PowwowWednesday! Thanks to an article in National Geographic, I was led to a feast of fantastic portraits and photos of Oglala Lakota Nation's Pine Ridge Powwow.

The Oglala Lakota Nation powwow takes place on the Pine Ridge Reservation outside Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Ross McDermott and Andrew Owen documented their experience of being welcomed by the people of Pine Ridge for their American Festivals Project with numerous, stunning portraits -

- and the beautiful photoset A Surface Below:

Amazing, right? There's even more to pour over at Beautiful.

#PowwowWednesday: Men's Traditional Dance


The Men’s Traditional dance is one of pride and confidence. Evolving from the old form of war dance where stories of battles and hunts would be “danced out”, the dancers appear as strong, bold warriors.

Never dancing backwards (that would seem like retreat) or in a full circle, the traditional step is done with the ball of the foot touching the ground on the first beat, and the whole foot on the second beat. The regalia are a very personal expression of the dancer and many dancers carry items that symbolize their status as warriors.

Powwow practices vary from region to region of course. Here is fantastic video of the Men’s Traditional from the Six Nations Grand River Powwow last month.

#PowwowWednesday: The Grass Dance


This week #PowwowWednesday takes a look at the Grass Dance. Largely considered intertribal, the Grass Dance is one of the most competitive forms of dancing found at powwows today.  But like many other dances, it has disputed origins.

Legend has it, from the Northern Plains, that a young man born without the full use of his legs longed to run, dance and play like the other children. He sought a Medicine Man for help and was advised to seek a vision on the prairie. There, the young man saw himself dancing like the long swaying grass. Upon returning to the village, his mother made an outfit with prairie grass and his father created a dance from his son's description. A celebration was held to share this with the village, during which time, the young man's legs were healed.


Yet another story tells of the grass dance coming from the movements of the early scouts seeking a site. The grass being high in new areas, the scouts would dance in a special way to flatten the grass and make it acceptable for a new camp or meeting site.

In another version of the origin of the Grass Dance is that the grass dancers were called out to the place where feasts and special events were to take place. The dancers blessed the ground while they danced in time with the beat of the drum. While the grass dancers danced, they flattened the grass with their feet in preparation for the ceremonies to take place.

Many believe that the Omaha tribe originated the dance in their warrior societies. The grass dance movements reflecting warrior movements such as stalking the game or enemy and fighting the enemy (including one movement representing one of the warrior's legs being staked and unable to move and battling with this leg in a held position).

It is widely practiced as a mens dance, but it has not always been - women have danced it on occasion. In the height of women's rights in the 1970s, women participated wearing men's regalia and reportedly 19th-century photographs document women grass dancing. Today, women will still perform it during switch dance.

From Indian Country Today, Origins of the Grass Dance:

Like other dances, balance and symmetry are essential. What the body does on one side, it must do on the other. The movements evoke the grass-trampling theory of the dance’s origins, as dancers seem to be stamping down grasses. Its evolution has led to a broader repertoire of moves: The kicks are a shade higher now, the spins a hint faster, and dancers are likelier to travel around the arena than they were even 15 years ago. Yet the dance remains unmistakably true to its roots: While Charging Eagle consistently honors his ancestors and tribe by sticking to the roots of grass dance, he also acknowledges that adding one’s own essence helps keep the dance alive. “I try to outdo myself, not the other dancers,” he says. “Grass dance is about movement, footwork, and style—the beat is medium so there are so many things you can do with your body.”

Watch some Grass Dance moves from the finals at this past weekend's Kamloopa Powwow:

Speaking of Kamloopa, this photo captures the incredible setting and beautiful weather they had:

Check out the whole Kamloopa 2011 photoset from Dwaye Rourke here.

Grand River Powwow 2011: Photos and Video


#PowwowWednesday! The 32nd Annual Grand River Champion of Champions Powwow took place this past weekend in Ohsweken with over 200 dancers from Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and the U.S.

The Hamilton Spectator interviewed 70-year old Evenlyn White Eyes in Generations of dance at Grand River Powwow:

White Eyes, who is from the Walpole Island First Nation, continues to attend the powwow each year because it affirms that their tradition is “alive and well.”

“I just think that (it’s) the perpetuity of what we do, preserving our way and (we’re) happy to show it to people who are interested instead of the stereotypical (images) you see on TV,” said the dancer, who participated in the women’s traditional category.

“There’s a lot of people who still think we live in teepees … What we want to perpetuate is the real thing. This is the real thing.”

Ain't that the truth? The real thing. Our traditions, our culture, are not trapped in the past - they are current, active and alive.

Check out the whole photo gallery here: Grand River Powwow.

Fast Deer Video captured much of the weekend on video - with short interviews and many of the dances and drummers:

Tansi Oleg for keeping the camera rolling!

See you next week for another #powwowwednesday.