Mashantucket Pequot Educational Powwow

Posted by on Jul 14, 2015 in S'Wanderings, S'Wicked Blog | No Comments

The S’Wicked Blog’s been pretty darned quiet, lately, due to all sorts of interesting developments over the past several months, some of which I hope will lead to big news to share here, in the future.

In the meantime, though, I had to share some of the images I came away with from the fantastic educational Powwow I attended last week, at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum. Representatives of a variety of tribes from across North America were there to share their ceremonial dances, and I can’t express enough how interesting and informative and just plain cool it was.

Oh, and for my pattern-minded friends out there, this is going to be a serious visual treat. I tried to capture as many patterns and motifs as I could in each of the varying regalia.

The event was held in the Gathering Space at the museum—a huge, open, multi-story, wall-of-windows space. It began with traditional stories of Beaver and Bear, Turtle and Beaver, and others.

Traditional story-telling in the Gathering Space at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum

Traditional story-telling in the Gathering Space at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum

The excellent emcee, Wayne Reels, introduced each dance and gave a quick background, including the cultural and spiritual significance of the dances. He also commented on the regalia and a number of other aspects of each dance. Unfortunately, my mind is about a thousand light years from steel trap status, so in many cases, I’ve come up empty trying to remember which images went with which tribe, region, and dance.

If anyone can enlighten me on any of these details, or on the names of the individual dancers, I’d be grateful to be able to get rid of such inane labels as “One of the men’s dances,” and will update this blog info, accordingly. (And, as always, if your image appears in this blog, and you would like it removed, please let me know.)

The Drum Circles

I’m particularly aggravated that I can’t remember the two drum circle groups’ names, given that they provided almost all the music through the two-hour performance. Both groups were really magnificent; you could feel the music start through the soles of your feet, and roll right on up to the top of your head.

Rhode Island-based drum circle

Rhode Island-based drum circle

New York-based drum circle

New York-based drum circle

The Dances

Some dances were “coed,” but many were performed either by women and girls or men and boys. Here are images from several of the “women’s” dances.

The dancer here is wearing what I think is called a “jingle dress.” Jingle dresses can be embellished with as many as 365 cones, one for each day of the year. (Again, I think I have this information right, but if not, please let me know.)

Women's dance

Women’s dance

The traditional blanket dance, pictured below, was danced by unmarried women in the tribe. They would perform this beautiful dance using their blankets throughout, and at the end of the dance, drop their blanket in front of the warrior that struck their fancy. If the warrior picked up the dropped blanket, wedding plans would be put into motion.

Blanket dance

Blanket dance

I believe the dancer, below, is named Sparrow, and that she may be a member of the Crow tribe? The bead-like embellishments on her dress are actually elk’s teeth, and her beautiful regalia was handed down to her through her family.

Sparrow, dancing

Sparrow, dancing

One of the things I noticed during a number of the women’s dances was a high degree of breathing restraint. Many of the dancers seemed to press their lips together while they danced, completely relying on nose breathing. If I’m correct about this, it makes their performances that much more impressive.

And, not only were they performing with limited oxygen; they were also often dancing with pounds and pounds of regalia on their backs. The effect was one of remarkable control and stamina. The woman below had a stunning cape, completely beaded, that Mr. Reels estimated weighed more than thirty pounds.

Beautiful---and HEAVY---beaded cape

Beautiful—and HEAVY—beaded cape

The following images are from the Fancy Shawl dance, which I believe is one of the more modern dances we saw at the powwow. It was gorgeous.

Fancy shawl dance

Fancy shawl dance

Fancy shawl dance

Fancy shawl dance

The dancer below, whose name—I think—is Silver Cloud, performed a really beautiful, magical dance. It wasn’t a “big” dance, but was mesmerizing in its simplicity, focus, and restraint.

Emcee Wayne Reels, with Silver Cloud

Emcee Wayne Reels, with Silver Cloud

*****

And, here are images from some of the “men’s” dances.

One of the mens dances

One of the men’s dances

The dancers in the images, below, wore enormous, stunning eagle-feather bustles.

Another shot from one of the group men's dances

Another shot from one of the group men’s dances

The dancer, below, had bells strapped around his ankles that looked very much like sleigh bells. They made a wonderful sound both while dancing and walking.

Another men's dance

Another men’s dance

This dancer performed an incredible, complicated dance with a lot of elevation changes from tall, upright positions, to low, crouched ones. The position changes were very fast and fluid, and reminded me a few times—especially in the lower positions—of traditional Hopak (or “Cossack”) dancing. There was a whole other level of information with this dance: both the dancer and the musicians started the dance off in the older, more “traditional” style, and then changed it up with the more modern, faster version of the dance. It was really interesting listening to and watching that evolution.

Phenomenal dancer

Phenomenal dancer

These two dancers moved and spun so fast, all of the photos I took of them from an earlier dance were too blurry to include, here.

Colorful men's dance

Colorful men’s dance, from above

One of my favorite dances of the day was the Prairie Chicken dance, in large part because it was one of the easiest dances for my untrained brain to interpret in terms of the dance/subject connection. Plus, while it was intense and focused, it was also really fun.

Prairie Chicken dance

Prairie Chicken dance

The Regalia

For those of you who may not be familiar with what I do, I’m a seriously visual person. I love imagery and pattern and color. So, you can imagine how much I was geeking out over all of the stunning regalia. In the spirit of pure visual happiness, here are some shots I took to try and remember all of the beautiful palettes and motifs and combinations of material and color I saw.

Fluorescent regalia

Fluorescent regalia

Beautiful color palette

Beautiful color palette

Striking graphics and motifs

Striking graphics and motifs

Eagle feather bustle regalia

Eagle feather bustle regalia

During the dances, I found myself studying the details of the dancers’ regalia—particularly their boots and their head regalia. It was tricky getting close-ups of their boots, but I did manage to get some good shots of the beautiful beadwork, feathers, and what I think are porcupine hair roaches.

Head bands and other head and hair regalia

Head bands and other head and hair regalia

Head bands and other head and hair regalia

Head bands and other head and hair regalia

A Thank You

The powwow included several opportunities for the audience to join in on the dances, and ended with a communal dance, when all the dancers representing the various tribes danced several circuits around the space, together.

The powwow winds down

The powwow winds down

Afterward, folks helped each other dismantle some of the trickier pieces of their regalia, and took a much-needed break before beginning the whole process again for the afternoon crowd.

Regalia assistance

Regalia assistance

It was an outstanding experience for both the Widget and me, and I extend our gratitude to the dancers, musicians, Mr. Reels, and everyone who spent time and effort coordinating the powwow, and inviting us to learn about a variety of Native American cultures, regalia, and dances.

Leave a Reply