Blackfoot High School Pow Wow

The Blackfoot High School pow wow was held this last Friday and Saturday. The oldest man dancing was this tribal elder in his traditional full eagle-feather bonnetThe Blackfoot High School pow wow was held this last Friday and Saturday. In the potato dance, couples danced with a tater balanced between them on their foreheads. This was a competitive elimination dance where the couple that made it to the end without dropping the potato won.The Blackfoot High School pow wow was held this last Friday and Saturday. Indian Club vice president Ontaria Arrow White helps her younger sister Zids prepare her traditional regalia. The traditional Shoshone woman's top that Zids wore took her grandmother, Sandra Plenty Wounds, a month to make.
Catie Clark

The Blackfoot High School Indian Club held its annual pow wow in the BHS gymnasium on May 4-5. The event official started at 7 p.m. Friday and continued on Saturday from 1 to 11 p.m. The event was free for spectators and open to the general public.
Pow wow comes from pauau or powwau, a word in the Narragansett language of southern New England originally meaning a meeting of spiritual leaders. The term has come to mean a meeting where Native Americans come together to meet, feast and dance.
The club started planning the pow wow at the beginning of the school year. "Though we made most of the formal arrangements and scheduling for drums, vendors and dancers beginning in March," said Brook Watson, the club's president.
"The students did all the work themselves," said Merle Smith, the club's advisor and the Native American Culture teacher at BHS. "All I did was approve things. They're the ones who made this happen."

The Drums

The backbone of any pow wow are the drums. A "drum" is a group of two to ten singers who sing the traditional songs while playing together on a drum. The songs consist of a set number of vocatives sung on a pentatonic scale. The drum instrument is approximately two and half feet in diameter, made of rawhide stretched on a round wood frame.
At the BHS pow wow, the drums were played in the horizontal position, in the style of the northern plains tribes. Six drums were present Friday evening. One group of singers from Friday did not make it on Saturday, but two other drums did, for a total of seven.
The host drum was the award-wining group called Bull Horn. The singers of Bull Horn are one of the top drums in North American. They are from the Blood Tribe — or Kainai Nation — of southern Alberta. The drum was founded in 1998 and has accumulated numerous performance awards in both Canada and the U.S.
The BHS Indian Club was able to bring Bull Horn to the pow wow through connections that the club president, Brook Watson, has with some of the drum's members. Watson's grandmother, Elaine Watson donated the travel funds that enabled the drum to attend the pow wow.
The host drum leads off the singing for the event. For the dances, the different drums then take turns playing. At least three of the drums at the pow wow were local: Sage Point, Spring Creek and Medicine Thunder, all from Fort Hall.
"We practice weekly, that is, work schedules permitting" said Eric Dann, second singer of Medicine Thunder. "I graduated from BHS not too long ago, so it's nice to come back and sign here," he added. Dann graduated in 2001.

Grand Entry

Each portion of the pow wow started with a ceremony of grand entry, on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening after dinner.
The dancers arrived well beforehand since for many of them, putting on their regalia is a time-consuming process. Their outfits are called regalia in English because they are not costumes. Regalia are descended from traditional tribal clothes for ceremonial dancing, which is spiritual in nature.
BHS Indian Club vice president Ontaria Arrow White spent at least 20 minutes helping her sister Zids put on all of her traditional Shoshone regalia before Saturday's first grand entry. Zids is currently one of the tribal royalty and marched at the front of all the grand entries. She also participated in the girls' traditional dances.
"This is a top," said Sandra Plenty Wounds, referring to the mantle-like garment Zids was wearing over her dress. Plenty Wounds was Ontaria's and Zids' grandmother. "It took me a month to make." The top was soft white leather with a long fringe all around and completely covered with bead work.
Each grand entry was led by flag-bearing local tribe members who were also military veterans, in the tradition that gatherings like pow wows are led by warriors. Behind the color guard of veterans marched the tribal royalty. They were followed by the dancers sorted by the dances they performed. The veterans, tribal royalty and dancers filled the gymnasium when they were done processing.
All the people in grand entry marched in to singing by the host drum, Bull Horn. Various notables addresses the crowd, including Ontaria Arrow White on behalf of the BHS Indian Club: "I would like to thank the students for all their hard work to make this pow wow possible. I thank the high school for allowing us to hold our pow wow. I hope you all enjoy yourselves, and afterward have safe travel home."
Grand Entry concluded with a flag song, which is a Native American version of a national anthem, followed by a victory song.

The Dancers

People came to dance from Idaho, Montana and Utah, though many were local and several were BHS students.
Dystnee Rope is a BHS junior and an experiences pow wow dancer. She had a display up on one of the side tables with pictures of herself plus friends and relatives, all in their pow wow regalia.
"I started dancing very young," Rope said. "I can't remember when I started." She couldn't say exactly how many pow wows she attended every year, but admitted it was a lot.
"I've danced every style," she added. "Right now I'm concentrating on the jingle dance."
Ontaria Arrow White also did the teens jingle dance though her younger sister Zids, not old enough to be in high school, was in the girls tradition dance.
Dances categories were broken out by gender and by age groups of tiny tots, girls and boys, teens, adults and golden age. Dances were gender-specific, like the men's fancy feather and women's fancy shawl and jingle dances. Each dance type was characterized by its dance step style and its own distinct regalia. For example, jingle dancers wore skirts or dresses covered with conical jangle bells in geometric patterns while fancy feather dancers were in feathered head dresses, expansive feathered double bustles and feathered wands which they twirled as they spun and leaped. Traditional dancers of both genders wore the traditional dancing clothing of their respective tribes.
One of the most notable dances at the pow wow was the potato dance, which was a modern but extremely humorous adaptation. It was a couples dance where a potato was balanced between the foreheads of the two dances. The dancers could any dance step they chose, so long as it was done in time to the singing of the drum. The couple that managed to balance their potato the longest without dropping won a prize.
The drum that sang for the potato dance had the notable name of Yellow Snow.

Vendors, Food and People

Food and feasting are an important part of any pow wow. The Indian Club treated everyone who attended to a feast between the afternoon and evening sessions on Saturday. The meal was served at no cost to attendees in the high school cafeteria.
There were several vendors both inside the gymnasium and outside in the hall. Many sold artwork, crafts, beading supplies, and food. Popcorn and flavored pop corn balls were a very popular item.
The Indian Club did a brisk business selling popcorn, snacks and soda from the high school concessions counter opposite the gym doors. Plenty Wounds had a vendor table in the gym with various items for sale, including very yummy homemade one-person-sized pies. Another vendor in the hallway was selling skewers of four white-chocolate dipped strawberries, which sold out far too early.