From pow wow to performance art

Children waiting for their turn to dance during a pow wow held this weekend

I noticed a large sign the other day while driving near Scottsdale Community College. The white sign had big red letters that read “POW WOW” and noted two dates — Nov. 5 & 6. So I headed out with my son Christopher, a student at SCC, to enjoy some time at the event.

Ashleigh (age 10) with her mother

The term “pow wow,” by the way, refers to a gathering of North American native peoples — but many of these events welcome members of the public, who come to enjoy Native American dance, music, food and crafts.

When we first entered the Red Mountain Eagle Pow Wow, presented in Scottsdale by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, we met some folks from New Mexico and Colorado — the “Denver Broncos” tent was my first clue.

A quiet 10-year-old named Ashleigh stood patiently as her mother fixed her hair. We also met a boy holding a short pole topped with an eagle talon, who explained that the eagle represents strength. Folks from several states, including Texas and Oklahoma, traveled here to take part in the event.

We strolled though the area featuring tents with all sorts of vendors — finding Native American, Mexican and American food plus all sorts of arts and crafts. Think dreamcatchers, handpainted Christmas ornaments, blankets, jewelry and more.

A boy waits his turn to dance

Soon we heard them call for singers to prepare and for dancers to start lining up — and I took out my camera to capture a few of the younger participants pictured throughout this post.

If you’re not able to attend the pow wow on Sunday, consider enjoying Native American arts and culture via Valley museums and performing arts venues.

Mesa Arts Center presents “Native American Song and Dance-Canyon Record’s 60th Anniversiary” Nov. 12 & 13 — which features “the brilliant artistry of dancers and singers, as well as Native American flute performers, representing the Navajo, Cree, Apache, Hopi and other indigenous nations of the U.S. and Canada.”

One of the youngest dancers

The 1oth season of “Native Trails,” presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and produced by Scottsdale Center for the Arts, opens on Jan. 19, 2012. “Native Trails” features a series of free noontime concerts on an outdoor stage — and includes Native American music, dance, art and traditional food.

The Heard Museum, with locations in both Scottsdale and Phoenix, has a full calendar of events and exhibitions featuring Native American arts and culture. Think festivals, marketplace events, film screenings, activities for children and teens, author readings, lectures, book sales, concerts, dance competitions and more.

For many years, November has been designated as “National Native American Heritage Month.” So make a point of exploring Native American history, arts and culture with your children — and with friends and neighbors who come to visit this time of year.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about other Arizona museums featuring Native American arts and culture, and here for a list of pow wows scheduled in Arizona and other parts of the country.

Coming up: Valley Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha


One response to “From pow wow to performance art

  1. Hi Lynn,
    While attending a festival today, I came accross this charming little book: Addie Slaughter, The Girl Who Met Geronimo by local author Susan L Krueger with Reba Wells Grendrud. It is written especially for children but I enjoyed it. But then I’m still a kid at heart. It is a true story and if you haven’t heard of it, you might want to check it out.

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