46th Annual National Championship Indian Pow Wow, Grand Prairie

First of all, folks, allow me to assure you that I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth. I’ve been going places and seeing things and taking photos, all for your sake (it’s a hard life!), and now I’ve got several blog entries waiting and eager to be written. I’ve also been working on the 2009 Calendar of Events, which I’ll be unveiling shortly.

Today, let’s talk about the 46th Annual National Championship Indian Pow Wow, one of many Pow Wows around the continent, which I visited at Trader’s Village in Grand Prairie this past weekend. It was a fascinating cultural event, about which I’m going to have a lot to say — at least two entries’ worth, I suspect.

Pow Wow, Yo!

The Pow Wow was the grandest event I’ve attended yet at Trader’s Village. Not only did the associated vendors absolutely pack the Green Expo, the Pow Wow had a big, grassy fenced area set aside for the dancing and other events.See, you can’t have an Indian Pow Wow without the dancing.It’s not historically correct, of course — I doubt any pre-Columbian Indians ever danced in fluorescent feathers and jingles made from snuff can lids — but what the Pow Wows have evolved into is a pure Pan-Indian phenomenon.

Anyone with Native American heritage is welcome, whatever the tribe. There were even some blonde Indians in evidence, and a few who must have been adopted because they were whiter than I am, which is pretty white.Of course, I myself can claim about one-quarter Indian heritage (Comanche and Cherokee), but then, what family that’s been in the Americas more than a few generations can’t?

We’re all Americans together, when you get right down to it. My Dad likes to call us “Heinz 57s” — we have a little bit of heritage from just about everywhere.But more on the dancing and the participants therein later. The event, I have to say, was incredible — and we’re fortunate that they have it right here in Grand Prairie every year. I had a great time; in fact, I went on both Saturday and Sunday, September 5 and 6. It was beastly hot and sunshiny both days (pre-hurricane Ike weather, I guess), but we always had the Expo to retreat back under when it got too unbearable.

I’m going to start with the commercial aspects of the event first, because they were considerable. You’ll no doubt be surprised to learn (not!) that many of the booths were devoted to craftsmen selling dreamcatchers of all sizes, from those about the size of a quarter (about five bucks) to huge ones big enough to entrap the largest of nightmares (boucoup bucks). There were also Navajo rugs, sand paintings, arrows and spears, furs, silver and turquoise jewelry, leatherwork, etc. Most of these were the stereotypical Native American crafts you’d expect of tourist-trap trading posts (especially in the Southwest), but I have to say that much of it was very fine indeed*, not over-priced, and there were some really cool surprises mixed in among it all.Such as this gentleman, who was playing (and selling) sets of pan-flutes at his booth, along with a selection of jewelry and weavings.

Zamfir

And then there was this:

So Much Turquoise!

As I was walking up to it, I thought, “Damn, that’s a lot of fake turquoise,” but you know what? I was wrong. It was, in fact, the real thing, pierced and strung together in long belts that were marked $50 and more. But the prices were, in fact, half-off. Did I buy any? I did not, but only because making jewelry is neither my trade nor my hobby; but this would have been a great deal for someone with a lapidary shop out back. I’m no judge of turquoise, but it looked like nice stuff to me.

Here’s an amazing example of Native American artwork that I absolutely loved. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a Puebloan katchina doll. I don’t know exactly what tribe, although it may be generic; but clearly, it represents a Native American dancer, probably of the Hopi or Zuni tribes. Beautiful craftsmanship, with wonderful use of feathers, wood, and leather.Never could figure out who made these (and a number of others), and I know I couldn’t have afforded one, but I was charmed nonetheless.

Katchina

I have to tell you that PETA members and others with close sympathies to animals would not have been happy at some of the things that were for sell, but let’s get real: historically, the Native Americans — especially the pre-Columbian peoples — generally made do with what nature had to offer, which meant that they hunted animals of all kinds, clothed themselves with furs and leathers, and equipped themselves with tools and ornaments made of bone, shell, antler, and the like. Hence, one would not be overly surprised to see a shield like this one in use:

PETA Nightmare

Or rattles made of turtle shells, thus:Rattles

Oh, and check these items up for bid:

Toofies

Um, Okay

I suspect that these last few items were and are mostly used for ornamental and ceremonial purposes, but I suppose a canny craftsman could find other uses for them. If properly sharpened, I bet those coyote teeth would work great as leather awls.As an archeologist (mostly retired these days), I was of course attracted to this spear, one of several I found at the same booth with the teeth and rattles. I was delighted to see that, unlike many such spears I’ve seen, it was equipped with a well-chipped, functional dart point — made from Georgetown Chert from Central Texas, unless I’m mistaken.

Nice work.

Georgetown Chert

I couldn’t leave you without pointing out one more interesting item: a Choctaw New Testament, translated into and printed in the language that was once the lingua franca of the Southern frontier (even Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison spoke it). This version was published by the American Bible Society in New <>

happy to say, than you find at the typical booth at Trader’s Village most of the time. (Sorry, guys, but it’s true).