Dancers from many tribes compete at Powwow at Edgewater Park
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, July 2006) Native Americans from throughout North America came to Edgewater State Park on the weekend of June 16-18 to participate in the American Indian Education Center’s 12th Annual Powwow and festival. The Powwow and festival offer Clevelanders an opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of First Nation Peoples from this continent.

Dance competitions are a major part of each year’s powwow.  Three categories in the dance competitions are: traditional, fancy and jingle dancing.  Each of the dance categories requires different attire or regalia.

Harmony Hill, age 21, of the Oneida tribe in Oneida, Wisconsin, says dancers receive points for the grand entry, exhibition, the dance contests, and for the completeness of their outfits. Hill, who entered in the jingle dance competition, says the bells that jingle on her medicine dress are made from the metal cone-shaped lids from a Copenhagen tobacco container. She says the jingle dance comes from the Ojebwa tradition, but is now part of the traditional powwow throughout North America. Hill made her own medicine dress for the jingle dance, as well as the regalia that her two young sons are wearing in the dance competition.

Ted White, age 65, a member of the Ojibwe tribe who resides in Sarnia, Ontario, competes in the senior division, open to dancers age 50 and older, of the traditional dance competition. “I dance how I feel. I don’t care about the moves, “ he said after dancing in competition with some much younger dancer whom performed more elaborate dance moves in the hot sun at Edgewater Park. White explained that there is a drum song for each category in the competition.  

A brightly colored floral design, which White describes as part of his woodland tribal tradition, is woven throughout White’s regalia. He wears a breastplate made of deer bone and a beaver fur cap with deer hair spread in the pattern of a fan. White believes that the feathers that dancers have in their regalia should be earned. White says he has worked on his regalia for many years, He says he is fortunate to have a wife who sews well to help him with his continuously changing creation. White says the regalia that dancers wear in the competition “takes years to make, and is never done.”

Allenroy Paquin, age 52, is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, which he says lies between the territory of the two tribes to which his family belongs, the Jicarilla Apache and the Zuni. Paquin says he sold his house and bought a trailer home and now lives on the road full time going from powwow to powwow. Paquin says he has attended powwow’s all over the North American continent and has traveled internationally as well to places such as Belgium and South Korea to share his talents as a cultural performer, storyteller, flautist and jeweler of contemporary Zuni inlay.

Paquin competes in the Fancy Dance competition, which he said began with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Shows in Okalahoma. He says performers in the show started using more fierce colors to entertain the crowds in the powwow arenas. The dance was originally called the Crazy Dance. He says the Fancy Dance evolved to incorporate the Chicken Dance developed in Kansas and based on imitation of the prairie chicken. He says the dance is very aerobic with a very fast drumbeat to accompany the dancers. The Northern Style dance used at Edgewater Park lasts about 2-3 minutes, says Paquin. The Southern Style Fancy Dance used in competitions in the Southwest is even faster than the Northern Style and usually lasts from 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, he said.

Paquin, who has competed as a dancer for about 40 years, says his mother sewed most of the beadwork for his regalia about 35 years ago. He says dancers often choose family or tribal colors for their regalia. He explained the various parts of the regalia, which contains cuffs, a harness, belt, apron and an arm bustle in the shape of a shield. The spinners the dancers use can serve as a whistle as well. He says dancers used to use the whistles to acknowledge their approval if a drummer was especially good.

The powwow involves men, women and children of all ages in the competition. One young Fancy Dancer is Camiya Hooper, age 3 who lives in the Westown neighborhood in Cleveland. Her mother says this is the third powwow at Edgewater Park in which Camiya has danced. Camiya, who is part Seminole and part Sioux, began dancing as soon as she could walk. Camiya’s regalia, which contains some beautiful beadwork, was made by Camiya’s aunt who lives in Tecumsah, Oklahoma.


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