Sunday, October 2, 2011

Kaw Lake, Day 1

We just returned from a 431 mile road trip to Kaw Lake in North Central Oklahoma, east of Ponca City. We camped at Coon Creek Cove Campground (COE), which sits on a peninsula, or at least it is a peninsula when there is water. Today was dedicated to getting camp established and taking the two nearest granddaughters to the powwow at Standing Bear Native American Memorial Park in Ponca City. For those not familiar with powwows, they are a Native American gathering of tribes for council meetings, rituals, tribal and family reunions, dance competitions, and a celebration and passing-on of tribal culture and tradition.

Frontal pictures taken with permission only. 
Dance competitor's tribal regalia.

Before becoming a state, Oklahoma was the Indian Territories to which 64 tribes from all over the country were forcibly removed. The word Okla-homa in fact means “Red Peoples.” With so much Native American culture based here, powwows run almost non-stop, somewhere in the area, from May through the end of September. While many people see such dances in tourist venues, there is nothing like seeing the real thing, and since they are mostly open to the public, it is the best opportunity for whites to begin to appreciate the rich Native American traditions. So, besides paddling, I’ll include some of what I’ve learned on this subject as well, and I hope you find it as interesting as I do. Besides, we inherited our paddling from the Indian peoples.

There were six tribes represented at the Kaw Nation powwow: Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria (originally of the Winnebago), Osage, Tonkawa, Kaw, and Ponca. They were all part of the Kanza or Kansa Nation, who gave their name to the Kansas River, also called the Kaw River, and the States of Kansas and Arkansas. The event is held in a circular arena with an inner circle 150 feet across. All spectators and tribal members sit around an outer ring. A group that seemed to vary between about 30-50 sat in the center of the arena to provide drumming and singing for the dances.

Because of the different tribal dialects, they use vocables in place of words so all can participate. There is a lead singer who starts, and then everyone joins in as the sound swells and dancers move into the arena either for several categories of dance competition, or huge inter-tribal dances. In the latter, you can see the heritage being passed to the next generations as four and five year olds join in the dance. By the time they are six or eight, they begin to appear with their own regalia.

While the dance competitions had been going on all day, the formal ceremony and adult dances began at 7p.m. and continued until they were done. As the night goes on, the regalia become fancier and more colorful, and the dancing more strenuous and athletic. The awards ceremony is held when the competitions are complete, with one awards ceremony reportedly not being started until 4 a.m.

The winds conspired to keep me from meeting my expectations for paddling during the week, although you’ll see I got in a couple real nice days. The winds started this evening and it got cold. Finally, the youngest granddaughter wanted to get in my lap and cuddle to keep warm and sleep. I wrapped my arms around her to keep her from sliding off. I later got my report card---I’m nice and warm, but I squeeze too hard.

No comments:

Post a Comment