Caution Entering Indian Country ~ part II-A*
We pull into the Powwow grounds late Friday afternoon with NDN Kars blaring out the windows. I turn it down and look at my two companions with a smile, “We are here!” People are everywhere laughing and joking as they are setting up their camps. A drum beats off in the distance. We find a place to park and get out. I start looking around for the group we usually camp with for the weekend. All of a sudden, I am grabbed and tickled from behind by an old friend. She giggles teasing me, “We took bets if your car was gonna make it here this year. ” I laugh, “Did ya win?” “Ya, I knew you’d get here some how or another.” We jump back in the car and park by where we will be based for the next few days. The camp is full of friends and family, people I have never met before, and of course kids. My daughter runs off to see her friends that she knows from past Powwows. I turn to say Boozhoo, give hugs, and introduce my friend Korean that came with us. Its her first Powwow. I turn to look at her. Oh man, she looks shell-shocked. So many Indians in one place. Howaa!
I have given Korean a heads up about Indian humor. It is a hard thing to explain and better to experience first hand to understand. Lots of teasing, laughing, and joking around. There is an outlook in life where you laugh with and at life. An old professor of mine said it the best when he told me, “An Indian teasing ya only means he loves ya.”
A couple of guys offer to unload the car of all our gear. When the tent emerges, Koreen and I begin setting up our weekend home. Her eyes were buzzing with excitement. She already had questions for me. “Do people do this all summer? How is this organized? There are so many people everywhere.”
I explain to her, “There is a Powwow committee that has been planning and organizing the Powwow for months maybe even a year. There are people working constantly during the weekend from bathroom and garbage duties to security and fire keeper. There are no drugs or alcohol allowed on Powwow grounds.” I smile telling her, “Its only Friday. There will be a lot more people camping this time tomorrow and even more bystanders watching the Powwow. One year there was 800 Dancers and the stands were full.” She looks around trying to imagine what I am saying to her. “There are people that follow the Powwow Trail all season. Some are families and others are Drum groups. There is a Powwow every weekend somewhere between the two types. I am a Traditional Powwow gal. There are competition Powwows too.”
That night we have a camp dinner of venison stew and fresh biscuits off the fire. We take turns giving mini updates of our lives from the last year. The group breaks out in laughter every few minutes from either a funny part of a story or someone teasing the storyteller. The teasing remark is usually joined by another and another. By the end the night our sides hurt from laughing so much.
The next day, we wake to the bustle of a camp preparing breakfast. I grab a cup of coffee and see where I can help. It is the last camp meal for the weekend. Everyone has to fend for themselves except the Powwows feast at dinner and breakfast Sunday morning.
After breakfast is cleaned up, a bunch of us head out to the Saturday morning Walk/Run sponsored by the Tribal Health. I get some teasing from some of the guys if I need to be carried. I laugh saying “No” knowing they are making light of the fact I am limping along with a cane. I tease them back reminding them, “You guys never won one of the races. I did! I won the one mile for my age bracket.” One says with a teasing smile, “Not anymore!” Another butts in,“ I bet ya she’ll do it again.” I glance over at my friend Korean who is smiling. We both burst out laughing knowing she gets it, she understands Indian Humor. One of the guys looks at us curiously, “What are you two on?” By now the whole gang is laughing.
When we each finish the Walk/Run we all migrate back to camp on our own times with a T-shirt in hand and a refreshed look on our faces. Some of us ran and most of us walked. I pour water for the three of us and sit down to do Willows hair. I can not help teasing her about her short hair this year. I explain to Korean, “We have to get ready for the Powwow.” She knows we both dance, but has never seen us in full Regalia. Willow and I go and get dressed in our separate styles. When we return, I sit down next to Korean while a friend does my hair with braids and feathers. I ask her what she has enjoyed the most so far. I don’t think it took her more than a minute to light up with her answer. “The strong sense of family and community and of course the humor”…..15 minutes to Grand Entry…..a voice resonates from the load speaker through the Pow Wow grounds. To be cont….
* from a series of pieces I wrote for River’s Ruminations last summer.